23.08.2016 Author: Yuriy Zinin

Russia-Turkey Rapprochement as Seen From The Middle East

3453453453The beginning of Russian-Turkish reconciliation, the impact this rapprochement may have on the situation in the region, and especially on Syria, has been actively discussed by various media and political sources across the Middle East. Many authors underline a number of factors both external and internal that pushed Turkey into changing its posture.

Thus, Ankara’s relations with the West are heavily influenced by the traditional beliefs that dominate the public opinion in Turkey. For instance, many Turks believe that EU’s unwillingness to proceed with the accession of Turkey is heavily influenced by the reluctance of most European societies to embrace an Islamic state and its population, even despite the fact that Turkey is a secular state since 1920s.

The protracted discussion on the accession of Turkey to the EU empowered those political circles in Ankara that were demanding for the development of bilateral ties with various Muslim states, thereby undermining its tilt towards the West. Therefore, after the beginning of the Arab Spring, Ankara has put a particular emphasis on supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that dominated the events of this period of the Middle Eastern history, notes a Saudi journalist Yousef Mecci.

However, the Brotherhood suffered a crushing defeat both in Egypt and Syria in the ideological, political and social fields. In Libya and Yemen, the Arab Spring movement provoked the rise of Islamists and the spread of chaos and anarchy.

At the end of the day, Ankara’s meddling in the Syrian internal affairs has backfired big time against Turkey. After all, prior to the Syrian crisis, the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) used to be an important transit corridor, that allowed the transportation of Turkish goods to the rich states of the Persian Gulf.

Erdogan’s relations with the West suffered a major setback after the recent failed military coup attempt in Turkey. Western media sources have been heavily criticizing the country and its leaders in the aftermath of this event, putting a particular emphasis on the human rights situation, while calling the Turkish President a dictator.

According to Arab experts, Ankara’s relations with a number of partners are damaged so severely that they’ve been virtually frozen which is nothing but a direct result of Ankara’s irrational policies.

All of the above mentioned factors pushed Tayyip Erdogan into seeking reconciliation with Russia, experts note, which was launched by the Turkish side in a bid of scoring a number of political trump cards and avoid the isolation.

Now that Turkey is building a new political system in the aftermath of the failed military coup, Erdogan needs new partners and friends and it seems he has been able to find them in Moscow, notes the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir

According to the absolute majority of Arab observers, due to the way Russia’s and Turkey’s economies compliment each other the two states have all the reasons one would need to seek the restoration of bilateral relations, the relations that were severely damaged after the downing of Russia’s SU-24. Many experts highlight the importance of mutual economic interests between Moscow and Ankara.

According to the Syrian newspaper Kasyun, neither Washington nor Europe is in a position to provide Turkey with economic benefits and preferences, while Russia, or rather the BRICS states, can offer a lot to Turkey, from the participation in the Silk Road project, to gas contracts and the construction of nuclear power plants.

Arab experts, watching every word coming out of the mouth of Ankara’s leader, are eager to spot some actual shifts in the bilateral relations between Damascus and Ankara. Some experts argue that the weakened Turkish army is having a hard time in conducting military operations against Kurdish rebels in Turkey. It will also be “unable” to continue providing a cover up for Erdogan’s policies in Syria anymore, experts say. Therefore, we can hardly expect any actual change in Turkey’s position towards Syria, since Erdogan is going to be too busy dealing with internal issues in the months to come.

The Arab version of the British BBC released a report that noted that Turkey has departed from the positions occupied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the states known as the major sponsors of the so-called Syrian opposition. There’s further rapprochement between Ankara, Russia and Iran to be expected, since the latter two states insisted from the very beginning of the crisis in Syria that the fate of President Assad must be decided by Syrians themselves.

Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

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