Erdoğan to discuss Trump’s Jerusalem move with Putin
After cooperating to be apart of a solution to the Syria civil war, will Turkey and Russia now try to find a way to solve the latest Jerusalem tension, in the absence of engaged partners in the Western defense alliance NATO?
Officials say both issues are expected to be on the agenda during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Turkey on Dec. 11. The latest Erdoğan-Putin meeting will take place just before the emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Dec. 13 in Istanbul, called by Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, as Turkey is the current OIC term president.
The meeting between Erdoğan and Putin will be their seventh in total in 2017. The two recently met in Sochi (together with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani) on Nov. 22 to discuss the future of Syria, and before that they met on Nov. 13 again in Sochi, that time on a bilateral level.
Erdoğan has met twice with U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017, once in May and once in September (during the United Nations meetings in New York). The number of telephone conversations between Erdoğan and Putin is also higher than the number of phone conversations between Erdoğan and Trump.
The Turkish president did not (or could not) speak to Trump before or after his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to convey his objection. But he did reportedly speak to Trump on the phone during his official visit to Greece on Dec. 7. It was subsequently announced on Dec. 8 that Putin would be in Turkey in three days.
It was thanks to Russia that Turkey was able to enter Syria in 2016, in order to clear terrorist groups from its 910-km border with Syria. It was also thanks to cooperation with Russia and Iran that the Astana process kicked off, aiming to secure a ceasefire in Syria. The latter elevated Turkey’s place back in the Geneva peace process, despite its ongoing confrontation with the U.S. on a number of issues.
Regarding Trump’s Jerusalem move, it is possible that Erdoğan and Putin could work on an earlier Russian proposal (dated April 6, 2017), in which Moscow promises to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel if East Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of a Palestinian state. Trump’s speech prior to signing the recognition document hints at the possibility of such a deal, which would require bending Israel’s arm, a feat only achievable if the U.S. and Russia reach a consensus.
Erdoğan knows that OIC will raise its voice next week, though probably not as much as Turkey and Iran would like. That voice will likely be insufficient to persuade either the U.S. or Israel on anything. In addition, the possibility of the resumption of terrorist activity, despite the recent agreement between the Palestinian parties Al-Fateh and Hamas (thanks to Egypt’s intervention), could give Israel a pretext to enact harsher measures and allow the U.S. to back them.
On the other hand, coordinated diplomatic action with Russia could not only provide a workable solution for the future of Jerusalem and the Palestinian people. It could also make Turkey part of a potential political solution in the wider region.