Mahmoud Shoori: ‘There is no doubt that Ankara is realizing they have had no viable and significant achievements out of the Syrian Crisis’

Date of publication : July 15, 2016 21:21 pm
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On last June 27, Dmitri Peskov, the Russian press secretary, revealed that Erdogan had sent a letter of apology to Putin. Erdogan wrote that he “would like to inform the family of the deceased Russian pilot that I share their pain and to offer my condolences to them. May they excuse us.” Furthermore, the case against the alleged killers of the Russian pilot would be reopened. On the surface, it seems that Erdogan fulfilled the conditions of conciliation. But many experts point out that the letter doesn’t technically direct an apology to the Russian government. Additionally, Binali Yildirim, Turkey’s new PM claimed that no payments would be made for the plane. Turkey, apparently, is ready only to discuss compensating the family of the pilot, not paying Moscow for damages. In other words, Turkish diplomacy has outsmarted Russia. Turkey satisfied just enough of Russia’s conditions to please Moscow, but did not submit to the concessions that would have made Ankara look weak. Moscow has since lifted the tourism ban and removed its sanctions against Turkey. 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. Mahmoud Shoori, head of Eurasia Program at Center for Strategic Research (CSR) and senior fellow at IRAS, told Etemad Daily (Farsi) about recent Turkish rapprochement with Russia and its spillover effects on the Middle East.
 
Regarding new Turkish approaches to Middle East developments including rapprochement with Russia, how could we infer that Ankara are about to distance from its past regional policies?
 
“There is no doubt that Ankara is realizing they have had no viable and significant achievements out of the Syrian Crisis. They have found the point that Syria crisis has had no payoff for them but the diminishing of their relations with neighbors and surrounding countries such as Iran and Russia, insecurity, spread of terrorism, and economic and security problems. I think that Turkey is slowly and gradually making some revisions to its regional policies. This can be inferred from the changes taken place in the government of this country- Ahmet Davutoğlu resigned and Binali Yildirim came to power as the new prime minister. These reforms are happening in foreign policy of Turkey very slowly and quietly.”
 
What opportunities and threats would have the improvement of Russian-Turkish relations for Iran-Russia ties?
 
“After the breakout of tensions between Turkey and Russia, economic relations between the two countries virtually minimized. Accordingly, many of the current economic cooperation between Moscow and Ankara stopped. With the suspension of cooperation, Russia, which was also faced with economic sanctions of the West, tried to meet its economic needs in cooperation with other countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a result, the level of cooperation between the two sides has increased. However, this has been a key factor for increased cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.”
 
“The lifting of sanctions and the loss of former constraints was also another factor to increase economic cooperation between the parties. After the Turkish political apology from Russia and lifting of economic sanctions and limitations by Putin, we should naturally witness the reestablishment of economic ties between Turkey and Russia. This has caused many analysts to argue that normalization of relations between Ankara and Moscow could leave a negative impact on trade relations between Iran and Russia. I believe that this could not have a direct effect on trade relations between Tehran and Moscow, because the main factor influencing trade relations between these two countries is the shortage of capacity and resources in Iran.”
 
“This means that the type of products manufactured in Iran cannot fully cover and provide Russia’s requirements. However, this is a subject that is thought to be raised in the coming months. I think that if Turkey reestablishes its relations with Russia and develops ties with Iran, it is hoped that this can reduce the dependence of Turkey on Saudi Arabia and Western countries and cause the Turks to make revisions to their regional policies. However, there are other challenges such as the fact that perhaps the Turks, in companion with Russians, are trying to create new divisions in the region without the presence of Iran. By the way, we should take the improvement of relations between Turkey and Russia as an opportunity.”
 
How Iran-Russian ties which has been turned, to some extent, into strategic format, would affect by recent developments between Moscow and Ankara?
 
“This is completely up to us. If we can have good management in this regard, we can have tripartite cooperation on various issues through broad consultations with the parties. In other words, this collaboration can be a new opportunity for the region, because regional issues can be managed better in this way and also the interference of extra-regional forces in regional issues can be prevented. However, it may be difficult to reach this point, but it is not impossible. Turkey has shown that it can quickly revise its regional policies and, in this context, we should try to direct these revisions in way to be to our own benefit. If we do not conduct the necessary consultations, formation of a Turkish-Russian axis can diminish Iran’s role in the region.”
 
It seems that recent terrorist attack in Turkey is a wake-up call to the regional powers. As Daesh heinous acts are becoming a common threat to Turkey, Russia and Iran, to what extent could we expect a joint anti-terrorism efforts among them?
 
“Terrorism is an issue that warned by Iran since the beginning of regional crises. Iran has always stated that no country is immune from the threat of terrorism waves. Today, we are practically witnessing that a country like Turkey cannot protect itself against terrorist groups operating in Syria. As a country that already has faced the threats of extremism, Russia is also trying to eliminate the roots of extremism in the region in order to prevent its spread to Russia or neighboring regions such as the Caucasus and Central Asia. This issue has been discussed between Tehran and Moscow and it was the most important common denominator between the two countries to cooperate on Syria crisis. But the Turks found out a bit late that to what extent the spread of extremism can be dangerous to them. However, it is hoped that the current challenges convince Turkey to have cooperation with other actors. I think it’s premature to talk about basic changes in Turkey’s attitudes towards Syria crisis and possible cooperation. But with regard to what is going on, it is hoped that cooperation between these three countries and reforms in Turkey's foreign policy take place in near future.”

To comment on this interview, please contact IRAS Editorial Board
 
ID: 1590
Author : Mahmoud Shoori