Sep 4, 2022
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Erdogan, playing the role of a peacemaker, solves Turkey’s internal problems

Pictured: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

In the photo: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: Sergey Karpukhin / TASS)

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan leaves no hope of bringing the presidents of Russia and Ukraine to the negotiating table in order to put an end to the military escalation and come to peace in the Ukrainian crisis. This was reported by the Turkish television and radio company Habertürk.

It is noted that such a meeting, according to Erdogan, is necessary for a “radical solution to the issue,” since the conflict has consequences not only for Turkey, but for all of humanity. And Ankara intends to continue here, to follow “the path of diplomacy and negotiations,” the head of the Turkish Republic stressed.

“In Sochi, I had the opportunity to discuss in detail with Putin relations between Russia and Ukraine. Later, the UN Secretary General and I traveled to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky. Our goal is to bring Putin and Zelensky together in Turkey,” Erdogan said.

This is not the first time that the Turkish President has tried to assume the role of the main mediator between Moscow and Kyiv. Back in early February, during his visit to Ukraine on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, he proposed holding talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents in Turkey. Zelensky then even expressed his readiness to “put an end to the war” anywhere. Probably inspired by new agreements with Ankara to expand military cooperation, and Turkey’s plans to build a plant for the production of Bayraktar drones in Ukraine.

Then Vladimir Putin announced the start of a special military operation to protect the Donbass, as well as the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine. And Erdogan again decided to try himself as a peacemaker. However, the meeting on March 29 in Istanbul of the delegations of Russia and Ukraine, which was largely facilitated by the Turkish leader, was the last in the negotiation track. Kyiv’s provocation in Bucha clearly showed how the Ukrainian regime imagines the settlement process.

In addition, Zelensky himself, who had been seeking the attention of the Russian leader for so long, spoke in the language of an ultimatum: they say, “I will talk with Putin only if the Russians remove their troops from the line on February 24.”

In Moscow, this approach was called “frivolous”, contrary to the initiatives that the Ukrainian delegation put forward at the summit in Istanbul. And they said that with the appropriate formulation of the question, “it is not necessary to talk about the possibility of preparing a meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine.”

But the Russian leader met with Erdogan – in Sochi on August 5. Negotiations “in a narrow circle”, as reported, lasted more than four hours. Did the President of Turkey tell his counterpart that he wants to reconcile Moscow and Kyiv? Not excluded. In any case, by his own admission, he and Putin “had the opportunity to discuss in detail the events in Ukraine.” Where, by the way, he will soon go. And again, already in Lviv – first alone, and then paired with the UN Secretary General Guterres, – will convince Zelensky of the need for a summit meeting between Russia and Ukraine.

He, as you know, refused.

Well, Zelensky can be understood – he himself does not make such decisions, here, as the Americans will say. And they set Kyiv the task of “fighting to the last Ukrainian.”

Again, Erdogan is an experienced politician and should understand that Russia does not need another Minsk-3. The time for talking has passed, only complete denazification and demilitarization. And Ukraine can only negotiate surrender.

Is it really that Erdogan simply liked sitting at the head of the negotiating table, because he is trying so hard to bring Zelensky to Putin?

For comments, “SP” turned to Yulia Kudryashova, Senior Research Fellow, Center for Euro-Atlantic Security, Institute for International Studies, MGIMO:

Turkey has a very difficult economic situation. Annual inflation has reached almost 80%. The country has severe unemployment. This is due, first of all, to the fact that Turkey is actively interfering in the Syrian conflict, and the Syrian refugees (as well as the Afghans who joined them, etc.), they literally flooded the country. Thus, they lower salaries and contribute to the reduction of jobs.

This is now Erdogan’s main problem – internal.

The population is dissatisfied with the economic policy pursued in the country. The quality of life is declining. The severe crisis has engulfed many areas.

Already, even Erdogan’s electorate – and these are, as a rule, not residents of the capital, these are mainly residents of Eastern Anatolia, who adhere to strict Islamic views and have a low level of education – but even these people are now turning away from him.

That is, criticism comes from all walks of life, which means that internal support, the basis of Erdogan’s power, is staggering. That is why he decided to bet that Turkey, thanks to his efforts, becomes an important regional leader.

Although Ankara, it must be said, now has very difficult relations with the European Union. From there, there is constant criticism of the Turkish authorities about the oppression of the Kurdish population, as well as Turkey’s intervention in the Syrian conflict and internal repression against alleged participants in the 2016 military coup.

Therefore, Turkey needs to show both the population inside the country and its Western partners that it is a very important, significant power that must be reckoned with. And, perhaps, only Turkey will be able to be an effective mediator even in Russian-Ukrainian negotiations.

“SP”: – So far, Ankara’s relative success has been only a grain agreement …

– Indeed, an agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain was reached with the participation of Erdogan. And in Turkey, this was actively promoted and presented as an incredible diplomatic success.

That is, by his activity in the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations, Erdogan seeks, rather, to distract the population from internal problems. He wants to send a signal that, thanks to him, Turkey is the most important regional leader, which cannot be ignored. Here there is an emphasis on patriotism, the so-called national pride.

Another thing is that it is not very efficient. Because, from the point of view of public opinion, the population condemns its position in the Syrian conflict and does not approve of Turkey’s intervention in the Ukrainian conflict.

On the other hand, it is very important for Ankara to maintain relations with Ukraine, because before the special operation it was one of Turkey’s most important trading partners. First of all, in terms of Turkish exports.

And it turns out that, despite the conclusion of an agreement on a free trade zone, now Turkey has actually lost Ukraine as a trading partner.

This is quite painful for her, against the backdrop of a growing deficit in the balance of payments.

“SP”: – Will Erdogan retain his place as “chief negotiator for Ukraine”?

– In my opinion, if negotiations are to be held, then Erdogan is probably the most convenient mediator for Russia. Because, in principle, it is possible to agree with him. We are not strategic allies, but we are interdependent partners. And the Turkish leader showed his willingness to compromise and find mutually acceptable solutions.

Therefore, if you choose an intermediary, then he will probably be the most convenient.

Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasts, RUDN University Victoria Fedosovain turn, considers Erdogan’s initiative absolutely empty:

– He just enters the media space, it seems, with his statements. Given the way the Russian Foreign Ministry views the prospects for negotiations, and the Russian leadership in general, I think there are no illusions about the responsibility and what Kyiv has to offer in its current state.

In addition, Zelensky himself signed that there would be no negotiations, drew red lines about Russia’s advancement, holding referendums. And they will. What will be the point of no return for Kyiv. Here the positions have already shown their intransigence. And any participation of Erdogan is only earning political points as a peacemaker, as, perhaps, the image of a moderator of such a conflict.

But achieving a grain deal is probably the most that Erdogan was capable of. Here, at least in the sphere of trade, one could find points of contact, in fact, with the mediation of international organizations as well. But no more.

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