Question: Turkey-Russia relations have finally started to normalize following the plane crisis. How will this process go on? What should the two countries do to restore relations?
The normalization process has started thanks to the determination and common sense of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Vladimir Putin. Formerly the two leaders had agreed in a phone conversation to meet in person ahead of the G20 Summit to be hosted by China. First steps were taken right after this phone talk. We have no doubt that bilateral relations will reach a better level so long as both countries maintain cooperation in line with mutual interests. The meeting to be held on August 9 will give acceleration to the normalization process. It is of importance in every aspect that close cooperation and coordination are established both in bilateral relations and on regional and global issues. Both the Turkish and Russian sides take a resolute stance in this direction and this will speed up the normalization process.
Question: The number of Russian tourists coming to Turkey has decreased by %80-90 due to certain reasons. However, there was a great demand from Russian citizens for Turkey to be opened to tourism again. How many tourists do you foresee to visit Turkey by the end of the year?
There is a friendship dating back hundreds of years between the Turkish and Russian people. Unfortunately the short-term turbulence in the bilateral relations led to a certain decrease in the number of tourists coming to Turkey. However, following the resolute steps of the two leaders, Russian tourists have immediately started to visit Turkey. We expect the total number to reach its pre-November 2015 level in a short time and increase further in the future. It is of importance for us that Russian tourists feel secure in Turkey. In addition to it, we have the relationship that strengthened over years. There are no problems with regard to security. The most concrete indication of this situation is that Russian citizens view Turkey as a second home and come here every year to spend vacations. Turkey has been taking all the necessary steps with determination to further consolidate this trust.”
Question: Some experts comment that the timing of the normalization of the relations is meaningful. Why does this normalization happen in the middle of summer? Is there any reason for this? The current normalization has become a surprise for the Russian public opinion.
We see Russia as an important friend and partner. We know that the Russian people and the government view Turkey likewise. For example, our citizens watched with gratitude on televisions that Russian citizens laid flowers in front of our embassy in Moscow following the terrorist attack in Istanbul. We took a constructive and friendly stance since the moment we learned that the plane that crashed in November 2015 belonged to the Russian Air Forces. And it took a few months for the talks between the two countries to reach a certain level. And finally the normalization process has begun as a result of the understanding reached between the two leaders.
Question: “Can we expect a quick and strong acceleration in joint projects (Akkuyu, Turkish Stream, payments in national currencies, etc.)? Is there still a will for these projects? Or might there be new initiatives by Turkey?
We will continue our close cooperation with Russia in all these spheres as well as working on new joint projects. What is important here is that joint steps that are taken serve the interests of both of the countries and also produce solutions to the regional and global problems.
Question: Could you please give us a few clues about the content of the first face-to-face meeting between our leaders after 8 months?
In the talks on August 9, the leaders will discuss in particular bilateral relations between Turkey and Russia, the Syrian crisis and the fight against terrorism, along with other regional issues. We are going through times when national and regional themes have global dimensions. In other words, it is nearly impossible to separate national, regional and global issues from one another. This renders it imperative to have a global and holistic view over the issues. I can say that the August 9 talks will be held in this manner.”
Question: Is it possible that July 15 failed coup attempt impairs Turkey-Russia relations? And to which extent is it justified to argue that this coup attempt was aimed at destroying Turkey’s relations with Russia and Israel?
The July 15 coup attempt was supported by sections troubled with Turkey’s regional power and Turkey’s will to pursue a foreign policy in accordance with its own interests. However, the courage, solidarity and unity of our people let us prevent these uniformed terrorists who were members of Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) from shattering our democracy and stability. The ones targeting Turkey got what they deserved. Within this process, the fact that President Putin expressed his support for the Turkish democracy and his reaction against the coup attempt by calling President Erdoğan was an important message. We appreciate Russian Federation’s clear and forthright stance. This bloody coup attempt was thwarted thanks to the glorious resistance of our nation, diligent leadership of our President, unwavering steps of our government, and with the support of all sections of society including our media and political parties. In this sense, Turkish democracy arose stronger after July 15. With the neutralization of the July 15 coup attempt, democratic legitimacy of political leadership and government in Turkey was consolidated. Within this frame, our relations with Russia will continue to be normalized and reinforced.
Question: Syria is still the most serious issue in the region. What does Turkey expect from Russia with respect to political and military matters regarding Syria? May a cooperative venture be in question, if so, under which circumstances? And Turkey’s stance concerning Bashar al-Assad is obvious, it is highly strict. However is there a possibility that Turkey and Russia may reach a compromise regarding Assad?
The Syrian crisis currently constitutes one of the greatest threats to both regional and global security and stability. Turkey is just beside this threat and directly experiences the impacts of the clash environment in Syria. Therefore, Turkey’s primary objective is to put an end to the clashes in Syria without delay and on a permanent basis.
Until now, we have made all kinds of efforts on this, and we have always sought opportunities for cooperation with Russia on the issue. In September 2015, we held talks at the highest level first in Sochi, then in Moscow in an attempt to bring permanent stability to Syria. Thus, we paved the way for establishing the International Syria Support Group (ISSG).
However at this stage, we still couldn’t reach a point encouraging hope to find a political solution in Syria. We want to look into the future with hope and we hope that political transition in Syria is ensured as soon as possible in cooperation with Russia.
It is naturally not possible to discuss political transition in Syria so long as Assad remains in power. Assad remaining in power means the continuation of hostilities. I believe that if we aim for permanent peace in Syria, after witnessing the death of half a million innocent Syrians and conflicts lasting for 5 years, it is clearly understood that peace cannot be achieved with Assad.
What is important is the establishment of a pluralist, inclusive political structure in Syria which has democratic legitimacy and which can be recognized by Syrians. Such an outcome is in accordance with interests of both Russia and Turkey.