Turkey’s role as an international mediator

Dr. Angelos Kaskanis

Project Manager - Tactics Institute

Turkey is working to create effective dispute resolution tools for a variety of issues.

The country is squarely in the middle of all of the neighboring regions’ political disputes, and it is impacted directly or indirectly, historically and culturally, by the crises that are occurring across the region.

In addition to the worldwide pandemic crisis, the greater Middle East is undergoing a political earthquake, posing new domestic rather than interstate issues. In this new era, the need for mediation is evident. Turkey’s position has been built over the previous three decades on the effective use of diplomacy to resolve disagreements and crises.

TRT World projects Turkey’s profile regarding the War in Ukraine, giving a full picture of how Ankara is promoting the country’s profile. “Turkey’s profile and role as a mediator is unique. It has maritime borders with both Ukraine and Russia. It is a NATO member; at the same time, it is Russia’s largest trade partner in the Middle East and North Africa region. Both countries coordinated efforts in conflict zones, most recently in the Nagorno-Karabakh region,”

The war in Ukraine

The fact that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are meeting in Turkey for direct peace negotiations emphasizes Ankara’s status as a considered neutral party in the war in Ukraine.

Turkey could have been caught in the middle of a conflict between two ostensible allies. Instead, Turkey, a NATO member, continues to send arms to Ukraine while refusing to sanction Russia and is respected by both sides enough to host next week’s talks.

“If Turkey is assigned a mediator role following the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ankara will accept the offer to help in the Ukrainian crisis in this capacity and will try to do its part,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated during the early days of the conflict.

“Unfortunately, the West until now has not made any contribution to resolving this issue. I can say they are only making things worse. I attach great importance to the meeting with Mr. Putin regarding this issue. Because, in the meeting with Zelenskyy, I saw that we already had an agreement on these issues. Because at the moment, there is a serious problem in Europe in terms of solving this business,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan added, pointing out that Brussels was part of the problem, not the solution.

The first ministerial-level meeting between Russia and Ukraine since the invasion began in late February was held in Turkey on March 10. Dmytro Kuleba and Sergey Lavrov, the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers, met in Antalya with their Turkish colleague, Mevlut Cavusoglu, for a trilateral meeting.

The number of countries reusing to take sides in the Russia-Ukraine war isn’t limited to mediators. India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Morocco are among the countries that have chosen to stay “neutral”. The reasons for such a stance vary, yet there are some commonalities. India and Pakistan face a diplomatic bind as they try to balance ties with the West and Russia. The neutrality of Gulf ststaes reflects deeper ties cultivated with Russia in recent years.

The Caucasus

In January, envoys from Turkey and Armenia met in Moscow for the first round of negotiations aimed at normalizing relations, which Armenia hoped would lead to diplomatic relations and the reopening of borders after decades of hostility.

For the past 30 years, Turkey and Armenia have had no diplomatic or trade connections, and the negotiations are the first attempt to re-establish ties since a 2009 peace agreement. That agreement was never approved, and relations between the two countries have remained strained.

Ankara supported Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis in 2020, accusing ethnic Armenian forces of seizing Azeri land. Following the fighting, Turkey began pressing for rapprochement in order to gain more power in the region.

With Armenia eager to overcome its economic and trade isolation and Turkey’s clout as a regional economic powerhouse eroding, there are incentives for both parties to move past animosity, even if only in minor ways. According to experts, a move toward normalisation will help both economically and geopolitically in terms of relations with Azerbaijan and Russia.

Turkey has extensive economic, military, cultural and linguistic ties with Azerbaijan, and provided Baku with sophisticated equipment such as drones throughout the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which were a major source of Armenian casualties.

They have also been accused of hiring Syrian/Turkmen mercenaries on the ground, which Baku and Ankara both deny.

As it stands, among the pack of countries vying to act as mediators in the Russia-Ukraine war, Turkey has emerged as the winner.

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