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May 12 2019

Turkey and Russia working with and around each other on Crimea, Cyprus - analyst

Moscow and Ankara are increasingly having to work with, and around, each other, on an array of issues including Crimea, war-torn Syria and the divided island of Cyprus, wrote Timur Akhmetov, expert on Turkey at the Russian International Affairs Council, in the Jerusalem Post.

Turkey, despite presently having functional cooperation on other issues like Syria or energy related projects, describes the Russian presence in Crimea as an occupation, Akhmetov wrote, noting that Ankara has been promising to continue its support for the rights of Crimean Tatars, which make up sizeable community in Turkey.

After realizing that efforts to make the world acknowledge facts on the ground in Crimea after 2014 would involve working closer with Turkey, Russia has been focused on ways to nurture Turkey-located Crimean Tatar civil groups, which would advocate for the Russian agenda on the issue, the article underlined.

Russia is exerting efforts to "embed Ankara into arrangement of agreements on multiple important questions, where any step away in one area may have implications in other areas,’’ Akhmetov said, pointing to cooperation between Ankara and Moscow in Syria as an example of how a web of agreements have a constraining effect on Turkey.

In fact, analysts maintain that the bi-lateral Sept 2018 deal between Ankara and Moscow to establish a demilitarised zone in Syria's Idlib on Idlib, may be detrimental to Turkey’s medium and long-term interests

 At this point, should Ankara decide to openly challenge Russian interests in Syria, may face an escalation of multiple fronts in the northwestern province of Idlib, the Kurdish issue and anti-Turkish sentiments in the Arab world, the analyst noted.

Russia may also use Cyprus issue to induce Turkey to make concessions over Crimea as it sees Turkey’s isolation in by regional powers on the issue of gas exploration off Cyprus in the East Mediterranean.

European leaders have stood behind the Republic of Cyprus after Turkish energy exploration near the island raised tensions this week.

Turkey disputes the boundaries of the EEZ, and strongly objects to exploitation of the island’s energy resources by the Greek Cypriots, saying this infringes on the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway republic that controls the north of the island. 

In fact, Russian officials mention Cyprus issues when drawing an analogy to the Crimean problem, the analyst said, thereby placing Turkey within the same camp and in turn Moscow’s unwilling ally.

Russia’s expanding military presence in Syria is yet another dimension to bilateral ties between the Russia and Turkey, "which is having troubles diplomatically asserting its rights over gas projects,’’ Akhmetov concluded.

In fact, Russia has been carrying out strikes on Idlib simultaneously with Syrian regime warplanes since April 30, resulting in the death of dozens and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.