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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Visit of the Turkish President Erdogan to Kyiv as an attempt to combine geopolitics with the economy

On Monday, February 3, 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an visited the Ukrainian capital. He is one of the world's most influential leaders, whom Volodymyr Zelensky has met several times to talk face-to-face. In August last year, the Ukrainian President paid a visit to Turkey and now Erdo?an has visited Kyiv. During a meeting with Zelensky near the Mariyinsky Palace, he immediately attracted attention by greeting the guard of honor with the words "Glory to Ukraine!". It should be noted that this is a unique step of foreign guests to the Ukrainian state.[1]

Following the results of the eighth meeting of the High-Level Strategic Council, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an signed a joint statement. The document confirms Turkey's continued support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and sets priorities in all areas of development of the Ukrainian-Turkish strategic partnership (in particular, political, security, military, trade, economic, and defense-industrial). In the presence of the presidents of Ukraine and Turkey, the parties signed a number of intergovernmental documents, in particular: Memorandum of Understanding on negtotiaions on the Free Trade Agreement. The agreement itself has not yet been finalized. There was also signed Mutual Recognition Agreement and exchange of national driver's licenses that provides for mutual recognition and subsequent exchange of valid national licenses for citizens of Ukraine and Turkey who permanently or temporarily reside in the territory of the state of the other contracting party.

The next stage of deepening cooperation will be the possibility of traveling to Turkey by ID passport, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine says. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed between the State Emergency Service of Ukraine and the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkey. In addition, the State Archival Service of Ukraine and the Directorate of State Archives under the President of Turkey signed a Protocol on Cooperation aimed at dialogue between archival institutions of the states. Also, according to Zelensky, following the results of the Seventh meeting of the Joint Ukrainian — Turkish Commission on Defense-Industrial Cooperation, priority areas in this area were determined. The defense ministers of the two states signed an Agreement on military-financial cooperation, as well as a Protocol between the governments of Ukraine and Turkey on the implementation of financial assistance. The documents provide for the allocation of 200 million Turkish liras (about $36 million) by the Turkish side for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to purchase Turkish military and dual-use goods.[2]

The Turkish President once again confirmed that Turkey does not recognize and will never recognize the annexation of Crimea, and also constantly monitors the fate of the Crimean Tatars both on the Peninsula and in Russian prisons. He also focused on the prospects for increasing trade between the two countries. "Our trade turnover of $ 4 billion next year can be increased to $ 10 billion," Erdo?an said. "We suggest holding a bilateral meeting of the Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation in March".

Despite the importance of bilateral economic cooperation and all the curtsies that politicians usually give each other after negotiations, the background of any international meetings of the President of Ukraine is the war in the Donbas, which began shortly after Russia's annexation of Crimea. This issue is particularly relevant for Turkey as a key state in the Black Sea region. In this difficult issue, to put it mildly, Erdo?an is trying to make the most of diplomatic flexibility. On the one hand, the Turkish leader constantly repeats the thesis that Ankara does not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia, but on the other hand, the fact remains: the President of a NATO member-state buys C-400 missile systems from Russia and launches the Turkish stream gas pipeline together with Putin. We remind that this pipe transports Russian blue fuel along the bottom of the Black Sea, bypassing Ukraine.

«Turkish Stream» directly undermines Ukraine as a gas transport state and directly threatens Ukrainian security», energy analyst at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, Margarita Assenova told. Instead, Turkish political analyst, Togrul Ismail noted that it is not necessary to intertwine one with the other – bilateral cooperation and relations in the Russia-Ukraine-Turkey triangle. Erdogan does not build cooperation with Ukraine in the context of countering Russia. "Relations between Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey are a completely different subject. I think that Turkey never uses its partners as a counterweight to other states. Of course, the main thing for Turkey is its national interests. And Ukraine is certainly a strategic partner of Turkey and eloquently, bilateral relations are improving. In particular, this applies to the economy," Togrul Ismail said.[3]

Nevertheless, relations with Ukraine are not accidental for Erdogan. After the events of 2014 ties with Kyiv are of particular importance for the Turkish President precisely because he demonstrates to the Kremlin his foreign policy independence and ability to influence Russian positions where Moscow has no less, and perhaps greater, interests than in the Middle East». «Erdogan will never forget about his relations with Ukraine or the annexation of Crimea. He will step up his contacts with Kyiv and help Ukraine - from the economic to the military sphere - every time, while Putin wants to knock him out of Syria. In this sense, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict for Erdo?an is an important part of the Middle East political game, and he will not refuse from this lever of pressure on Moscow», Foreign Affairs Columnist, Vitaly Portnikov says.[4]

Thus, the visit of the Turkish President confirmed the mutual desire of the Ukrainian and Turkish sides to contribute to the improvement of the economic component in bilateral relations. In fact, this was one of the priorities of the meeting. Important results of Erdo?an's working visit were the signing of a joint statement between the presidents, Memorandum of Understanding on negtotiaions on the Free Trade Agreement, Agreement on Mutual Recognition, Memorandum of Understanding between the State Emergency Service of Ukraine and the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkey in case of disasters and emergencies, Protocol on Cooperation, Agreement on military-financial cooperation, and a Protocol between the governments of Ukraine and Turkey on the implementation of financial assistance. Therefore, although we did not sign the FTA with the Turkish side, we managed to attract investment and set a goal to significantly increase trade between states.