President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a series of meetings over the weekend on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China to repair Turkey's strained ties with the US and Germany, as well as to rebuild relations with Russia.
On September 3, Erdogan met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for the second time in two months. The Turkish president was in St Petersburg in August in a bid to mend ties with Moscow after relations between the two countries hit a low following the downing of a Russian bomber by Turkish jets near the Syrian border last November.
In China, Erdogan and Putin vowed to continue the process of normalisation of relations and boost economic ties.
“There is still a lot to do in order to completely re-establish cooperation in all areas,” Putin said following the meeting in Hangzhou. “I am sure that we can go forward on our path of cooperation once the situation in Turkey is completely normalized,” he added, according to TASS.
Putin was one of the first world leaders to voice support for the elected government in Ankara in the wake of the failed coup attempt in July.
Major energy projects - the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant - also topped the two leaders’ agenda in Hangzhou.
“Ankara and Moscow have switched to discussing specific details of the Turkish Stream. For example, a certain place where the pipe will enter the Turkish coast, allocation of a land plot for it. Very practical issues,” Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said after the Erdogan-Putin meeting, according to TASS.
The two countries are also concluding work on the formation of a Russian-Turkish investment fund, he also said, according to Reuters. "I think by some time in October or November we will have a list of projects and allocate a credit line to begin work."
Following the Putin-Erdogan summit, eyes were on a meeting between the Turkish President and Barack Obama held on September 4.
Turkish-US relations turned sour after July’s coup as Washington has been slow to respond to Ankara’s demands for the extradition of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who Turkey says was the mastermind of the botched putsch. Some Turkish officials and pro-government media had accused the US of even fomenting the coup attempt.
Obama said his administration would work with Turkey to help ensure that those responsible for the coup attempt are brought to justice.
For his part, Erdogan thanked Obama for the support he has shown for Turkey since the coup attempt and said that the long-lasting strategic partnership with the US has turned into a model partnership during Obama’s term and that this partnership would continue.
Obama did not say anything about the sweeping government crackdown after the coup in which thousands of people have been arrested and suspended from duty.
Erdogan called on Obama to fight all terrorist groups, saying that: “Turkey’s struggles with Islamic State, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and the PYD/YPG are continuing with determination.”
“We do not want to see a belt of terrorism, a corridor of terrorism emerging around our southern border,” Erdogan said.
The YPG, the military arm of the Syrian Kurdish group PYD, has emerged as the most effective force in the area and the US’ most reliable ally in Syria in the fight against Islamic State. But, Ankara sees the Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of the PKK.
Turkey launched a major military operation on August 24, sending tanks and warplanes across the border into northern Syria to cleanse the border of Islamic State militants and to stop the advance of the YPG. The Turkish military has hit YPG positions in northern Syria, prompting reactions from some top US officials.
Hurriyet Daily News reported that the Turkish military has opened a new front in northern Syria with tanks and other armoured vehicles entering al-Rai, clearing a 90km-long corridor from Islamic State militants.
Erdogan also met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in China at a time when relations between Berlin and the EU are going through turbulent times over a number of issues, including the implementation of a key migrant deal and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens. Germany is also pressing Turkey to allow German lawmakers to visit more than 200 German soldiers stationed at the Incirlik airbase.
Ankara has denied German officials access to the air base since the German parliament passed a resolution in June recognising the 1915 mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman government as genocide.
Following the meeting Merkel expressed hope, saying that: “I believe we will receive good news about the lifting of the ban in the next few days.”
There is the possibility of a positive outcome regarding visa liberalisation, Merkel also said, without getting into details.
On a related note, EU and Turkish officials met in Bratislava over the weekend to iron out their differences over the visa issue and the migrant deal.
While he expressed Ankara’s disappointment with the bloc’s reaction to July’s coup attempt, Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said: “As a result of the meeting, there is a very strong consensus about focusing on a positive agenda and further enhancing cooperation between Turkey and the EU.”
Turkey will continue to implement the migrant deal reached in March with the EU even if its demands on visa liberalization are not met, Celik told reporters, according to Hurriyet Daily News.