YAIAR – Putin’s visit to Turkey

Putin’s visit to TurkeyRussian President Vladimir Putin paid a state visit to Turkey on Dec. 1 Both countriesand#39 leaders, Putin and Recep Tayyip ErdoIan, were able to push aside their differences on the Ukrainian and Syrian crises and give priority to boosting bilateral economic ties.

According to the Hurriyet daily, the Syrian question was raised by Putin during the bilateral talks. He suggested that ErdoIan use his influence to encourage the Syrian opposition to engage in negotiations with the regime.

The Turkish media said ErdoIan remained cool to this proposal, stating there was insufficient common ground to initiate such negotiations. Despite this inconclusive exchange of views on the Syrian crisis, the two leaders were able to agree to cooperate in various economic fields.

It is a pity that Turkey could not demonstrate the same flexibility in its bilateral relations with Syria and Egypt.Putin made three promises that will give more substance to Turkeyand#39s economic relations with the Russian Federation:One of them is a 6 percent cut in the price of Russian gas to be exported to Turkey.

This price cut corresponds to $260 million per year Bearing in mind that Turkey pays about $60 billion per year for imported oil and gas, Putinand#39s promise will have only a minimal positive effect on Turkeyand#39s energy bill. However, in view of the fragility of Turkeyand#39s economy, any relief of the budget will be most welcome.

Second is an additional supply of 3 billion cubic meters of gas during the upcoming winter This will dispel to a certain extent Turkeyand#39s worries of a shortage of gas in the middle of winter but, on the other hand, it will increase Turkeyand#39s reliance on Russian gas, which is at 58 percent at present. Such a high reliance will limit Turkeyand#39s freedom of action in the foreign policy choices that it will have to make in the future in its relations with Russia But the aantage of the interdependence is that Russia will also become dependent on the income that it will accrue from its gas exports to Turkey.

Third, the Russian Federation will buy more food, vegetables and fruits from Turkey to ward off the effects of the economic sanctions imposed by the EU and the US. Turkey announced that it will adhere to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia only if there is a UN Security Council resolution to that effect, which is not likely since Russia will veto it.

Turkey may have made this choice on economic rather than political grounds, but it serves both purposes at the same time.These gestures were made at a juncture where they will kill several birds with one stone in both Turkey and RussiaAnother statement by Putin came as a surprise.

He said the South Stream gas pipeline project may not be implemented because of the negative attitude of the EU. If confirmed, it will be a game changer for the region, especially for Turkey, because Alexey Miller, the CEO of Russian state-controlled energy company Gazprom, said after the surprise statement by Putin that the project may now be shifted to Turkey.

This pipeline, with the capacity to pump 63 billion cubic meters of gas a year, was going to be laid in the seabed of the Black Sea between the Russian Federation and Bulgaria The project was going to be operational in late 2015.On June 2 of this year, the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, announced its intention to suspend the implementation of the project for two reasons:– There were doubts about the conformity of the project with EU standards and– The Bulgarian authorities were violating EU rules by favoring Bulgarian and Russian companies in tenders for the construction of the infrastructure projects of the pipeline.

In response to this attitude by the EU, Putin declared in Turkey that Russia andldquocannot continue to implement this project under these circumstances.andrdquoIt is not yet known if this was an emotional outburst by Putin and it is therefore too early to presume that the South Stream project is dead and to hope that it will be substituted by another pipeline that will reach Europe through Turkey, because the EU may find a way to eliminate the disagreement with the Russian Federation.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman