#Erdogan #sound #Putin #Ukraine #Syria
The end of the war in Ukraine and the start of a new one in Syria are expected to dominate Friday’s talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan will ride high on diplomatic success in helping orchestrate the resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments across the Black Sea when he visits Sochi for his second talks with Putin in just over two weeks.
But there are tensions. The Turkish leader was told by Putin in Tehran last month that Russia remains opposed to any new offensive Turkey might plan against Kurdish militants in northern Syria.
Analysts believe these strains are part of the “competitive collaboration” that has shaped the relationship between the two leading companies over the past 20 years.
“Russia’s war on Ukraine has restored Turkey’s self-image as a major geopolitical player and given Erdogan more visibility than at any time in recent years,” Asli Aydintasbas, a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a report last week.
“Most Turks support the balancing act and their country’s quasi-neutral position between the West and Russia.”
– ceasefire talks –
NATO member Turkey’s attempts to remain neutral over Ukraine amid Moscow’s historic confrontation with the West are beginning to pay off.
After months of Turkish efforts, Moscow and Kyiv signed a UN-backed deal in Istanbul last month to resume grain shipments from Ukrainian ports.
The first ship from Ukraine crossed Istanbul on Wednesday. Three more are expected to set sail on Friday as part of a landmark deal to alleviate a global food crisis caused by the war.
Turkey wants to translate this success into ceasefire talks between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Istanbul.
“We discussed whether the grain agreement could be a reason for a sustainable ceasefire,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu after talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Asia on Wednesday.
Those efforts are complicated by repeated threats by Erdogan to launch a new military operation in Syria – a country where Russian and Turkish interests clash.
The Russian army helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad survive a decades-long insurgency by Turkish-backed groups.
But Erdogan is threatening to invade northern Syria to establish a buffer zone that will crowd out Kurdish groups he associates with “terrorists” leading an insurgency against the Turkish state.
Putin told Russian media in Tehran he still had “certain disagreements” with Erdogan over Syria.
“Most likely, the (Friday) meeting has something to do with a possible invasion of Syria, for which Turkey has not received the green light from either Russia or Iran,” said foreign policy analyst Soli Ozel of Istanbul’s Has University.
“Russia should get something for it,” added Özel.
– waiting game –
Some Turkish media speculate that Putin really wants drones.
Turkey has supplied Kyiv with deadly Bayraktar aircraft, which have proved effective in destroying Russian armored columns throughout the Ukrainian war zone.
US officials say a Russian team has visited Iran to explore buying hundreds of drones for its own forces in Ukraine.
Erdogan added to the intrigue by telling his cabinet that Putin had asked him in Tehran to start selling the Bayraktars to Russia.
A senior Turkish official later said Erdogan had interpreted the proposal as a joke.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov appeared to believe the idea.
“Military and technological cooperation are always on the agenda of the two countries,” Peskov told reporters.
An unlikely source of tension is how the two leaders – who are known for being chronically late – will actually meet.
Erdogan left Putin standing for almost 50 seconds before stepping out to greet him in Tehran.
A camera from Turkey’s state news agency has its sights set on Putin’s wriggling face the whole time.
Many interpreted this as revenge for the time when Putin made Erdogan wait almost two minutes at a meeting in 2020.
#Erdogan #sound #Putin #Ukraine #Syria