Russia suggests reconstructing Crimea together with Turkey

Russia suggests reconstructing Crimea together with Turkey

Serkan Demirtaş ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Russia suggests reconstructing Crimea together with Turkey

A general view shows the settlement of Balaklava, a district of Sevastopol in Crimea. Crimea, famed for its lush climate, summer resorts and rich literary associations, is largely populated by ethnic Russians.

Turkish companies could play an important role in Russia’s plans to reconstruct Crimea and invest in the fields of agriculture and tourism, the Russian ambassador to Turkey has said, stressing that this business relationship would also help to improve the lives of Crimean Tatars.

“Russia is planning to make infrastructure and superstructure investments in this region as well as in the fields of tourism and transportation. We’ll provide financing for investment but we also have to find companies that can carry out these projects. We are discussing the opening of Crimea to foreign companies for regional reconstruction. Why should Turkish companies not be involved?” Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Crimea was separated from Ukraine and annexed to Russia in early 2014 after a referendum. Turkey said it could not approve this annexation and criticized Russia’s treatment of its kin, the Crimean Tatars, who make up nearly 15 percent of the Crimean population.

Karlov sought to assure Turkey that the life conditions of Crimean Tatars would be improved under Russian rule, accusing Ukraine of not caring for Crimea during its 23 years of rule there after the fall of the Soviet Union. He said the region’s agriculture revenues had decreased by nearly 40 percent in this period.

“We, however, have important investment plans. One example is that investments worth around $7 to 8 billion are envisaged for the construction of a bridge to link Crimea to Russia via Azak,” he said.

Karlov recalled that Turkish construction companies had done a good job in Sochi’s bid to host the winter Olympic Games and that Russian President Vladimir Putin had thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for their contribution. “These construction companies that worked in Sochi can perfectly carry on in Crimea as well. We know that Chinese construction companies are interested in Crimea, but Turkey is much closer to the region,” he said.

Other areas where Turkish companies can make investments are tourism and agriculture, the ambassador said, adding that around three million Russians chose to holiday in Crimea this year and Turks could build hotels there to take advantage of this burgeoning sector. Turkey’s investments to agriculture could also be beneficial, as most Crimean Tatars earn their living through farming, he added.

Long-term cooperation with Turkey

The ongoing tension between Russia and the European Union over Ukraine may create lucrative new opportunities for Turkey as a strong alternative to European suppliers. The EU and Russia have imposed sanctions against each other in recent months, pushing the Russian government to seek new trade partners for the supply of its immediate needs.

“We are not going to make long term agreements with those countries imposing sanctions on us. We may supply our needs from countries like Turkey who have supported us. Turkey is already well-known in the Russian market with its fresh fruits and vegetables, and we can purchase more of them,” Ambassador Karlov said, adding that some Latin American countries were also willing to sell fruits and vegetables to Russia.

“But Turkey has a huge geographical advantage and we want to secure long-term cooperation with Turkey in the trade of fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said.