This article was published in Ahval News on July 6, 2019.
Will Turkey return to its routine after local elections?
Not counting the rerun of the Istanbul mayoral elections on June 23, Turkish voters have had to go to ballot boxes six times in the last four years. Everyone agrees the time has now come for Turkey to return to its daily routine and focus on the innumerable problems the country faces.
If economic difficulties continue to grow, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may find it safer to hold elections earlier than those scheduled in 2023, before the economy further sinks into the mud.
Erdoğan announced his intention to turn to Turkey’s real agenda, especially the economy and foreign relations. His first visit abroad came immediately after the Istanbul rerun elections. He went to Osaka, Japan, to participate in the G-20 meeting of the biggest 20 economies in the world.
He had brief bilateral talks with U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and a few other leaders.
In his 35-minute talk with Trump, Erdoğan was able to raise several contentious issues between the two countries. Trump made positive comments after the meeting, but used this opportunity to blame the previous U.S. administration for having refused to sell Patriot missiles to Turkey.
Trump’s words cannot be trusted, because he has failed in the past to fulfil some of his promises. Furthermore, after Erdoğan announced that he had Trump’s support, the Pentagon spokesman said nothing had changed in the U.S. position regarding Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence missiles.
Erdoğan also said positive developments could be expected in the Halkbank affair. Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank was involved in the circumvention of U.S. sanctions on Iran. There are two different court cases in the United States connected to this affair.
One is the fine to be imposed on the Turkish bank because of its involvement in breaking sanctions – if it turns out to be a big amount, it may shake Turkey’s already fragile economy. The other concerns a manager at the bank, Hakan Atilla, who is serving a prison sentence in the United States. He could be released towards the end of this month, if certain conditions are met.
Trump also promised to do his best for CAATSA sanctions to be imposed on Turkey if it deploys S-400 missiles. We will soon see to what extent Trump’s optimistic promises will be fulfilled.
Erdoğan’s talk with Putin took a little less than an hour. There are differences between what the two leaders emphasised during the talk. Erdoğan voiced his expectation of technology transfer with the S-400 purchase, and said non-nuclear components for the nuclear power station that Russia is constructing in Turkey could be purchased from the Turkish market. He also complained about the lack of progress in visa exemptions for Turkish citizens holding certain categories of passport and asked for the acceleration of the process.
Putin did not make any comment on these three points. He praised the progress in the implementation of major common energy projects and a 15-percent increase in bilateral trade. He also mentioned that 6 million Russian tourists visited Turkey and that Turkey was earning $5 billion from it.
Syria was also raised during the talks, but the two countries’ positions in Syria – especially in the northern rebel-held province of Idlib – are so far apart that accord could not be expected. Before the Osaka summit, Turkey’s defence minister complained to his Russian counterpart about the Syrian artillery that had wounded four Turkish soldiers in an observation post in southern Idlib. But Russia cannot be expected to take any action about this complaint, because it is effectively helping Syria in the attacks carried out in Idlib against the al Qaeda and al Nusra-linked armed opposition groups.
As this was only an exchange of views on the margins of the G-20 meeting, substantial negotiations were not expected to take place. If the content of this talk is reflected accurately in the media, it only shows what the priorities of both leaders were.
The Turkish people are looking forward to the government making structural reforms in all problem areas and leading the country to salvation. Otherwise, the ruling party will suffer the consequences, but the country more so.