Russia, Turkey clinched plane deal in secret Tashkent talks: report
Russia and Turkey clinched a deal to normalise relations in secret talks in the Uzbek capital Tashkent following mediation by figures including a prominent Turkish businessman and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, a report said Tuesday.
Ankara and Moscow in late June agreed to mend ties that had been severely damaged by Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian plane over the Syrian border in November.
In a sign both sides are intent on improving relations, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday heads to Saint Petersburg for his first talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin since the crisis.
The Hurriyet daily said Turkey had began to put feelers out to Russia to end the crisis through Cavit Caglar, a textile investor.
He is on good terms with the leader of Russia’s Caucasus region of Dagestan Ramazan Abdulatipov, who himself has good access to Putin’s powerful foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov.
According to Hurriyet, Caglar had also laid on his private jet in 1999 for Turkish agents to abduct wanted Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan from Kenya in a secret operation.
Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin was then appointed in April to be Turkey’s contact with Ushakov after the president agreed to the efforts to improve ties.
This led to Ankara working on a letter to Moscow that would express regret for the incident and draw a line under the crisis.
Nazarbayev, who has a strong personal relationship with Putin and Erdogan, on June 22 signalled to Ankara after a meeting with the Russian leader it was the right time to send the letter.
A wording was worked on with the Kazakh embassy in Ankara.
Kalin then rushed at the behest of Nazarbayev at 3:00 am Turkish time on June 24 to Tashkent where Putin was attending a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Nazarbayev checked the Turkish letter and introduced Ushakov to the Turkish delegation. Ushakov then showed the letter to Putin — who unbeknown to the Turks was in the next room — and the Russian strongman gave his green light.
The final version of the letter was slightly lighter than the Russians had wanted originally, using the Russian word “izvinite” (we are sorry) rather than a straightforward apology.
The letter was then published by both sides on June 27, paving the way for an end to the crisis which had been hugely harmful to the Turkish economy.
Russia was one of the first countries to give Erdogan its backing in the wake of the July 15 failed coup and Ankara has compared its response favourably to that of Western states.
Turkish officials have yet to comment on the report.