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MEHMET ALİ BİRAND > We won’t give up Russia, and Russia won’t give up us

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If you wonder what the outcome of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Istanbul the other day was, I can sum it up for you: “Neither Bashar al-Assad, nor the Patriots; the only focus was the effort to upgrade the annual $35 billion trade volume between the two countries to $100 billion.”

The talks, in that aspect, were very successful.

I should say right now at the beginning that if there were a serious crisis because of Syria and the Patriots, Putin would not have visited Istanbul.

We generally underestimate Turkish-Russian relations, whereas the economic and political connections have reached such a level that even though there may be differing views between the two capitals, even though they criticize each other on certain subjects, no one would dare break this chain of interests.

Russia would not give up Turkey, nor Turkey Russia. The topic of the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is particularly just peanuts when compared to this giant ball of interests.

Also, Russia’s trouble is not with Turkey.

Actually, Moscow is cross with Washington. It does not want it to intervene in regional countries’ administrations and try to change the leader as it wishes. In the great strategy game, it wants to reduce U.S. influence. Its opposition to the Patriot missiles is because of this. It knows that this system is a very old model and is in no way an element of threat; however, it reacts because it does not want NATO to come to the region. Of course, since we are also in the game, Turkey also receives its share of the criticism.

During this meeting, it was reported that a consensus had been reached about the future of al-Assad.

Actually, not yet. The issue of Bashar al-Assad can be solved not in a Turkey-Russia talk but in Russia-U.S. talks. Let’s not ponder these matters. Come, let’s focus on trade; we’ll surely come out better off.

Erdoğan was right to scold Israel
Those who read this column know very well that I care about Turkish-Israeli relations and believe that these two countries have a lot to give to each other. I am also among those who want the current relations to return to normal. Actually, I was against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s unpleasant scolding of Shimon Peres (the one-minute incident) at Davos. I have criticized his discourse. In the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, together with condemning Israel’s banditry, I have stated that it was a mistake that the flotilla ever set off in the first place.

Now, I should say that that Israel – more precisely, the Benjamin Netanyahu government – has become so aggressive, so reckless, so spoilt that it quite deserves Erdoğan’s stance. If it continues this way, there is no way it will normalize its relations with Turkey. In a recent example, the United Nations General Assembly, with an incredible rate of votes, granted some breathing space to Palestine. Even though nothing has changed practically, this vote has driven Israel crazy.

Israel has announced it will build 3,000 new houses for Jewish settlers in Jerusalem’s most controversial place, on land that belongs to Palestinians.

A heavy punishment.

This was not enough; it also decided to hold back $100 million in tax it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Administration. It will hold it back on account of the Palestinians’ power debts, almost sentencing the Palestinians to starvation.

They have gone so far that even Europe has revolted. Some countries are preparing to withdraw their ambassadors; the global reaction is increasing.

Netanyahu does not care. What matters for him are the elections in January. He does not even discuss that one day he will not be able to find the United States’ former support. On the contrary, Israel bases its stance on Washington and proceeds accordingly. If you ask the Arabs, they do not care much. They are even hard-fisted while giving money. They do not push themselves to the forefront, even as much as Erdoğan.

As long as Netanyahu governs, I have also dropped Israel completely.

December/05/2012

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