Trade at cen­ter of bur­geon­ing ties, says Rus­sian en­voy

Rus­siAN Am­bAs­sAdoR to ANKARA ALeKsey yeRhov The suc­cess­ful and multi-tier re­la­tions be­tween Ankara and Moscow are based on the pro­tec­tion of mu­tual in­ter­ests, says en­voy Yerhov

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

RUS­SIAN- Turk­ish re­la­tions have over­come a dif­fi­cult pe­riod in re­cent years and the mul­tidi­men­sional re­la­tions have strength­ened with the joint launch of con­struc­tion work on the Akkuyu Nu­clear Power Plant (NPP), which was re­cently held in Ankara in with par­tic­i­pa­tion of Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. Speak­ing to Daily Sabah about bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and re­gional is­sues, Rus­sian Am­bas­sador to Ankara Aleksey Yerhov said Pres­i­dent Putin’s re­cent visit is ev­i­dent of the suc­cess be­tween the two coun­tries while adding that the Tur­key-Rus­sia win-win part­ner­ship can be a model for oth­ers to fol­low.

Re­gard­ing the tri­lat­eral sum­mit on Syria that took place in Ankara with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Rus­sian, Turk­ish and Ira­nian pres­i­dents, Am­bas­sador Yerhov said these three coun­tries have all the changes to re­vive Syria in spite of all the odds, trou­bles and con­spir­a­cies.

Com­ment­ing on the poi­son­ing of Sergei and Yu­lia Skri­pal and what has fol­lowed, Am­bas­sador Yerhov said there is a large, world­wide defama­tion cam­paign around the in­ci­dent whose na­ture is still largely un­known. Ex­plain­ing that some coun­tries, like Tur­key, do not play these hu­mil­i­at­ing games of sanc­tions and ex­pul­sions, he said Tur­key’s stance on the mat­ter is some­thing to be val­ued.

Daily Sabah: How do you eval­u­ate Rus­sian-Turk­ish re­la­tions fol­low­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s re­cent visit to Ankara? Aleksey Yerhov:

The visit has be­come an ev­i­dent suc­cess – and not be­cause of many treaties hav­ing been signed or many deals hav­ing been con­cluded. On the con­trary – we do not need any more huge pack­ages of in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal agree­ments. We have al­ready most of them signed, come into force and work­ing for the ben­e­fit of our two coun­tries and peo­ples.

The joint launch of con­struc­tion works at the Akkuyu NPP was, of course, a ma­jor com­mon tri­umph, a clas­sic ‘win-win’ model for the oth­ers to fol­low. But few peo­ple know how much in­tense work was be­hind this his­toric event. And we all owe very much to the lead­ers who have largely con­trib­uted to this suc­cess – Pres­i­dent Er­doğan, Prime Min­is­ter [Bi­nali] Yıldırım, Min­is­ter [Berat] Al­bayrak, Min­is­ter [Ni­hat] Zey­bekçi and many, many oth­ers with whom we spent hours dis­cussing the project, its prob­lems and ways to solve them. Not speak­ing of course of the Rus­sian side – I know very well that prac­ti­cal is­sues of our bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion are un­der close con­trol of the Rus­sian lead­er­ship.

DS: The Akkuyu NPP project is sig­nif­i­cantly im­por­tant for Tur­key. But I would like to ask the sig­nif­i­cance of the project for Rus­sia?

AY:

This is a very im­por­tant, strate­gic project for our bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. This is the first Turk­ish nu­clear sta­tion, which gives Tur­key a mem­ber ticket for the nu­clear fam­ily. This is not only about the fac­tory. The project com­prises many other di­men­sions such as, for ex­am­ple, ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams for Turk­ish stu­dents so that they will be able to work at nu­clear power sta­tions. This is a very spe­cific field of sci­ence, of in­dus­try. We have al­ready had the first group of stu­dents – grad­u­ates from the Moscow Phys­i­cal In­sti­tute. They were present at the cer­e­mony with Pres­i­dent Putin and Pres­i­dent Er­doğan. It was a very touch­ing pic­ture. We are glad to be able to share our com­pe­tence and our tech­nol­ogy with Tur­key so that in Tur­key you will be ac­quir­ing a solid source of en­ergy which will cover up to 10 per­cent of Tur­key’s needs in elec­tric­ity. This is quite much. The aim is, as the doc­u­ment states, to give the first elec­tric­ity, to launch the first re­ac­tor for the one hun­dred an­niver­sary of the repub­lic in 2023. And we are work­ing hard to make it pos­si­ble.

