27.6 C
Paris
vendredi, août 12, 2022

Could the Ukraine War End Turkey’s Dependence on Russia? – Haaretz

Turkey’s options, amid shifting economic and political considerations in the region, now include Israel as well

Must read

« At summit, Erdogan, Putin still divided on SyriaRead more ». Al Monitor staff 

Ankara agreed said Al Monitor on the 5th of August 2022 that part of its natural gas payments to Moscow would be switched to...

Au sujet de « La promesse d’Hasan », film turc, sorti en France en plein mois d’août/Nora SENI

Le vent souffle sans répit dans le film de Semih Kaplanoglu, ployant branches, bruissant feuillages, malmenant les clôtures faits d'assemblages irréguliers de bois secs....

Turkey’s Mission Becomes More Difficult If Attacks on Ukrainian Ports Continue- PANORAMA/Selmin Seda Coşkun

Selmin Seda Coskun from the Thomas More Institute in Paris wrote in Panorama, Online of the 4th of August 2022, an indepth article...

L’accord céréalier, un succès diplomatique pour le président Erdogan. LE MONDE/Marie Jégo

Après la sécurisation du passage d’un premier cargo, le président turc rencontre Vladimir Poutine vendredi, à Sotchi, pour parler notamment de l’Ukraine et de...

« Before their meeting in Ankara Wednesday it was possible to imagine that Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his nominal Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would only exchange pleasantries and fulsome praise, hailing the start of a “historic” new era between their countries. The war in Ukraine, however, gave them something real to talk about » reports Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz.

Russia and Ukraine are Turkey’s biggest sources of tourists, at about 4.5 million and 2 million a year

Turkey and Israel are each walking a tightrope that threatens to coil into a noise around its neck. Each has weighty interests in maintaining good relations with Russia, and even more so with Europe and with the United States. Turkey was ahead of Israel in censuring the Russian invasion – Israel waited until the United Nations General Assembly session to join the international condemnation – but Erdogan and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett employed a similar tactic to avoid coming down clearly on one side. Both stood at the starting line of the race to mediate between Russia and Ukraine as if they led neutral states that met the standard for “honest broker,” whose only interest is to make peace.

Both spoke frequently with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and with Russian President Vladimir Putin – Bennett flew “secretly” to Moscow, and before that Erdogan went to Kyiv – but these mediation efforts have yet to bear fruit. The foreign ministers of Israel, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey were expected to meet Thursday, on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, to review more proposals that are unlikely to change any of the parties’ positions. Putin, it seems, has reached the point of no return, incapable of retreat from either the territory or his maximalist demands. Zelenskyy appears willing to fight to the last bullet.

Ankara planned to use the forum to position Turkey as an economic power that is recovering from its deep economic crisis. It sought to market its ambition to become a vital crossroads for the flow of oil and natural gas to Europe, encourage new investors and restore trust in Erdogan’s leadership, which was demolished over the past two years.

Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for two decades, can present an optimistic picture of 11 percent economic growth in 2021, to a level not seen since the early days of his rule. He views the discovery of the enormous natural gas field in the Black Sea as a windfall in the making for investors, particularly in light of today’s soaring price of gas on the global market. Turkey also seeks to position itself as an ally of Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Israel, a bridge between east and west, while also reaping dividends from its criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the war in Ukraine is a double-edged sword for Turkey. On one hand it continues to buy more than 53 percent of its oil and natural gas from Russia. On the other, it sells Ukraine combat drones and signed a deal with Kyiv to build a drone factory within its borders. Russia and Ukraine are Turkey’s biggest sources of tourists, at about 4.5 million and 2 million a year, respectively, accounting for about one-fourth of visitors to the country’s vacation spots last year.

This year travel agents in Turkey expected double the number of Russian tourists and 25 percent more from Ukraine. Any signs of favoring either country endangers a revenue stream accounting for more than 10 percent of Turkey’s gross domestic product. But beyond the immediate damage caused to Turkey by the war, it has caused Ankara to rethink its strategic course.

While Turkey and Europe countries are exempt from U.S. President Joe Biden’s sanctions on buying oil and natural gas from Russia, Washington makes a distinction between purchasing of energy for domestic consumption and strengthening Russia’s position as a provider of gas to Europe, as it had planned, in cooperation with Turkey.

