Normalization with Russia has begun: Turkish PM

Normalization with Russia has begun: Turkish PM

Serkan Demirtaş – ANKARA
Normalization with Russia has begun: Turkish PM

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A normalization process has begun between Turkey and Russia, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said June 28, a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan penned a letter to his Russian counterpart to express his deep sorrow over the downing of a Russian warplane last year.

“I can say that the normalization process has begun,” Yıldırım told his party’s parliamentary group. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin will call Erdoğan on June 29 to thank him for the letter that Turkey sent in the hopes of resurrecting the neighbors’ ties that plummet in November 2015 after Turkey shot down the jet along the border, ultimately leading to the deaths of two pilots.

The respective Turkish and Russian foreign ministers, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Sergei Lavrov, are to hold a meeting on July 1 in Sochi on the sidelines of a regional summit after the phone conversation between Erdoğan and Putin.

According to diplomatic sources, the meeting between the two ministers will seek to establish a road map for the normalization of bilateral ties between the two countries in line with the instructions the two presidents will deliver to them. 

The removal of trade and economic sanctions imposed on Turkey and the lifting of visa requirements for Turkish citizens, as well as the resumption of stalled energy cooperation between the two countries, will likely be on the ministers’ agenda in Sochi. 

No compensation but financial support 

In another sign of Turkey’s desire to rapidly restore ties with Russia, Yıldırım said Turkey was ready to pay compensation to the family of the Russian pilot that was killed during the incident on Nov. 24, 2015. 

“The content of the letter is obvious. We express our sorrow. We say we share the pain of the families of the deceased [pilots]. We say we will pay compensation if need be,” Yıldırım told the Turkish Radio Television Corporation (TRT) in an interview late June 27. 

But sources from the presidential office corrected Yıldırım’s words on June 28, underlining that the letter did not mention anything about paying compensation to either the Russian state or the family of the pilots.

Yıldırım, too, corrected his statement on June 28, saying no compensation would be paid to the Russian state. “No, no, there is nothing like that. We have just expressed our sorrow and shared their pain. Legal proceedings against the person accused of responsibility for the killing of the pilot are underway,” Yıldırım said. 

Diplomatic sources said compensation was a legal definition and should be considered as a legal issue which has nothing to do with the current situation. “We are talking about a humanitarian issue here. [Making a payment to the family of the pilot] should be considered in this context,” a source told the Hürriyet Daily News.  

In the case, the family of the deceased pilot would accept Turkey’s payment then the methodological details would be discussed by diplomats from both sides.  

‘Ice broken with Russia’ 

In an address to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group on June 28, Yıldırım said the “ice between the two countries has been broken” following Erdoğan’s letter.

Yıldırım said it was the duty of politicians to turn extraordinary situations into ordinary processes. “Crises are exceptions; normalization is essential.” 

Cooperation on regional issues

In a statement late June 27, Erdoğan further explained what he sought in the letter he sent to Putin. “I believe we can rapidly normalize our relations by leaving the current situation that is to the disadvantage to both our countries behind,” Erdoğan said. 

He also said he recalled the cooperation Turkey and Russia could make on regional developments on the basis of an already-established strategic partnership in recent years.