Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Turkey Vladimir Ivanovskiy has said Russia will not only build a planned nuclear plant but will also train and educate Turks since in time the project will need a substantial number of experts and qualified people to run it. He also says the plan is to further technology sharing in such other areas as space science.
The Turkish government’s zero-problem with neighbors policy has borne fruit with the Russian Federation as the two countries’ cooperation in a variety of areas has seen unprecedentedly high levels in recent years. The visa waiver decision, which went into effect last month and means that people from both sides for the first time are able to cross their respective borders without needing a visa, marks the pinnacle for such close cooperation between the two powerful neighbors in the region.
In an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman Ambassador Ivanovskiy said during the high-level negotiations in nuclear talks between Russia and Turkey that the idea of establishing nuclear and space science academies where Russians will educate Turkish scientists has emerged. “For the project to be a complete success we need hundreds of people who can speak both languages,” he says, adding that both Turkey and Russia should think in practical terms, economically and socially, in order to figure out how the two could engage further.
Ivanovskiy also said interest in learning Russian in Turkey is on the rise. According to the ambassador, in February, an intergovernmental Society Forum was established to promote cooperation in nine areas. One of them is education, he said. “Turkish and Russian universities can cooperate, and we can even establish faculties in either Russia or Turkey, operated jointly, to further our cooperation in the educational field,” he explained
According to Ivanovskiy, marriages between Turks and Russians are on the rise as well. Male spouses are mostly from Turkey and female spouses are from Russia in such marriages, he said, drawing attention to the increasing number of children from those marriages who can speak both languages fluently and who, according to Ivanovskiy, are the fundamental base for a mutual future for both countries.
‘I heard about the crazy project 15 years ago from Erdoğan’
“I heard about the project 15 years ago from then Mayor Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, when I was consul general of Russia in İstanbul,” Ivanovskiy said in response to a question about the canal project. Prime Minister Erdoğan’s “crazy project” of adding another strait to İstanbul seemed a bit far-fetched to the ambassador when he first heard about it back then. “I thought it was going to be a long time for Turkey in order for such projects to materialize, yet 15 years later Turkey has developed into a nation where such projects are now believable,” he says, adding that is has taught him to “never say never” when it comes to Turkey.
Ivanovskiy says further that people need to wait until all the details emerge in order to be able to make a comprehensive assessment of the project. He points to the fact that it has not only an economic aspect but also an international legal side. Economic feasibility and the implications of the Montreux Convention should all be taken into consideration carefully, he advises.
“Deep and thorough analyses need to be done by all parties who will be involved in it — transport actors, legal experts, military people, contractors, producers who might be involved in the project — so we need to collect all the information to provide a conclusion on it. This is not only the issue for the Black Sea littoral states but also for other parties who use the straits. For example, the companies who use the straits for oil and liquefied gas transportation, container and shipping companies, a lot of actors are involved, and we need time to collect all the necessary information to be able to give an accurate assessment of the project,” Ivanovskiy said.
When Today’s Zaman was the first newspaper to break the story several months ago, sources also told Today’s Zaman that even Russia was interested in building and operating this channel. Responding to this, Ivanovskiy says in all the negotiations he took part in on the transportation of Russian oil and gas via pipeline and rail, the idea of this channel as a means of oil and gas transportation was not on the agenda. “This is my frank confession to you,” the Russian ambassador admitted.
Regarding the safety concerns of the Turkish side about the Bosporus he says Russia also shares those concerns for safety. “In my youth I graduated from naval school, and I used to travel on tankers, and at that time at night in 1968 to reach the oceans of the world you needed to travel through straits and, of course, the Bosporus. And while passing [through] the straits we could hear the announcements on the side of the straits that here a vessel crashed at this time, here another vessel crashed at another time. Of course, there are dangers, and we realize the dangers. And, of course, we share the Turkish side’s concerns related to the safety of the straits.”
