Although Turkey and Russia are fostering closer relations and economic ties, the developments are not due to a “strategic partnership” but “common interests,” according to Russian Ambassador Vladimir Ivanovskiy.
The term “strategic partnership” has been echoed in diplomatic circles, especially after U.S. President Barack Obama’s use of the term during a visit to Ankara last year. The United States has traditionally considered Turkey a vital ally in maintaining its influence in a region where rival Russia is strongest.
“It was part of the Cold War era,” said Ivanovskiy, speaking about the changing balance during a Tuesday interview with the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
“Looking at the real interests that are common in the Black Sea, Middle East and Central Asia, Turkey and Russia are becoming good partners, especially in the field of energy,” the ambassador said.
“There is no political motivation behind boosting energy cooperation but bilateral economic interests,” he added. “I don’t like the term ‘strategic partnership.’”
Russia feels no jealousy toward the U.S.-Turkey strategic partnership, said Ivanovskiy, adding: “Moscow and Ankara have been tailoring their own cooperation. I believe Russia and Turkey will be two key economic actors on the global stage as strong partners.”
Retired ambassador Murat Bilhan, the deputy head of the Turkish-Asian Center for Strategic Studies, or TASAM, also believes cooperation does not mean a strategic partnership.
“Though bilateral relations have been boosted, Russia has a fixed policy when it comes to Yerevan, which is Moscow’s closest ally in the southern Caucasus. It does not want to lose it and that’s what lies behind the pro-Armenia remarks,” Bilhan told the Daily News.
Returning from Moscow last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had agreed on the urgent need for a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. According to Erdoğan, Armenia should withdraw from the seven occupied Azerbaijani provinces in a show of sincerity.
Putin, however, had earlier said, “It is unwise from both a tactical and a strategic point of view to package these problems together,” directly contradicting Erdoğan.
Many analysts find Erdoğan too optimistic about any emerging strategic partnership and believe existing frozen conflicts serve Russia’s interests in the Caspian energy fields.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also urged Turkey to expedite the ratification of the normalization protocols during his visit to Yerevan. “To try and artificially link those two issues is not correct,” he told reporters Jan. 14.
“We have been playing honestly since the beginning. What Lavrov said in Yerevan is the same as what Putin and Medvedev told Erdoğan in Moscow,” Ivanovskiy said.
Russia will not put pressure on Armenia to withdraw from the occupied territories, the ambassador added. “As the Turkish side already knows, we will not take part at the side of any party. We will not put pressure on anybody in order to solve the problem,” he said. “Such pressure may result negatively.”
According to the ambassador, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Obama have expressed similar views as well. The Minsk Group co-chaired by Russia, the U.S. and France has, however, thus far failed to find a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.
Diplomatic sources said Moscow agrees on Ankara’s policy, but cannot officially affirm it due to its position in the region. “Did you ever think why the Minsk Group has recently intensified its efforts? No disappointment exists on our side,” a source told the Daily News.
Foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoğlu and Lavrov held a phone conversation Jan. 15.
“We have progressed considerably. A total solution to all frozen conflicts in the southern Caucasus will be a relief for everyone. Putting pressure on Turkey to ratify the normalization protocols before a specific deadline will not pave the way for a solution, but will bypass a permanent settlement,” Davutoğlu warned Lavrov, according to a source close to the issue.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serge Sarkisyan will meet in Moscow next month as part of the Minsk peace process.