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July 16, 2012, Monday

Prime Minister Erdoğan in Moscow

The most recent massacre in the Syrian conflict took place in Tremseh, Hama. Damascus says it was a clash whereas rebels call it a massacre. Regardless of what it is called, this was the largest number of people killed in a single incident in the recent civil strife in Syria. If it supposes that the ongoing massacres will go unpunished and be forgotten, the Damascus administration is just wrong. There is no turning back now.

Ankara has hosted high-level guests from the UN and Washington. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is heading to China for the 5th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and to evaluate the recent developments in the Chinese position on Syria. UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be in Moscow on Wednesday. Will the Syrian issue be resolved in Moscow? I do not think so. However, these visits are pretty constructive and useful to better inform Moscow, to prevent the global lobbies trying to pass off the state of irresolution in Syria as a solution from manipulating Moscow and to encourage Moscow to take steps towards a resolution.

Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss bilateral trade and economic and political relations in the meeting. The exact date for the High-Level Cooperation Council to be held in Turkey in the fall will be fixed. Putin will travel to Turkey to attend this council meeting, which works as a joint cabinet of the two countries. The Syrian issue will be at the top of the agenda in the meeting in Moscow. Will Ankara try to convince Moscow to withdraw its support from the Syrian regime in the visit? Or will Turkey expend efforts in the meeting to make sure that Moscow does not adopt a negative attitude vis-à-vis the international community’s Syrian policy?

Moscow, back in 2008 during the Russo-Georgian War, argued that Turkey supplied arms to Tbilisi and subsequently ended its imports of vegetables from Turkey. Some analysts now argue that the same thing could take place again. But Moscow does not hold this card alone. Syria’s aerial defense system is controlled by Russia and Iran. In addition, Moscow may become influential in Turkish politics and media because of the strong presence of Turkish contractors in the Russian market. Moscow has not used this card against Turkey so far. Some strong lobbies are now also working to ensure that Russian tourists do not visit Turkey. Ankara believes that it can deal with these campaigns by ignoring them. In other words, it relies on a policy in which it does nothing but wait. It should also be recalled that despite frequent calls from Turkey, Moscow does not recognize the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization.

Reports have also noted that the issue concerning the Turkish F-4 Phantom jet will be discussed in the meeting as well. In previous statements, Moscow said it was ready to share the information it held. On this controversial issue, the Turkish people have the right to have further information.

There are some global lobbies that want to live with the wounded Assad as long as possible but to design a new and weak government in case he is toppled in an effort to introduce chaos in Syria. In addition, if the Damascus government collapses, these global lobbies may take action to provoke a partial intervention by Moscow or Ankara for the immediate control of the chemical weapons in Syria.

Turkey and Russia are experiencing good relations now. The removal of the visa requirements between the two countries in April 2011 is a revolution. This is why Prime Minister Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow is quite important. Putin and Erdoğan’s well-balanced policy may contribute to overcoming the Syrian crisis.

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