‘Economic cooperation fully corresponds with political one’
When Today’s Zaman mentioned the criticism of some media outlets concerning political cooperation that does not correspond to the economic cooperation between Russia and Turkey, Ambassador Ivanovskiy voiced disagreement. He explained that there is mutual cooperation in both the economic and political relationship, which are interrelated and influence each other positively.
“I would start with mutual trust between Russia and Turkey; we manage to build mutual trust, which was broken between the two countries for many decades. The next thing would be mutual respect for mutual interests. And even when I report to my leadership on Russia and Turkey I always say that I see it in the perspective of 10 to 15 years on issues which will bind for the two countries; of course, this view of mine is not only shared here in Turkey but in my country as well,” he noted.
The ambassador also mentioned a number of correlating issues both for Russia and Turkey on their respective agendas. The development of the region is one issue where the two sides have managed to organize seven meetings from January until June of this year alone at the level of high-ranking Foreign Ministry officials on consultations concerning regional issues. “Not to mention the meetings between the two ministers,” he said. According to Ivanovskiy, during such meetings wide-ranging discussions take place, from diplomacy to security issues.
‘Turkey and Russia do not want foreign intervention in Syria’
As a more specific example of close cooperation at the political level, Russian Ambassador Ivanovskiy says both Turkey and Russia are opposed to foreign intervention in Syria. He explains that there is constant information-sharing at all levels on the Syrian issue between Russia and Turkey.
The ambassador also indicated that the movements in Libya, Syria, the Middle East and North Africa might be motivated by internal dynamics, but he is worried that it might be hijacked by external powers, creating more instability and even leading to civil war. “I can say that all foreign attempts such as the color revolutions or twitter revolutions do not always lead to the wished-for results,” Ivanovskiy said.
Situation in the Balkans
When asked about the situation in the Balkans, and Bosnia and Herzegovina in particular, Ambassador Ivanovskiy says it is another area where Turkey and Russia are negotiating. He says the situation should be resolved within its natural course and not by outside intervention. Without a three-state formation and without taking into account the interests of all related parties there will be never peace in the region, and if the EU wants to get involved they can, but we should not impose anything on the parties, he explains.
The energy relationship with Russia is another important area where Turkey and Russia could further relations. Russia is the number one natural gas supplier to Turkey, whose energy demand is on the rise in conjunction with its fast-growing economy. Ivanovskiy says Russia is fully aware of such needs and that they are willing to accommodate them fully. Speaking of the Blue Stream pipeline project, he says he was in Samsun 10 days ago and that they are working on utilizing the pipeline to its full capacity. According to Ivanovskiy, in two months there will be some test runs to try the pipelines at full capacity.
Regarding Nabucco, he said Russia does not see any problems. “Of course, there is always going to be competition that we cannot avoid; yet, we plan to meet demand through South Stream, and Nabucco has its own participants on the project,” he added. He also stated that Turkey would soon know all the details of the Blue Stream Project with regard to detailed layout map of the pipes n the seabed as well as environmental impact studies.
The huge trade deficit
According to data supplied by the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM), the trade volume between Russia and Turkey in 2010 was around $26.2 billion, and Turkey’s exports to Russia in the same year were $4.6 billion. Thus, there is a significant trade deficit for Turkey when it comes to trade with Russia.
However, Ambassador Ivanovskiy says this is not as bad as it seems, referring to 4 million Russian tourists visiting Turkey every year. According to the TİM report, this number is expected to go as high as 5 million in the near future with the end of visa requirements. Ivanovskiy added that the economic impact of those tourists for Turkey is huge and that this is not counted when it comes to calculating exports. He also reiterated the fact that there are a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from Turkey operating in Russia and remitting their earnings back to Turkey.
He also spoke about big Turkish enterprises such as Max Mara and LC Waikiki, whose number of stores in Russia has now reached more than the number of stores they have in Turkey. “So when you take all these [things] into account, it is not as bad as it seems at all for Turkey,” he says.
Istanbul – Todays Zaman