Embassy Information

Interview given by Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Turkey Vladimir IVANOVSKIY to “Hurriyet Daily News”, January 19-20, 2010

Turkey and Russia are getting closer and strengthening economic ties. It is not a ’strategic partnership’ but a result of ’common interests,’ Ambassador Vladimir Ivanovskiy outlines.

Ankara - Hurriyet Daily News
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Although Turkey and Russia are fostering closer relations and economic ties, the developments are not due to a “strategic partnership” but “common interests,” according to Russian Ambassador Vladimir Ivanovskiy.

The term “strategic partnership” has been echoed in diplomatic circles, especially after U.S. President Barack Obama’s use of the term during a visit to Ankara last year. The United States has traditionally considered Turkey a vital ally in maintaining its influence in a region where rival Russia is strongest.

“It was part of the Cold War era,” said Ivanovskiy, speaking about the changing balance during a Tuesday interview with the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“Looking at the real interests that are common in the Black Sea, Middle East and Central Asia, Turkey and Russia are becoming good partners, especially in the field of energy,” the ambassador said.

“There is no political motivation behind boosting energy cooperation but bilateral economic interests,” he added. “I don’t like the term ‘strategic partnership.’”

Russia feels no jealousy toward the U.S.-Turkey strategic partnership, said Ivanovskiy, adding: “Moscow and Ankara have been tailoring their own cooperation. I believe Russia and Turkey will be two key economic actors on the global stage as strong partners.”

Retired ambassador Murat Bilhan, the deputy head of the Turkish-Asian Center for Strategic Studies, or TASAM, also believes cooperation does not mean a strategic partnership.

“Though bilateral relations have been boosted, Russia has a fixed policy when it comes to Yerevan, which is Moscow’s closest ally in the southern Caucasus. It does not want to lose it and that’s what lies behind the pro-Armenia remarks,” Bilhan told the Daily News.

Returning from Moscow last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdođan claimed his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had agreed on the urgent need for a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. According to Erdođan, Armenia should withdraw from the seven occupied Azerbaijani provinces in a show of sincerity.

Putin, however, had earlier said, “It is unwise from both a tactical and a strategic point of view to package these problems together,” directly contradicting Erdođan.

Many analysts find Erdođan too optimistic about any emerging strategic partnership and believe existing frozen conflicts serve Russia’s interests in the Caspian energy fields.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also urged Turkey to expedite the ratification of the normalization protocols during his visit to Yerevan. “To try and artificially link those two issues is not correct,” he told reporters Jan. 14.

“We have been playing honestly since the beginning. What Lavrov said in Yerevan is the same as what Putin and Medvedev told Erdođan in Moscow,” Ivanovskiy said.

Russia will not put pressure on Armenia to withdraw from the occupied territories, the ambassador added. “As the Turkish side already knows, we will not take part at the side of any party. We will not put pressure on anybody in order to solve the problem,” he said. “Such pressure may result negatively.”

According to the ambassador, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Obama have expressed similar views as well. The Minsk Group co-chaired by Russia, the U.S. and France has, however, thus far failed to find a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Diplomatic sources said Moscow agrees on Ankara’s policy, but cannot officially affirm it due to its position in the region. “Did you ever think why the Minsk Group has recently intensified its efforts? No disappointment exists on our side,” a source told the Daily News.

Foreign ministers Ahmet Davutođlu and Lavrov held a phone conversation Jan. 15.

“We have progressed considerably. A total solution to all frozen conflicts in the southern Caucasus will be a relief for everyone. Putting pressure on Turkey to ratify the normalization protocols before a specific deadline will not pave the way for a solution, but will bypass a permanent settlement,” Davutođlu warned Lavrov, according to a source close to the issue.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serge Sarkisyan will meet in Moscow next month as part of the Minsk peace process.



