Russia-Turkey relations, can they improve?


Turkey and Russia have seen a dramatic decline in relations since November 2015, when a Russian Su-24 bomber jet was shot down by Turkish Air Force’s after being accused of violating Turkish airspace. But can both countries find a way to mend broken ties?

Turkey and Russia have seen a dramatic decline in relations since November 2015, when a Russian Su-24 bomber jet was shot down by Turkish Air Force’s after being accused of violating Turkish airspace. But can both countries find a way to mend broken ties?

 

After Turkey’s shooting down of the Russian Su-24M plane, Russia’s Defence Ministry claimed the plane had stayed exclusively over Syrian territory and “there was no violation of Turkish air space”. As a result, a disagreement was sparked and tensions between the two countries increased, with Russia responding by placing a number of sanctions on Turkey.

 

The incident, which Russian President Vladimir Putin described as “a stab in the back” has seen Moscow ban the import of Turkish fruit, vegetables, poultry and salt. It has also banned the sale of charter holidays for Russians to Turkey and construction projects with Turkish firms in Russia unless a special exemption is granted.

 

There are now restrictions on Turkish citizens working for companies registered in Russia, and Russia has suspended work on TurkStream – a new Black Sea pipeline that was to boost Russian gas exports to Turkey. The sanctions have been estimated to have cost Ankara over 8 billion USD so far in 2016, with losses predicted to increase in the future.

 

The Turkish government have made attempts to normalise their relationship with Russia. However, despite having tried to save the situation, the Turkish Ambassador to Russia said on April 27 2016 that the incident “is not a case when the solution is found after apologies are issued”.

The Turkish Ambassador told the Moscow Union of Journalists that “we have been repeating several times that we regret the incident”. He further stated, “this is not the development of events we would have been wishing for”, and that “when such a situation erupts, one should sit at the negotiating table”.

 

On May 2 2016, it was reported that the Turkish Prime Minister said, “Russia and Turkey have always been neighbours, and today we are two important countries in the region. We need each other. The incident with the aircraft was not aimed against Russia”.

 

The Prime Minister also reminded listeners that Moscow and Ankara had in the past maintained a good relationship, while suggesting that the Turkish side hopes to re-establish them in the future.

 

Howerver, relations between Ankara and Moscow still remain icy, with Russia’s Foreign Ministry claiming that it saw no chance for better relations with Turkey in the foreseeable future.

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One Turkish journalist has maintained that Ankara “shot itself in the foot” when the Turkish F-16 fighter jet downed the Russian Su-24 bomber. The journalist has argued that Daesh militants who are firing rockets across the border from Syria are the country’s real enemy – referring to recent attacks on Kilis where Daesh have launched rockets leaving scores of people dead or injured.

 

Ankara has long reiterated that it is determined to defeat the Islamic State, while the journalist has urged Turkey to revise its foreign policy in order to do this. According to the columnist, Turkey’s new strategy should involve extending the hand of friendship to Russia, while also focusing on the economy and the country’s bilateral trade relations with Moscow.