Turkey will launch a foreign policy move through presidential visits to critical countries in May in an attempt to reshape the country’s relationships with the international community after months of domestic political tension fractured Turkey’s bonds with its traditional allies.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s itinerary in May includes a visit to Washington D.C. for his first in-person meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump after the latter’s election and to Sochi for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Erdoğan will also visit Beijing, Brussels and New Delhi.
Turkey is going on the foreign drive in a bid to repair relationships with a number of key countries, such as the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, which have soured in recent months, while Ankara also wishes to discuss developments in Syria and the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Erdoğan will seek to establish “a new framework” for the Turkish-American relationship in Washington in the wake of his contested win in the April 16 referendum, while also planning to meet with the European Union’s two top institutional leaders, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, in Brussels to discuss Ankara-Brussels ties in detail.
First stop India
Erdoğan’s first stop on his tour will be India on April 30, when he will be accompanied by ministers responsible for economy and trade. Erdoğan will participate in Turkey-India Business Forum and will hold political talks with Indian leaders, particularly President Pranab Mukherjee. The agenda during the meeting is expected to be dominated by an improvement of bilateral economic and trade ties.
Putin-Erdoğan meet on May 3
Erdoğan’s second visit will be to Sochi on May 3 where he will meet President Vladimir Putin, although the two leaders recently met in Moscow in March. Erdoğan, who will discuss developments in Syria with Putin, will deliver the message that “the conflict in Syria can be resolved if Russia adopts a constructive position and a political transition process can begin.”
The Erdoğan-Putin meeting will be important also for bilateral economic and energy ties. Despite the fact that the two countries launched a normalization process in ties, Russia continues to impose serious restrictions on the import of Turkish agricultural products. Turkey recently deployed a high-level delegation to Russia to resolve the trade dispute that has affected $450 million in agricultural trade from Turkey. The two leaders are also expected to discuss the potential that Moscow will ease visa conditions for Turkish business leaders.
First meeting with Trump
The meeting between Trump and Erdoğan, deemed as historic by Ankara with regards to Turkish-American ties, is expected to take place in the second half of May. The oral invitation to Erdoğan was extended by Trump in a phone conversation on April 18, in which Trump reportedly told Erdoğan: “Let’s meet face to face. Turkey is very important for us; we want to work with you.”
Following consultations through diplomatic channels, the two sides agreed to hold a meeting in the second half of May. The issues to be discussed at the White House include the extradition of Fethullah Gülen and restrictions on his followers in the U.S., developments in Syria, Turkey’s sensitivities over the prospective role for the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in the upcoming Raqqa operation, as well as the countries’ bilateral economic relationship.
Turkey has already begun working on the dossiers ahead of the visit, while the main theme in Washington will be to create a new framework for bilateral ties.
Key talks with EU
A NATO summit in Brussels on May 25 will also provide a good opportunity for Erdoğan to hold bilateral meetings with some key European leaders. Furthermore, talks are underway to arrange bilateral or trilateral meetings between Erdoğan and European Commission head Juncker and European Council President Tusk.
Erdoğan’s message to Europe is expected to center on unopened accession chapters, visa liberalization, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gülenist movement’s activities in Europe, according to presidential sources.
Turkish sources noted that Ankara had reacted positively to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s call for dialogue following the referendum, while stressing that further contacts with Europe would follow in this process.
Agreement in China
The president will also visit China in May to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on May 14 and 15 along with Putin and other regional leaders. Erdoğan will hold talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, as well as other participants, and is expected to sign a cooperation agreement on the revival of the ancient Silk Road through new railways and roads.