DS: The U.S has re­cently ex­panded the scope of the sanc­tions on Rus­sia. Do you think that U.S. sanc­tions will have any im­pact on the on­go­ing project be­tween the two coun­tries, such as TurkStream and the Akkuyu NPP? AY:

The be­hav­ior of some West­ern lead­ers and their gov­ern­ments, es­pe­cially in the field of sanc­tions, is some­times un­pre­dictable. So, it is very hard to un­der­stand the logic be­ing fol­lowed by them and to pre­dict the con­se­quences of their ac­tiv­i­ties and their sanc­tions. There­fore, it’s very hard to make any prog­no­sis. Let’s wait and see.

DS: Some claim that there was no con­crete res­o­lu­tion in last week’s tri­lat­eral sum­mit that took place in Ankara with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Rus­sian, Turk­ish and Ira­nian pres­i­dents. What are your com­ments in re­la­tion to the sum­mit? Do you think that the tri­lat­eral unity be­tween the coun­tries will es­tab­lish peace and sta­bil­ity in Syria? AY:

‘No con­crete res­o­lu­tion?’ Quite the op­po­site – there was a joint state­ment by three pres­i­dents of April 4, 2018. A three-page, very con­crete and very promis­ing doc­u­ment, a real pos­i­tive fruit of the As­tana for­mat which is con­sid­ered the only ef­fec­tive in­ter­na­tional ini­tia­tive that had re­ally helped re­duce vi­o­lence across Syria.

It was un­der­lined hun­dreds of times: As­tana is not a sub­sti­tu­tion to the Geneva talks, it is some­thing which would help to move them for­ward – it is no se­cret that Geneva is stalling. So the com­mit­ment of Rus­sia, Tur­key and Iran to con­tinue en­cour­ag­ing the po­lit­i­cal process by fol­low­ing up the re­sults of the Syr­ian Na­tional Di­a­logue Congress and en­er­get­i­cally push­ing ahead the is­sue of the Con­sti­tu­tional Com­mit­tee is un­doubt­edly of ex­treme im­por­tance. Only in such a way can a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion of the con­flict be achieved – a so­lu­tion through an in­clu­sive, free, fair and trans­par­ent Syr­ian-led and Syr­i­anowned process based on the free will of the Syr­ian peo­ple and lead­ing to a con­sti­tu­tion en­joy­ing the sup­port of the Syr­ian peo­ple, and free and fair elec­tions with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of all el­i­gi­ble Syr­i­ans un­der ap­pro­pri­ate U.N. su­per­vi­sion.

So the keyword is ‘Syria’ – I in­ten­tion­ally use it so of­ten. We mean Syria, we think Syria, we dream Syria and we all wish Syria to re­vive again. Now, af­ter the As­tana sum­mit, I am more than ever sure that this dream of ours – Rus­sia, Tur­key and Iran – has all the chances to come true, in spite of all odds, trou­bles and con­spir­a­cies.

DS: Tourism also one of the im­por­tant di­men­sions in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. What is your fu­ture prospects about tourism? AY:

We have al­ready bro­ken the record – last year we had 4.7 mil­lion Rus­sian tourists who vis­ited Tur­key. This year we pre­dict that this num­ber will be even big­ger. There­fore, the Turk­ish tourism in­dus­try needs to work harder and or­ga­nize many events to help tour op­er­a­tors to at­tract more Rus­sian tourists. So, I think this year we will have an­other record num­ber of Rus­sian tourists vis­it­ing Tur­key.

