Ambassador Alexei Erkhov’s interview for “Ulusal” chanel and “Aydinlik” newspaper
On December 13, 2018 Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Turkey Alexei Erkhov spoke to the representatives of “Ulusal” chanel and “Aydinlik” newspaper in Ankara.
The text of the interview.
We are in close contact on Idlib
You are right when you say that the cooperation between Russia and Turkey in Syria was very successful. We have reached quiet a lot on the Astana track, on the Sochi track. Together with our Iranian partners, three of us guarantors of the Astana process, we have reached the so-called de-escalation zones all over Syria, so we agreed on ceasefire.
Together with Turkey we have reached a very important agreement on Idlib which is being implemented right now. The agreement provides the creation of a demilitarized zone within the de-escalation zone in Idlib. As I’ve just told you the agreement is being implemented. Of course not all the details are being implemented in just time which was provided for that. But we understand very well that the fulfilment of the obligations set forth in the Idlib agreement is a very difficult thing and demands much time, much effort and much energy.
We see that our Turkish partners deploy much efforts for fulfilment of the Idlib agreement. We follow these efforts, and we are in close contact on this issue. So in general developments are positive.
In parallel together with our partners, we deploy efforts to ensure the progress in so-called political process, meaning the creation of the constitutional committee for the Syrian Arab Republic. And we hope to achieve something on this track.
We expect our Turkish partners to go on fulfilling what is written in the Idlib agreement, which means that they are going to monitor the pulling out the heavy weapons and ammunitions first from the demilitarized zone within the de-escalation zone in Idlib. Together with that, the guerillas from terrorist organizations who are now in this zone should be pulled out.
First of all, let me say what Mr Jeffrey says is the responsibility of Mr Jeffry. So, if you need some more details from the American side you know the address of the American Embassy here, it’s not far away. As far as Russia is concerned, we still consider that the Astana process has enabled not only the guarantors but the whole region, the whole world to achieve tangible results. First of them is ceasefire. This is something real. This is something on the ground. This given the Geneva negotiations have lasted by months and years without any result. Of course, we do not deny the existence of the Geneva process, the Geneva dimension of the peace efforts deployed within the Syrian crisis. But we should admit that Astana and Sochi have produced something. Geneva has produced nothing. There is absolutely no logic in proposing to throw away Astana and Sochi and sacrificing it for something we still don’t know what. Last but not least I am not quiet sure that someone including the most respected people have the moral right to produce any kind of ultimatums and set any kind of deadlines or red lines for Astana and Sochi process.
Crisis in the Kerch Strait
First of all, you mean what has happened on the 24th and 25th on November last month. Let’s see what has really happened. Three Ukrainian military ships, two of them battle ships (battle ships were small and outdated, but they still had guns, ammunition, and were capable of participating in hostilities) tried to force their way through the Kerch Strait. The strait is being controled by the authorities of the Russian Federation. This is an objective fact. You may disagree that this region is under the sovereignty of the Russian Federation. But everyone can admit that this region is under control of the Russian Federation. This region is very difficult from the point of view of the maritime navigation. If it happened so that the Russian Federation is controlling the strait, the Russian Federation is under obligation to ensure the safety of maritime navigation there. The Russian Federation authorities have set certain amount of rules just to ensure the safety of sea traffic there. So these rules, these obligations, were respected by all the participants of the see traffic in the area including Ukraine itself. Just one month or something before the events, there were two - as far as I remember - military ships of Ukraine which were passing the Strait. They followed the rules, they requested the permission in due time, they got the permission and they passed through the straits peacefully.
This time they refused to do so they tried to force their way through the straits. Russian coast guard security had to use arms to stop them.
So what kind of event was it? Just imagine the Turkish authorities who are in charge of the Bosporus, who are in charge of the secure navigation in the strait; suddenly discover three military ships approaching the strait without prior notice and without any attempt to listen to the authorities and to stop. The Turkish authorities are under the obligation to ensure the safety of the passage. This given the Ukrainian ships wanted to pass under the newly built bridge which the Ukrainian authorities have many times declared ready to destroy. So the conclusion is, it was a pure provocation with many goals and objectives, some of them being political, some of them being related to a propaganda sphere. Which is worse I am afraid, that we will have more provocations to come. If your hooliganism is not punished you get more and more courage, you become more and more sure of your capacities. So may be there will be more provocations aimed at drugging other countries and other organizations into Russian -Ukrainian disagreements.
US – Ukraine deal
Under the deal you probably mean the renewal of the Strategic Bilateral Committee between Ukraine and the US. Listen, this is their own business. Friendship and cooperation, strategic or non-strategic between two states is their own business. But this is a kind of friendship not for something but against someone and this someone is Russia. But not only Russia, because listen, we as Russia are for the Turkish Stream, Turkey also supports the project because the Turkish Stream is important and useful for Turkey. But Ukraine and the US openly declared themselves against the Turkish Stream. So Turkey and Turkish people can make a conclusion who is a friend for Turkey and who is its foe.
The Turkish Stream
When we go back to the Turkish Stream, it’s something of strategic importance for the whole region, for the states of the region. For us, it is important because we are going to sell 30 bcm more gas. It is important for Turkey because Turkey will get 15 bcm gas more each year. In addition to that, Turkey will get transit fee for the another 15 bcm. It is profitable for Europe. Europe will get 15 billion more each year. They will get even more, they will get diversification of the gas routes which they want and which they always seek. Therefore, it is in general interest. There exists a very interesting point of view: sometimes we hear people saying: “Listen, we are too much dependent on Russian gas because approximately 50% of gas we consume in Turkey comes from Russia”. This assessment is very wrong. You can not operate such terms in macro economy, in macro politics. I sell gas to you and of course, you are dependent on my capacity to deliver you necessary quantity of gas especially in winter. But at the same time, I am dependent on your capacity to take it and pay for it. So we are interdependent. And this is the sense of trade. This is nothing to be scared of. We have always been a trustworthy and reliable partner.
Sometimes we overpoliticise the issues which are more related to economy and to finance. Lets say, there is Russian gas, it has a certain price, there is Iranian gas which has another price. We have LNG which come from Qatar, Algeria vs. It has third price. The shale gas coming from the US, its price is very expensive. So this is the market. You are able to choose. You want to choose cheaper or you want to choose more expensive it is up to you. There is a Chinese proverb which says: ‘Let one hundred flowers flourish’. Let them decide. We are ready to submit, we are ready to deliver, we are ready to sell. That’s it.
There is no politics here. This is cooperation with %100 coinciding interest. We need sea and sun. You have something to propose to Russian tourists. So we are beating all the records. 5.7 million tourists you are right. Maybe we will have some more in December. So we are beating records. We are pleased you are pleased. Let’s hope next year we will beat this record too.