Russia, Turkey to realize energy projects in 2010, says ambassador

Ankara-Hurriyet Daily News
Wednesday, January 20, 2010


2010 will be a critical year for Turkey and Russia to realize energy projects and to integrate economies. Ankara will host high level guests from Moscow before President Dimitry Medvedev visits Istanbul in the summer to co-chair the first meeting of the Turkey-Russia Cooperation Council.

The coming year will be critical for Turkey and Russia to realize energy projects and to integrate economies, according to the Russian ambassador to Ankara.

Ankara will host Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko in February and March before President Dimitry Medvedev visits Istanbul in the summer to co-chair the first meeting of the Turkey-Russia Cooperation Council.

“We are entering into a new partnership and settling down to work rather than waste time with empty words,” said Ambassador Vladimir Ivanovskiy in an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“Putin suggested a real economic integration, in which Turkish companies are allowed to produce energy in Russia while Russian companies are involved in energy sale and distribution in Turkey. We are ready to open our energy market to Turkish companies,” he said.

Mutual investments in the energy field are the only way to rebuke claims saying Russia will put pressure on Turkey thanks to its energy card, according to Ivanovskiy.

Canceled nuclear plant damages Turkish-Russian relations

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdođan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on the construction of two nuclear power plants in Turkey, bypassing expected tenders. The Constitutional Court canceled a tender that Russia’s Atom Story Export won, due failing to meet competition criteria.

Avoiding commenting on the court’s earlier decision, Ivonvoskiy said Turkish and Russian experts would meet in Ankara toward the end of January to fix details. “We need to make the agreement ready in the spring and sign it in the summer (during the visit of Medvedev). The quicker the better because it will take at least a year to 18 months to kick-off construction, even after the signing ceremony.”

“There is no time to waste as nuclear energy has increased in worldwide popularity. Twenty new reactor blocks will be constructed across Russia, and we have already signed an agreement with the Indian government to build two reactor blocks at a nuclear plant although we have yet to end up discussing with the Turks.”

Ivanovskiy said, “The project has no political dimension but is an economic one. Both sides are driving a hard bargain with the aim of protecting their own national interests.”

Asked what happens if one more project is canceled, the ambassador replied: “The final decision belongs to Turkey. A negative decision will not be tragic for Russia, which has received offers from other countries. But, no doubt, it will negatively affect economic relations between the two countries.”

Basics of Russian-built nuclear plant

- Turkish firms will complete 35 percent of construction work

- Employees will be trained by Russia

- Russia will provide nuclear fuel and receive nuclear waste in return

- Germany’s Siemens will take part in the project due to earlier agreements

- The Turkish government will share the income of energy distribution and sales

- The Turkish government can be a partner of the project but prefers to encourage private companies rather than direct involvement

- A build-operate-transfer model will be applied, but sides have yet to agree to terms.

- The protocol will be submitted for parliamentary ratification once it is signed

Nov. 10 deadline set for South Stream

Turkey permitted feasibility studies about whether Russia’s South Stream pipeline can pass under its territorial waters when Putin visited Ankara in August 2009. Having agreed with other countries along the new route, Putin urged Erdođan last week in Moscow to approve the construction, too.

Turkish and Russian scientists have been working nonstop together on board two ships to submit a detailed report since Dec. 4.

“The Turkish government has to make its final decision on construction by Nov. 10, as Putin and Erdođan agreed. Gazprom is planning to finish the project and begin using the new pipeline in 2014,” noted Ivanovskiy.

Samsun-Ceyhan to be more visible in March

Russia and Kazakhstan have pledged to transport their oil through the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline, which will link the Black Sea to the Mediterranean to ease tanker traffic in the Bosphorus. Turkish, Italian and Russian firms will jointly construct the pipeline.

“At the beginning, this project looked hopeless to me,” the ambassador said. “But I can say it will be definitely realized as a result of recent talks in Moscow. Both Putin and Erdođan ordered to speed up feasibility studies.”

“Technical discussions to finalize an agreement are underway. The sides will discuss the issue more actively in February and March,” he said.

ANKARA - Hurriyet Daily News