So, for example, the threat of U.S. sanctions still hangs over the TurkStream 2 gas pipeline, slated to deliver natural gas through Turkey to Bulgaria and Hungary. The sanctions bill was written and about to go into effect, but in May Biden postponed its enactment to give diplomatic efforts with Russia a chance.

This line, built in parallel with TurkStream 1, will give Turkey hundreds of millions of dollars a year in transit royalties and reinforce the monopoly of Russia, which already provides over 40 percent of Europe’s natural gas consumption. Now, when diplomacy has failed to deliver, Biden may impose the sanctions on the Turkish pipeline.

The U.S. threat makes it clear to Turkey that it too, not only Europe, must seek alternatives in order to reduce dependence on Russian natural gas. One possible path, which has generated a fierce disagreement with the European Union, lies in Turkey’s drilling operations in the Eastern Mediterranean – to be more precise, in areas claimed by Cyprus and Greece.

Turkey is ignoring the European protest, on the grounds that the marking of the exclusive economic zones stems from an erroneous interpretation and its drilling activities are in its own maritime zone or that of Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. But with the United States and the EU united in their opposition to the Turkish drilling, it is doubtful that Turkey can count on this source of gas as a replacement for the pipeline connecting it to Russia.

Another possibility is to join the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, established in 2019, whose members are Cyprus, Egypt, France,Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Palestine and the UAE. But this organization was actually established in order to block Turkey’s Mediterranean ambitions, against the backdrop of its agreement with Libya to create an exclusive economic zone in a manner that compromises Egypt’s ability to deliver gas directly to Europe, requiring it to receive Turkey’s consent for right of passage through its waters.

Turkey has tried more than once to persuade Israel to pipe the natural gas from its own offshore fields to Europe through Turkish waters. But Israel, which is committed to the EMGF, has so far rejected Ankara’s overtures. The opening of the diplomatic channel between Turkey and Egypt, the renewal of relations with the UAE, the advanced explorations with Saudi Arabia and restored relations with Israel could, Ankara believes, change its status as a rival and even hostile state and give Turkey access to the gas pipelines from Israel and Egypt to Europe.

But this move, which seems right and natural from a business perspective, is filled with political bombs that must be carefully defused before progress can be made. Egypt has given Turkey sharp, clear conditions that must be met before Cairo agrees to restore full diplomatic relations – including renunciation of support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the extradition to Cairo of leaders of the movement who live in Turkey.

Israel, for its part, will monitor the progress of Turkish-Egyptian relations before deciding whether to transport its gas through Turkey. The UAE, meanwhile, will wait to see the position taken by Israel and Egypt, which also have commitments to Greece and to Cyprus.

This mine field makes it clear that Europe’s road to liberation from Russian natural gas is still long, but not impossible. In the optimistic scenario, the war in Ukraine may build a new European-Eastern Mediterranean coalition that rests on foundations made of gas. In the meantime, don’t hold your breath.

Haaretz, March 13, 2022, Zvi Bar’el

More articles

Latest article

« At summit, Erdogan, Putin still divided on SyriaRead more ». Al Monitor staff 

Ankara agreed said Al Monitor on the 5th of August 2022 that part of its natural gas payments to Moscow would be switched to...

Au sujet de « La promesse d’Hasan », film turc, sorti en France en plein mois d’août/Nora SENI

Le vent souffle sans répit dans le film de Semih Kaplanoglu, ployant branches, bruissant feuillages, malmenant les clôtures faits d'assemblages irréguliers de bois secs....

Turkey’s Mission Becomes More Difficult If Attacks on Ukrainian Ports Continue- PANORAMA/Selmin Seda Coşkun

Selmin Seda Coskun from the Thomas More Institute in Paris wrote in Panorama, Online of the 4th of August 2022, an indepth article...

L’accord céréalier, un succès diplomatique pour le président Erdogan. LE MONDE/Marie Jégo

Après la sécurisation du passage d’un premier cargo, le président turc rencontre Vladimir Poutine vendredi, à Sotchi, pour parler notamment de l’Ukraine et de...

« Turkey’s inflation hits almost 80% as Erdogan insists on low-rate policy ». Mustafa Sönmez/AL MONITOR

"Despite a relative slowdown in July, Turkey’s consumer inflation appears on course to overshoot the central bank’s newly revised year-end forecast of 60.4%" says...