Tourism is one of the main di­men­sions in our bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion. It brings money to Tur­key so it’s prof­itable to Tur­key and it gives plea­sure to the Rus­sians so it is good for the Rus­sians. Rus­sians are in­ter­ested in Tur­key as a place where they can spend their va­ca­tions. They need sun, they need sea, they need re­lax­ation and they get it in Tur­key. It is mu­tu­ally ad­van­ta­geous for our co­op­er­a­tion.

DS: But the visa is­sue still re­mains a prob­lem. When do you think that we will re-im­ple­ment the visa free regime again? AY:

Firstly, we should un­der­stand that the Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties have taken a de­ci­sion to let Rus­sian tourists en­ter Tur­key with­out an en­try visa, which largely sim­pli­fies en­try pro­ce­dures and which is a very strong fac­tor pro­mot­ing Rus­sian tourism to Tur­key. Need­less to say, Rus­sian tourists and Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties are grate­ful to the Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties for their de­ci­sion taken.

Se­condly, the in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal agree­ment of 2010 is not ex­actly a visa free agree­ment. This is more com­pli­cated than that. This is an agree­ment which is called an in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal agree­ment on mu­tual trips of cit­i­zens. It pro­vided for a sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of en­try pro­ce­dures for peo­ple who travel to both coun­tries on short ba­sis, mostly tourists of course – that was the ma­jor ob­jec­tive of this agree­ment. For many rea­sons we are de­prived of a pos­si­bil­ity to go di­rectly back to the ful­fill­ment of the agree­ment of 2010. This given, we pro­pose some mea­sures to ease the visa pro­ce­dures for dif­fer­ent groups of Turk­ish cit­i­zens who seem to be more in­ter­ested in the sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of visa pro­ce­dures such as truck driv­ers and busi­ness­men who work for Rus­sia and visit Rus­sia more of­ten. So, this is some­thing we are ready to dis­cuss. We are quite ready to dis­cuss the abo­li­tion of visas for the hold­ers of ser­vice pass­ports. We need some prepara­tory work to be done in or­der to put it on pa­per and we are do­ing this work with Turk­ish col­leagues.

DS: Af­ter Tur­key’s de­ci­sion to pro­cure­ment of the S-400 air mis­sile de­fense sys­tem, the lead­ers of our coun­tries also pledged to ex­tend co­op­er­a­tion in the de­fense in­dus­try. Could you pro­vide more de­tails about it? AY:

No. I would not. Even if I knew I would not. You know, some things do not like pub­lic at­ten­tion. Some things need to be held some­where on the ta­bles or in the safes of those who are in charge. Our re­la­tions with Tur­key have reached a very ad­vanced stage. So we are talk­ing, we are dis­cussing, we are hav­ing deals in spheres which even some years ago could be un­think­able. The lat­est ex­am­ple is the S-400. So the cur­rent level of re­la­tions be­tween our coun­tries, as I’ve al­ready told you, en­ables us to dis­cuss all the is­sues we want to dis­cuss and all the is­sues which can be of our mu­tual in­ter­est. So, let’s wait and see. In the course of the events, we will learn quite a lot of things.

DS: What do you think about the Skri­pal case and the in­ci­dents af­ter­ward? AY:

This case is very much alike to what hap­pened in Douma. Same ‘chem­istry.’ There is a large, world-scale defama­tion cam­paign around an in­ci­dent whose na­ture is still largely un­known. An as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt against two Rus­sians in Sal­is­bury? Maybe. But how, who, in what way and by what rea­son? No one seems to know. Any ev­i­dence? No re­ply, only in­trigu­ing si­lence. Enigma wrapped up in a rid­dle cov­ered by a mys­tery. What we hear may be trans­lated in the fol­low­ing way: No, guys, we will tell you noth­ing but you have 24 hours to prove your in­no­cence – and you have no right to know in what con­crete case. Such are the re­al­i­ties of our unipo­lar world; you play or we sanc­tion you.

