In an interview with TASS broadcast on Russian TV the day before the meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made perfectly clear that his government was fully committed not only to improving relations with Russia, but to also seeking real strategic and economic cooperation. Erdogan warmly referred to Putin as “my dear friend” or the “honorable President Putin.”
The most important points in this very lengthy interview dealt with economic and strategic cooperation, especially ending the war in Syria.
On resolving how to deal with those responsible for shooting down the Russian war plane last November and killing of one of the pilots who had safely ejected, Erdogan characterized the incident as a “great misfortune to us and it deeply upset us,” referring to his letter to Putin. He said, the fighter pilots who had shot down the Su-24 bomber have already been arrested, the investigation is continuing, and the man who murdered the Russian pilot is now in custody and is standing trial. “I would like to emphasize that” he said.
Commenting on Putin’s timely telephone call of support within hours after the attempted coup was crushed, Erdogan said, “I recall his high-principled position with gratitude, and I thank him on behalf of myself and the Turkish people. All world leaders must resist treason, government coup attempts, and attacks on their own people. Mr. Putin acted quickly and practically without delay. Once again, I express my gratitude to him.”
On their cooperation to end the war in Syria, Erdogan said, “I’ll tell you in a frank and straightforward manner. Basically, Russia is fundamentally the key and most important player in establishing peace in Syria. I believe it is necessary to solve this crisis with the help of mutual action by Russia and Turkey. If the talk is about widening the circle of participants, then I already told my dear friend Vladimir [putin] earlier: if necessary, we’ll also involve Iran in the effort. We can invite Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and America. In this regard, we can form a wide circle of participants. If not, then the Russian Federation and Turkey, given our common 950-km border with Syria, can take some steps, without violating Syria’s sovereignty.”
Erdogan reiterated his position that Syrian President Bashar Assad has no future in a settlement, but qualified, “Let the Syrian people themselves elect an individual they want to see in power….”
Erdogan attacked the idea of “good terrorists and bad terrorists.” He said that the al-Nusra Front, because it claims to have separated from Al-Qaeda and is supposedly fighting IS, is now called “good terrorists,” and the same is true for the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party. “This is an incorrect approach.”
Most interesting were Erdogan’s remarks regarding economic cooperation. He said the completion of the Akkuyu nuclear power station was on the top of his agenda, because it “is the most important agreement clinched with the Russian Federation, as it deals with nuclear power,” and all time lost should be regained by restarting the project. As for the proposed Turkish Stream gas pipeline and other projects, “There are no obstacles whatsoever before us.”