09:55 GMT +324 September 2017
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    ECONOMIC INTERESTS THE KEY TO RUSSO-TURKISH RELATIONS

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    By RIA Novosti political analyst Marianna Belenkaya

    Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has held his negotiations in Moscow. This is the first time a senior Turkish delegation has visited the Russian capital for eight years. However, it cannot be said that the infrequency of top-level official contacts negatively affect the development of bilateral relations in every sphere ranging from security to trade issues.

    According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, "since the election of the incumbent prime minister, [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, our relations have become stable, including in the sensitive area of combating terrorism."

    Moscow has always negatively viewed the fact that some public organisations supporting Chechen separatists are based in Turkey. However, Turkish officials have given assurance that no anti-Russian actions will be taken from the territory of Turkey.

    On the whole, combating international terrorism is in both countries' interests. Indeed, Russian and Turkish citizens have first hand experience of terrorist attacks. Consequently, Moscow and Ankara are gradually finding a common language with regard to anti-terrorism issues. The main problem is how to find the effective forms of co-operation.

    Businessmen can serve as a good example for national law-enforcement agencies in this connection.

    The official Russian-Turkish trade turnover, which continues to grow by 15-20% each year, now stands at nearly $6.5 billion, Putin noted, during his talks with Gul. If profits from tourism, as well as those from the unofficial "shuttle" trade, are taken into account, this turnover may total about $12 billion, Putin added.

    Russia is Turkey's second most important trade partner after Germany, while Turkey is Europe's third largest importer of Russian gas.

    Russia pumped approximately 13 billion cubic metres of gas to Turkey last year. According to Gul, Turkey is intending to increase Russian gas imports and the figure could grow to a huge 30 million cubic metres by 2008.

    Until recently, it seemed that Turkey was over-estimating its natural gas demand, and that the new Blue Stream pipeline from Russia to Turkey along the Black Sea floor would not be needed.

    Blue Stream, which has a design throughput capacity of 16 billion cubic metres per year, pumped some 1.2 billion cubic metres of Russian gas in 2003. Gul's statement once again confirms the fact that all the apprehensions were groundless.

    It is supposed that when Blue Stream starts working at full capacity Putin will make an official visit to Ankara and, during the Moscow talks, Gul took the opportunity to invite the Russian leader once again.

    Russian gas deliveries may give the impression that Russia has an impressive foreign-trade surplus.

    However, the situation would seem quite different, if economic co-operation were not viewed as an automatic exchange of goods. The Russian Foreign Ministry's official spokesman, Alexander Yakovenko, believes that the Turkish side remains in the black as a result of the shuttle trade (some $3 billion), tourist-industry profits (nearly $1 billion) and automobile traffic via Russian territory ($200 million).

    Moreover, Turkey boasts greater investment volumes than Russia. Indeed, 785 contracts worth a total of $13.2 billion have either been implemented or are being implemented over the last 15 years.

    For its own part, Moscow wants to see Russian investments in the Turkish economy, which is a position Ankara shares. Gul noted at the Kremlin talks that Turkey would like the Russian business community to expand its presence on the Turkish market and take part in the industrial privatisation process.

    Russia could deliver oil and gas equipment, aircraft and other hi-tech goods to Turkey. Moreover, as Ankara is quite interested in Russian weaponry and combat hardware, the Turkish side is currently considering a number of proposals in this sphere.

    Moreover, Gul suggested implementing some projects in third countries, in particular in Iraq.

    One should also note that Russia and Turkey could also implement some rather successful economic projects in Cyprus, in the Balkans, in the Middle East and in the CIS, as well.

    Political mechanisms of regional interaction have already been activated, but economic co-operation is still in the early stages. In this context, the Russian side attaches great significance to invigorating the activities of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Organisation.

    A unique mechanism, the "Action Plan to Develop Co-operation in Eurasia", which was drawn up in November 2001, still does not include any specific economic projects. Of course, this is a matter for the future. Today, it is important that Russia and Turkey are trying to coordinate their interests in areas where they were previously rivals.

    Naturally, rivalry, or competition, to be more exact, still exists. In fact, this is a salient feature of any bilateral relations.

    However, both countries, although they may be divided on specific pipeline routes, nonetheless agree that stability must be maintained throughout Eurasia, because it is in their economic and domestic political interests.

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