Why Russia-Turkey normalization is more than meets the eye

Jul 10, 2016 12:00 AM

In addition to economics and tourism, normalization between Turkey and Russia includes a number of informal issues, for example the Syrian crisis. Both countries should overcome their contradictions and cooperate. However, the process will not be easy, an article in a Turkish newspaper read.

September 23, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Turkish President Recep Erdogan during a meeting in the Kremlin.

After a Turkish jet fighter shot down a Russian bomber in Syria in November tensions between Moscow and Ankara deepened. The most visible aftermath of the incident was Russia’s responsive measures, particularly banning Russian tourists from traveling to Turkey, their favorite destination for many years.

However, economics, trade and tourism are only the tip of the iceberg. Reconciliation between Moscow and Ankara will not be easy and take significant political and diplomatic efforts, an article in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet read.

After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a letter of apology to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, normalization between Moscow and Ankara has begun. Moscow cancelled the travel ban and a number of restrictions for Turkish businessmen. The two countries also agreed to work together on a number of issues, including Syria.

"Moscow and Ankara have long sought reconciliation, one that would not hurt the image of either country. Erdogan’s letter to Putin was shrewd. Moscow perceives and presents it as an apology while Ankara avoids reputational costs. Now Turkey needs to restore economic relations with Russia and impose itself on the Syrian peace process," Areg Galstyan specializing in Russian affairs wrote in an article for The National Interest.

However, a thaw between Russia and Turkey is more than meets the eye. It will depend not on formal procedures but on a roadmap Turkey and Ankara will follow at an unofficial level, according to Hurriyet.

"It is very important not to overestimate Erdogan’s apology. This was official protocol. Russia has a set of requirements to Turkey, first of all an apology for the killed pilot. The first requirement has been fulfilled. Now, dialogue can begin. But it’s impossible to re-write history, pretending that there were no tensions. Both countries should work out their further steps," political analyst Dmitry Kulikov told.

"It’s too early to say that the current thaw will stay for long. There a number of informal issues creating problems for bilateral ties, first of all Syria," the article read.

The incident with the downed Russian bomber only triggered the conflict but the conflict itself was actually rooted in contradictions between Moscow and Ankara, including on Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Crimea, and Armenia and Azerbaijan.

"Moreover, there may be third parties trying to undermine the normalization of ties between Russia and Turkey," according to the article.

Kulikov underscored that the main difficulty is that Moscow and Ankara will have to establish all over again cooperation on a wide range of issues.

According to Hurriyet, in the current environment, cooperation would serve the interests of both Russia and Turkey.

"Turkey is fighting terrorism thus it should not set itself against such a significant player as Russia. At the same time, Russia is trying to strengthen its role in the Middle East, but it will not succeed in Syria without cooperation with Turkey," the article read.

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