All roads lead to Ankara

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog recently visited Ankara and met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to visit Turkey on March 13. The diplomatic table for the war in Ukraine has been set up in the southern city of Antalya, where Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is meeting his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, hosted by Turkey. Erdoğan had a phone call with US President Joe Biden. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will be in Ankara next week to meet Erdoğan.

Isn’t it breathtaking? While the world has yet to emerge from the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic and remains mired in economic troubles, the war in Ukraine has once again embroiled the international order in heated discussions. The US-led Western bloc has chosen not to confront Russia militarily, but is instead using the Russia sanctions map much harsher.

However, remember that sanctions are like a boomerang. As it upsets the global economic balance, its impact ends up affecting everyone. For example, the United States has stopped oil imports from Russia. This causes price thresholds to be exceeded that were not seen years ago in oil markets around the world. As an alternative, Washington had to knock on the door of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whom it has been trying to overthrow for years.

Similar scenarios are expressed not only for energy but also for food. As the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has said, the gates of hell on Earth are about to open.

Diplomacy in chaotic times

In this crisis, countries are trying to mitigate the damage by showing their diplomatic skills. Turkey is doing just that, using its unique geopolitical position.

The opposition in Turkey and some foreign commentators have tried to give the impression that Ankara is increasingly isolated on the world stage. However, both the rapprochement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the growing diplomatic traffic with Greece and Israel, two countries that Turkey frankly criticizes on the international scene, contradict these words.

For example, it was written in the Greek press for some time that Mitsotakis went to great lengths to get an appointment with Erdoğan. Undoubtedly, the obvious reason is that Athens, which guards the borders of the EU and for this purpose pushed the refugees into Turkish territorial waters in the Aegean Sea resulting in the death of dozens of them despite warnings from the UN, would not be able to resolve this crisis without Turkey. Especially now that there is a new refugee crisis in Europe due to the war in Ukraine, it is an undeniable fact that Turkey is an actor who should certainly be at the table for a humanitarian solution to this problem.

The gas crisis

On the other hand, as the world plunges into an energy crisis, the “chess game” of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean is heating up. Israel is one of the countries with which Athens cooperates on this chess table. The main objective of the EastMed project, which will transport Israeli gas to Europe via Greek Cyprus and Greece, is of course to bypass Turkey. However, especially with the retreat of the US administration in this project, eyes have once again turned to Ankara.

It should not be forgotten that the Israeli administration, like Ankara, assumed the role of mediator in the Ukrainian crisis. Turkey and Israel are among the few countries that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been in contact with during this process. However, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Turkey’s position in the war in Ukraine is unique. Turkey is a NATO member country that enjoys close relations with Russia and is the only member of the alliance with Russian S-400 air defense systems.

Moreover, the crucial element of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia are Turkish combat drones. Barring French President Emmanuel Macron’s failed mediation attempts, Ankara is perhaps the only capital within the NATO bloc that can help establish a healthy dialogue with Moscow. When all of these elements are stacked up, it makes sense to understand why the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers met in Antalya. Case Summary: As the world is dragged into a crisis, all roads lead to Ankara.

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