Davutoğlu in Moscow: new era in Turkish-Russian relations

By Hasan Kanbolat

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will pay a one-day visit to Moscow on Jan 25. Davutoğlu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will participate in the second meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Group, part of the High Level Cooperation Council (ÜDİK) maintained by the two countries.

In the bilateral talks, a number of issues will be discussed, including the Middle East (Iran’s nuclear program, Syria), the Balkans, Central Asia, Caucasia (Nagorno-Karabakh), the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization, energy and combating terror, amongst others. The parties will focus on what they can do to address these issues and sign a joint final declaration.

 In the Davutoğlu-Lavrov meeting held in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, on Dec. 7, 2011, the foundations for Davutoğlu’s visit to Moscow were laid. The first meeting was held in Çırağan Palace, Istanbul, on Jan. 20, 2011, with the participation of Davutoğlu and Lavrov, where the Joint Strategic Planning Group Meeting Protocol was signed. It is also expected that during Davutoğlu’s visit to Moscow the parties would announce establishment of a joint investment bank which was previously discussed during a phone conversation between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The joint investment bank will resolve the problems associated with the lack of financial resources for joint projects and will also contribute to joint projects with other countries. The investment bank will also encourage the use of local currencies between the two countries and therefore improve economic relations.

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The High Level Cooperation Council, operating as a joint committee in which the Russia’s state minister and the Turkish prime minister serve as co-chairs, holds a summit every year. The Council was set up on May 11 and 12, 2010, during Medvedev’s visit to Ankara, where the first meeting was also held. The second meeting was held during Erdoğan’s Moscow visit on March 17, 2011. The third meeting will be hosted by Turkey in fall 2012.

ÜDİK has three dimensions: The Joint Economic Commission, which focuses on the commercial and economic dimension of bilateral relations; the Joint Strategic Planning Group, focusing on the foreign policy and strategy dimensions of bilateral relations and the social forum, focusing on the religious, cultural, educational and civil society dimensions of bilateral relations. The social forum, which remained ineffective in 2011 because of elections in both countries, will be revived in 2012.

Turkey and the Russian Federation are taking steps to move towards a multidimensional partnership from the foundation of bilateral cooperation that has existed since the early 2000s, by setting aside Cold war rivalry. In this way, they want to move from the state of rivalry to a state of cooperation on a wide range of issues, including economic, political, cultural, educational, religious and civil society relations. The size of bilateral trade between the two countries has expanded from $19.6 billion in 2009 to $25.3 billion in 2010 and subsequently to $22 billion in the first three quarters of 2011. Considering that the parties seek to increase the size of bilateral trade between the two countries to $100 billion by 2015, it appears that new opportunities should explored if this goal is to be attained. However, we should also note that 80 percent of bilateral trade consists of Russian exports to Turkey, 20 percent is Turkish exports to Russia and that the gap is widening. The initiative to establish a joint bank seeks to address this problem, which relates to the unsound foreign trade structure. For this reason, Davutoğlu’s Moscow talks will include hints and insights into the policies of the two countries vis-à-vis the developments of 2012.
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