Last week, the public agenda in Turkey was busy with three main topics.
First was the visit of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Ukraine, at a time when the country is at the brink of a war.
Second was an interesting survey, conducted by the Metropoll survey company, regarding the tendencies of Turkish public in foreign policy.
Third was the bilateral meeting between Turkey and Central African Republic.
President Erdogan’s visit to Ukraine
Russia and the West are at odds on the issue of Ukrainian crisis.
President Erdogan’s visit to Ukraine in such critical circumstances caused speculation both around the entire world and in Turkey.
Erdogan attended the 10th meeting of the High-Level Strategic Council between Turkey and Ukraine.
Following the meeting, Erdogan and Zelensky signed various agreements, including a historic free trade agreement and memoranda of understanding, afterwards holding a joint news conference in the capital city.
Accompanying Erdogan were Turkey’s First Lady Emine Erdogan, and a high-level delegation including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez, Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank, Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change Minister Murat Kurum and Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu.
Justice and Development (AK) Party’s spokesperson Omer Celik, Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin and the Head of the Presidency of Defense Industries, Ismail Demir also joined them.
On Wednesday, Turkey’s Communications Directorate said in a statement that Erdogan and Zelensky would review the two countries’ relations, which are at the level of strategic partnership.
At the meeting held in Kyiv, the two leaders, along with their accompanying delegations, discussed possibilities to further deepen cooperation and exchange views on regional and international issues, as well as bilateral ties.
Thursday marked the 30th year of diplomatic ties between Turkey and Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters ahead of his trip to Ukraine, Erdogan said that Turkey is “closely following” developments amid recent rise in tensions between Moscow and Kyiv.
“On every platform, we voice Turkey’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said.
Erdogan urged all parties to exercise self-restraint and engage in dialogue to ensure peace in the region.
He underscored the need to resolve disputes peacefully and on the basis of international law, and reiterated Ankara’s readiness to do its part to establish an atmosphere of peace and trust in the region.
They have also signed various agreements and memoranda of understanding,
“Our relations with Ukraine have registered remarkable progress in recent years on the basis of mutual understanding, trust and common interests,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, marking the 30th year of diplomatic ties.
The statement added that the relations, currently at the level of strategic partnership, contribute “to the peace, stability and prosperity of our region”.
It underlined Turkey’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, while reiterating that Ankara does not recognize the “illegal annexation of Crimea”.
Ahead of Erdogan’s visit, Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan discussed the crisis in Ukraine.
The White House said in a statement on Tuesday that the two officials spoke about their commitment to “deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine”.
Erdogan has said previously Turkey does not want a war between Russia and Ukraine and hopes the issue will be resolved peacefully.
Erdogan’s push for a sit-down has so far been stymied by Kremlin anger about NATO member Turkey supplying combat drones to Kyiv – and the two sides on Thursday signed a new deal aimed at expanding drone production in Ukraine.
The Russian-Ukrainian tensions were also covered by some of the government-affiliated newspapers, before the Erdogan-Zelensky visit.
Statements of “ We are no front country for the East or the West. Whatever our own regional interpretation says goes! The West’s hand is weak, but it still aims to pit two great powers against each other in a bid to weaken both. A game is being set to drive Turkey against Russia”, wrote İbrahim Karagül, Chief Editor of Yenisafak newspaper.
Survey on foreign policy tendencies in Turkey
The pollster Metropoll has shared the results of its survey dubbed ‘Trends in Turkey’, where participators were asked “Should Turkey focus more on the USA/EU or Russia/China on its foreign policy?” in January 2022. While 39.4% of the participants favored the Russian/Chinese bloc, the EU/USA bloc came second at 37.5%.
23.1% of the participators on the other hand gave no answer.
Among the ruling AKP voters, those in favor of USA/EU stood at 27.1%, while those in favor of Russia/China stood at 49.4%.
When we take look at the main opposition party CHP voters, those in favor of USA/EU stood at 45.8%, while those in favor of Russia/China came second at 34.4%. Last year these values were recorded at 40.5 and 30.9% respectively.
Voters of the second largest opposition party IYI Party, were in favor of the USA/EU at 45.2%, while those in favor of Russia/China stood at 41.1%. Last year these values were recorded to be at 43% and 39.3% respectively.
The government-allied MHP voters favored the USA/EU only at 38.7%, while support for Russia/China stood at 50.7%. Last year these values were recorded at 33.6 and 34.9% respectively.
Highest support for West came from the PKK-affiliated party HDP at 57.8% and support for the Russia/China bloc came only at 26.5%. These values were even further apart last year, which were recorded to be 70.3 and 10%respectively.
Known for its leader’s pro-Western stance, the opposition wing that separated from the ruling AKP, DEVA Party voters supported the USA/EU bloc at only 37.5%, while those in favor of Russia/China bloc stood at 53.1%, being higher than its predecessor ruling AKP.
Agreement signed between Turkey and Central African Republic
Another important development of the week had been the bilateral meeting between the top diplomats of Turkey and the Central African Republic.
The Central African Republic Minister of Foreign Affairs, Francophones and Central Africans Abroad, Sylvie Baipo Temon, spoke at a press conference after her meeting with her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Praising Cavusoglu’s hospitality, Temon stated to be honored to make the first minister-level meeting between these countries in their histories.
While stating they are a country that targets to show its own riches and that they believed in sharing of experience, Temon stated “We desire to benefit from the specialties and experiences that Turkey has accumulated.”
Stressing that Turkey has been the image of a great empire in the history, Temon said “I wanted to thank you for being persistent on your own will, and to side together with both the Central African Republic and the entire African continent.”
Temon also stated “Our cooperation with the Republic of Turkey, is a strategic cooperation.”
While stressing that there are many areas these two countries can cooperate at, Temon stated the country has incredible potential for infrastructure, natural resources and workforce.
Temon stated that she would like to share the gains her country has been making after declaring independence 60 years ago, and that she would also like to work with counterparts with similar views.
Temon stated “We need your help in diplomatic, politic, economic and security areas. Because we are aware that you have the right specialties and experiences in these areas.”
While stressing the importance of education in development and prosperity, Temon said “We are expecting Maarif Schools in Central African Republic. We are waiting for the contributions that Maarif Foundation would make, in order for our boys and girls to be well-educated.”