The spotlight has been on Turkey and Russia since the downing of the Russian plane on November 24th last year. Everyone is holding their breath and watching what leaders from both sides have to say. Even though both leaders have not taken practical steps to normalize relations, the Russian and Turkish people look forward to returning back to the good old days. Historically they are intertwined socially, culturally and economically.
It's not hard to understand the initial reactions of both leaders when the event first unfolded. They were protecting their own country and they believed they were doing the right thing. Today, the Middle East is burning in flames and states that are involved in this war are all being affected in some way. Undoubtedly, Turkey and Russia are on the forefront and on top of that they are on opposite sides regarding the Syria issue. I never find it reasonable and I am completely against the idea of solving the problems through guns and bombs however it is inevitable that fatal mistakes will be made because it is a war environment and erroneous decisions may end with deaths.
Even though they never meant to damage relations, things became worse and both countries suffered psychologically and economically. Both Erdogan and Putin had strived very hard to reach a high level of friendship and everything was almost perfect prior to this unwanted disturbance occurring. Turkish leaders tried to make this up to Russia by stating that they did not know that it was a Russian plane, that it was a mistake and that they regretted this incident. They also requested meetings with their Russian counterparts on many occasions. However, the wound was fresh and a seemingly golden age in relations over the last 10 years came to a grinding halt despite Russia and Turkey trying to coordinate and make up for the incident. Lately, we have come across some gratifying signs of bettering relations, though it remains unclear. At the end of March for the first time after relations had soured, a Russian military mission visited Turkey for evaluation of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Around the same time, Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, made a statement that the crisis between Turkey and Russia is temporary in an interview she gave to Radio Svodoba. Both of these incidents were unexpected and at the same time very pleasing occurrences.
Recently, with the election of the new prime minister, a new dawn has begun in Turkey. Since our region is in urgent need of new policies to put an end to the conflicts, the world today must give precedence to peaceful politics to stop people from being massacred. Thus, the foreign policy of Turkey must serve that purpose and embrace all people in the new era. Our new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim's statements regarding the new foreign policy seem to comply with this approach: "We'll increase the number of our friends and we'll decrease the number of our enemies." I wish this change in politics will blow positive winds in our relations with our long-term friend and ally Russia. It is also heartening to hear PM Yildirim's account specific to Russia in this regard: "Despite recent developments, we will keep our dialogue channels open with Russia, work to normalize our relations and work to find the lowest common denominator for improving our relations based on our common interests."
From my perspective, I personally have felt a strong responsibility for the improvement of relations with our friend Russia. For this reason, I have written numerous articles in accordance with this desire that were published both in this column and in many other respected international newspapers in several languages. Moreover, I have always touched on this matter and commented on the importance of our relations occasionally on my live TV programs. I will keep on focusing intensely on this issue until my wish is accomplished and will continue to share my opinions on new ways of collaborations between two long-rooted nations even after normalization. Sufficient amount of time has passed and it is now time for both parties to make progress and take the necessary steps to act with reason since we know that everything will be different soon. There is no reason to let our peoples suffer for something temporary.
Putin's words in Athens to expect Turkey to take the "first step" should be evaluated as a desire to better our relations even though some think it the other way. It would be wise of Turkey to make decisions to remove the tension with Russia. Perhaps stating that Turkey is in favor of forming a commission to bring those responsible to justice. In politics, sometimes relations between two nations may come to a gridlock and during those times the wisest thing to do is to impress the other party by some sincere rhetoric and convince them that these words will put into practice, as well.
Above all, Turkey and Russia are two strong nations and both have had their fair share of highs and lows. Historically, they have shared many valuable experiences in terms of long-term friendship between culture, economy, and even energy resources. For example, September 23rd, 2015, was a milestone for relations between Russia and the Muslim world. Putin, accompanied by Erdogan opened a new mosque in Moscow that can accommodate 10,000 people. The reliable ally that Russia has been seeking is undoubtedly the Islamic world. The Islamic world shares a lot of common values with the Russian people as Russia is home to twenty million Muslims who are living in co-existence with Christians. Strong unity and solidarity between Russia and Islamic world including Turkey in the future will lead to an unbreakable bond. In this respect, given the situation of the region, Putin's address to the Islamic world made at Kazan, the capital and largest city of Tatarstan, is quite reassuring: "For the Islamic world, Russia will always be a reliable friend and partner ready to provide assistance in solving pressing problems," Putin stressed. "We back active support of Muslim countries on strengthening the principle of justice and the rule of law in international relations."
Negative coverage and analyses in the international media regarding the crisis between Turkey and Russia are not helping the path of peace. It is time to ease tensions and deliver kind messages of friendship, solidarity and cooperation. The peoples on both sides have suffered enough and it would be a great gesture to take the practical and concrete steps to get back on track where we left off and move on with the hope of good days to come.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Pravda.ru & Jefferson Corner: