By Dorian Jones
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. A just-concluded deal on freeing up Ukrainian grain, along with Russian backing for a new Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces will be on the agenda.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Friday meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi will be the second time the two leaders have met in a month.
The meeting comes just after the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain left the Black Sea under a Turkey-U.N.-brokered deal between Kyiv and Moscow.
Analyst Ilhan Uzgel of the Duvar news portal said Erdogan’s success in brokering the U.N. deal and the Sochi meeting sends a powerful message to Turkey’s western allies about the Turkish leader.
“It helps to ameliorate his troublemaker image internationally and regionally. He is still trying to show that he can make deals with Putin, showing to the United States and Biden administration that Putin is a close ally and friend of Erdogan. He can meet Putin twice a month,” he said.
Zaur Gasimov, a professor of history at Bonn University and a specialist on Turkish-Russian relations, said, with Ankara pursuing a balanced approach to the Ukrainian conflict, the grain deal will further deepen ties between Russia and Turkey.
“The current Turkish Russian relations have definite bonds with the current war in Ukraine. Ukraine wheat exports is a new chapter for the region, and Turkey plays a quite significant role as an intermediary. And also, close military cooperation between Ukraine and Turkey and the aspect of Turkey not joining the anti-Russian sanctions all that results in dynamics that are of importance to Moscow and for Ankara,” he said.
Turkey-Russia relations are intertwined from North Africa to the Middle East, to the Caucasus, in a mixture of rivalries and cooperation. The two also have a deepening partnership on energy.
Analyst Uzgel said Erdogan hopes the Sochi meeting will help resolve an impasse with Putin over Syria. The Turkish leader is looking to launch a major offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces, which Ankara accuses of being linked to an insurgency inside Turkey.
“They have already met in Tehran two weeks ago. It seems that Erdogan could not get what he wanted from Putin. The permission for a Turkish incursion in northern Syria, where he openly stated the names of two places, Tel Rifat and Manbij. Most likely that he is looking for the possibility of such a military move into Northern Syria,” he said.
Ankara needs Moscow’s cooperation for its military operation, given that Russia controls Syrian airspace.
Analyst Gasimov said Putin is wary of Turkey’s growing military presence in Syria but says the two leaders are experienced in managing differences.
“Definitely, we see certain inconveniences on both sides but also the very huge readiness to discuss it with each other,” he said.
That readiness to talk and the growing list of common interests across the region means the frequent meetings between the two leaders may become a regular thing.