War in Ukraine: we explain why Turkey is mediating between Moscow and kyiv

“We are aware of the responsibility that the trust of both parties gives us.” In a message published on Sunday, March 27 on TwitterTurkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was pleased to welcome new negotiations between Ukraine and Russia during the week. “We hope to achieve a lasting ceasefire and open the door to peace.”

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The Russian and Ukrainian delegations are expected in Istanbul (Turkey) on Monday for a new session of face-to-face discussions, which should begin on Tuesday 29 March. The choice made by the belligerents to turn to Turkey to try to find an agreement is not surprising. For several years, Ankara has indeed developed cross-interests with Moscow as well as with kyiv.

A member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) since 1952, Turkey has chosen to emancipate itself over decades from Western influence in the concert of nations. “Turkey believes that its membership in NATO in a post-Cold War world is no longer sufficient and that it must have a foothold in the Western camp, while maintaining good relations with Russia, China and other countries. ‘others”explained at the beginning of the month Marc Pierini, former ambassador of the European Union in Turkey, on the antennas of France 24.

To assert its independence vis-à-vis the American alliance, Turkey did not hesitate to approach Moscow until it acquired in 2017 Russian anti-aircraft defense missiles, the S-400. A choice completely incompatible with the NATO system which had offended Washington: “We oppose Turkey testing this system, it could have serious consequences for our defense relations”annoyed the Pentagon in February 2020.

On the Syrian or Libyan issues, Moscow and Ankara sometimes strongly oppose each other. But that did not prevent the two countries from getting closer from an economic point of view: highly dependent on Russian wheat, Turkey also imports 44% of its gas from Russia and has concluded an agreement with Moscow to build its first nuclear power plant in the region of Mersin, in the south of the country, writes The cross. Russians were also the first nationality represented among tourists visiting Turkey in 2021.

Turkey has also grown closer to Ukraine over the years. Since 2019, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky have met no less than five times, reports France 24. During the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Erdogan expressed his opposition, highlighting in particular the presence of a large Turkish-speaking Tatar minority in the peninsula, noted France Culture in April 2021.

These exchanges quickly turned into a military partnership: from 2019, Turkey began selling its Bayraktar TB2 combat drones to Ukraine, then authorized kyiv to produce them on its soil. Used in the separatist region of Donbass since 2019, these 12-meter wingspan devices capable of carrying four missiles have succeeded in slowing the progress of Russian forces since the start of the war, notes The cross.

“For Turkey, maintaining good relations with Ukraine was also a way of promoting itself in relation to the European Union and NATO”deciphered at the microphone of France Culture Aurélien Denizeau, specialist in Turkey and doctor in political science and international relations, at the beginning of March.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ankara has tried to maintain a certain balance in its relations with kyiv and Moscow. If he never fails to shout “Turkey’s support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine”as reported by the Turkish Anadolu agency, Recep Tayyip Erdogan refrained from joining Western sanctions against Russian interests and also abstained in the Council of Europe during the vote suspending Russia.

Mistress of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, which connect the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey balanced its position by refusing access to these strategic points to three Russian military buildings on February 27 and 28. “This has no major impact on the strategic course of operations, because the war in Ukraine is above all on land, but Turkey wants to prevent the war from deepening, and wants to prevent any maritime spillover from this conflict. “still analyzed Aurélien Denizeau on France Culture.

More than a month after the start of the invasion, this skilful balancing act has enabled Turkey not to get angry with either kyiv or Moscow, and to be able to welcome the Russian and Ukrainian delegations to Istanbul for a new discussion session. But is this position tenable over time? “We are in the presence of a cautious country whose attitude illustrates its diplomatic lineanalysis for France 24 Jean Marcou, university professor at Sciences Po Grenoble. The big question is whether the country will be able to continue this policy of the big gap in this increasingly polarized world.

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