Some say it is like the Cold War. No, no com­par­i­son with these ‘good old times.’ The Cold War was bet­ter, there were at least some rules obeyed and pro­tag­o­nists had some re­spect for each other.

And it is great that some coun­tries do not play these hu­mil­i­at­ing games of sanc­tions and ex­pul­sions. Like Tur­key, which is fol­low­ing its own in­de­pen­dent course, proudly pre­serv­ing its sovereignty and dig­nity. This is some­thing to be val­ued.

DS: There are the­o­ries that con­nects the tim­ing of the Skri­pal case with the re­cent Rus­sian leg­is­la­tion that aims to en­cour­age the repa­tri­ate cap­i­tal of Rus­sian oli­garchs from abroad es­pe­cially from Lon­don. What’s your thought about it? AY:

The leg­is­la­tion is there. Some Rus­sians from Lon­don have al­ready used it, many have not for their own rea­sons.

Some­times strange sto­ries hap­pen with those who live in Great Britain. Let’s re­mem­ber the mys­te­ri­ous poi­son­ing of [Alexan­der] Litvi­nenko. No one prof­ited from that, es­pe­cially Rus­sia. How­ever, our coun­try was blamed for that and again with no ev­i­dence.

Very strange story about the death of [Boris] Bere­zovski, a very fa­mous Rus­sian oli­garch, close to [for­mer Pres­i­dent Boris] Yeltsin, who was liv­ing in Lon­don. He was go­ing to go back to Rus­sia, he was said to be in ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Krem­lin to get back. All of a sud­den, he died in his house in Lon­don in very strange cir­cum­stances.

Now this is the Skri­pal case. Rus­sia was the last one to be in­ter­ested in poi­son­ing this man and his daugh­ter who is a Rus­sian ci­ti­zen. Thank god she has re­cov­ered. She left the hos­pi­tal be­ing taken to some un­known place by some un­known peo­ple. So, strange things are con­tin­u­ing.

Maybe the meth­ods of Gra­ham Greene and John Le Carré, the meth­ods which were de­scribed by these fa­mous Bri­tish writ­ers, are still in use. But we def­i­nitely can­not ap­pre­ci­ate the games where Rus­sia is blamed for some­thing Rus­sia has not com­mit­ted. The ap­proach of the other side is too cyn­i­cal. Like in Syria, there is no proof, there is no ev­i­dence, there are no tests pro­duced, but we point at some­one whom we be­lieve to be blamed for and we sanc­tion him. We ex­pel Rus­sian diplo­mats just be­cause we trust Great Britain? Sanc­tions, more sanc­tions, for what? All these are the rules of the game they try to im­pose on us. Most re­gret­tably, this is the world we are liv­ing in.

DS: By the time we pub­lished this, the U.S. may have had a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in Syria; what are your thoughts about it? AY:

They are so un­pre­dictable that their own al­lies are very pru­dent in tak­ing sides and tak­ing de­ci­sions in par­tic­i­pat­ing or not par­tic­i­pat­ing at such a war games. The sit­u­a­tion is very dy­namic and very dan­ger­ous and these games have un­pre­dictable re­sults. We would like very much to avoid such a sce­nario. We are propos­ing to in­ves­ti­gate what hap­pened in Douma, be­cause what hap­pened in Douma seems to be a very tricky event. No ev­i­dence, no proof, no vic­tims, no of­fi­cial records, only in­ter­net trail­ers by the in­fa­mous ‘White hel­mets,’ well-known for their fake pro­duc­tions. It looks like the OPCW, the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons, is go­ing to send one or two ex­pert teams to Syria. Let them check, let them come and let them test, pro­fes­sion­ally and of­fi­cially, with­out any pro­pa­ganda, with­out any slo­gans and with­out empty ac­cu­sa­tions. So, that would be the way to fol­low and that would be the way which will save us from ag­gra­va­tion of ten­sions.

AM­BAS­SADOR ALEKSEY YERHOV

Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Aleksey Yerhov said the joint launch of con­struc­tion work on the Akkuyu Nu­clear Power Plant is a shared suc­cess story of part­ner­ship.

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