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A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Turkey cannot afford disruption in ties with Russia, says Erdoğan

Posted by alfied on September 2, 2008

“Our relations with the Russian Federation have actually gone beyond the special,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters at the Victory Day reception in Ankara.

It’s amazing what results the application of a little gentle pressure can have. Expect Turkish vessels back in their own ports by Friday.

Monday, September 1, 2008

ANKARA – Turkish Daily News

Under the convention, vessels from countries that do not have a coastal area on the Black Sea can stay in the sea for up to 21 days.

Dependent on Russian natural gas and oil to meet its growing energy needs, Turkey cannot risk bilateral ties with Moscow due to the recent economic tension that has hit Turkish exports, said the prime minister over the weekend.

“Our relations with the Russian Federation have actually gone beyond the special,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters at the Victory Day reception in Ankara.

“Russia is our number one trade partner and has risen to the first rank in tourism… We are supplying two-thirds of our energy needs from them. Two-thirds of natural gas comes from them… Otherwise, we would be kept in the dark,” he said. “We cannot ignore this.”

Turkey depends on Russia for 29 percent of its oil and 63 percent of its natural gas, while the trade volume between the two is expected to reach $38 billion this year according to Turkish estimates.

The prime minister’s remarks came ahead of the planned retaliatory measures that Ankara would implement for Russian customs delaying Turkish trucks for up to 20 days. Turkey’s Foreign Trade Minister Kürşad Tüzmen said the measures would be in force beginning Monday in the face of the Russian impediments.

The ministry estimates Turkey could lose as much as $3 billion in exports if the curbs continue and has sought an explanation from the Russian government.

Erdoğan said the issue would be taken up when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrives in Istanbul Tuesday.

“They Russians have some fair points but we also have points that are just. I believe that we will solve this,” he said.

The trade restrictions by the Russians have led to speculation that Moscow is waging an economic war against Ankara due to the latter’s consent for the deployment of NATO’s military vessels in the Black Sea. Russian military officials recently raised concerns over the NATO buildup near its waters in the wake of the Caucasus crisis.

Erdoğan ruled out any tension over the military vessels that passed through the Turkish straits under the Montreux Convention of 1936.

“We are in contact with the countries whose vessels access the Black Sea. So far, we haven’t received a signal that the countries wanted an extension in their stay. To the contrary, they want to turn back as soon as possible after dispatching humanitarian assistance to Georgia,” said Erdoğan.

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