Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Belarus scheduled for this weekend is expected to be useful – Belarus anticipates new investments by Turkey, while Turkey hopes for trade cooperation. As for more abstract political tasks, the sides will be discussing them too. In particular, Russian experts interviewed by EADaily say Turkey sees additional chance to restore relations with Russia through contacts with Belarus. The latter, in turn, gets a chance to demonstrate the world, including Russia, that it is actively involved in settlement of the problematic issues of global politics. Alexander Fadeyev, Head of the Belarus Department at the CIS Institute, sees several areas of cooperation that may be discussed during the Turkish leader’s visit to Minsk. The expert pointed at the economic issues the sides will probably try to discuss.
“Considering that Erdogan takes with him businesspersons, he will try to somehow replace the lost niche in the Russian market with the Belarusian market that is open for Russia. Although the Belarusian market is not large, it is part of the European Economic Union and has open borders with Russia, which is quite interesting to the Turkish business. On the other hand, Turkey will try to make up for losses in the field of tourism that were caused by Moscow’s sanctions in response to the known strain in the relation of the two countries,” the expert said.
Besides, Fadeyev says, through cooperation with Belarus, Ankara is paving the way for normalization of relations with Russia.
Erdogan realizes that Belarus is Russia’s ally, though nominal. Naturally, mediation of the Belarusian president will be useful for Turkey to establish closer cooperation with Russia. Although the relations have been restored certainly, they are still incomparable with the ones the two countries had before the Russian warplane was shot down,” Fadeyev said.
According to the expert, Minsk anticipates positive results from that meeting, especially as regards to economy and investments. “The investment plan was simply failed in Belarus in 2016. Belarus is waiting for investments from the Turkish business, but Turkey’s interests will bump into the interests of China, as Chinese business was invited to Belarus earlier,” Fadeyev says. However, he is not sure that Belarus will succeed in attracting Turkish businesspersons to its shrinking economy.
As to the cooperation in other sectors, such as military ones, the expert does not think it is promising. In his words, Belarus and Turkey have nothing to offer each other in the military field. The expert supposes that it is a preliminary visit to assess what the leadership and economy of Belarus may suggest Turkey.
Andrey Suzdaltsev, the Deputy Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, Higher School of Economics, says that during the visit, the guests and the host country’s leadership will be pursuing quite different goals.
“Before the crisis in the relations with Russia ended, Belarus was very important to Turkey. First, Alexander Lukashenko presents himself as a person having access to the Kremlin, can report to Vladimir Putin and discuss some secret issues with him. Besides, at the height of the crisis in the relations of Turkey and Moscow, Belarus transited Turkish products, mostly fruits and vegetables, to the Russian market. Therefore, Erdogan pursued direct interests in Belarus then. Now, with the improved Russian-Turkish relations, there seems to be no need in Minsk’s mediation any longer. However, the relations of Moscow and Ankara have not normalized finally. Some problems have been settled, while others, more complicated ones, are still pending. Of course, Erdogan would like to have there a wider freedom of movement. Therefore, he decided to travel to Minsk, the more so as there is a formal reason for that visit i.e. Erdogan will be attending the opening ceremony of a mosque in Minsk. Actually, sacral, representation purposes have been added here,” Suzdaltsev says.
According to Suzdaltsev, for Alexander Lukashenko Erdogan’s visit is a chance to demonstrate his own importance in the global politics and his involvement into settlement of international problems. “One can see on all TV channels in Belarus that Minsk is the center of global politics and President Lukashenko has a direct influence on it,” Suzdaltsev says.
The expert believes that Belarus pursues certain goals in the energy field, seeking an alternative to the Russian oil. They weigh oil supplies from Iran, the expert says, adding that Turkey is a great energy hub on the periphery of the oil and gas Klondike. That is why Turkey is important to Belarus, Suzdaltsev says.
Deputy Director of the Center for Ukrainian and Belarusian Studies at the M.V. Lomonosov MSU, Bogdan Bezpalko says no breakthroughs should be anticipated from the Turkish leader’s visit.
“I think this visit manifests Erdogan’s policy to break the isolation Turkey is facing after dispersing the putschists, after a range of problems with other countries which Turkey is bordering or trying to cooperate with. Now Erdogan is trying to diversify his foreign policy. Even if this visit brings no essential results, it will at least show that neither Erdogan nor Turkey has been isolated,” the expert says.
At the same time, Bezpalko says, some useful arrangements may be made eventually. In particular, the expert thinks the sides may sign some agreements related to the military industry.
Erdogan’s official visit to Belarus is set for November 11. The Turkish leader will meet his Belarusian opposite number Alexander Lukashenko and discuss bilateral relations.