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Friend or Foe? Insights on Turkey's Mercurial Relations with Russia & Israel

In a significant foreign policy reversal, Turkey has pushed for the renewal of ties with Israel amid the collapse of Turkey-Russia relations. In an effort to shed more light on the changing dynamics of these bilateral relationships, TPQ featured two blog posts – one by Professor Brenda Shaffer on the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel, driven in part by Turkey's quest for new energy sources, and the other by Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz on Turkey's rift with Russia and implications thereof for Turkey's maneuverability in the region.

Turkey and Israel: On the Way Back to Normal
Brenda Shaffer

TPQ Author

In her blog post, Brenda Shaffer argues that recent events in the region – most notably the deterioration of Turkey-Russian relations over Turkey's downing of a Russian fighter jet – have paved the way for a thaw in Turkey-Israel relations which have been strained since the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010. According to Shaffer, Turkey's biggest vulnerability as a result of its crisis with Russia is energy security, which may mean increased energy cooperation between Turkey and Israel as Turkey will seek to decrease its dependence on Russian natural gas imports.

"The most problematic factor is that the current timing of renewal of relations between Turkey and Israel is contingent to the crises between Turkey and Russia, and may be the proximate cause for Ankara for renewal of ties with Israel. This puts Israel in a difficult security situation. Israel maintains very good cooperation with Russia which it will not want to jeopardize."

"The prospects of Israeli gas being exported to Turkey will also be influenced by developments in the crisis between Turkey and Russia. Not only is Russia the main supplier of gas to Turkey, but also Turkey is Russia's second biggest gas export market. Thus, despite the crisis, both sides have a strong interest in keeping the gas supply stable."

Turkey's Foreign Policy Conundrum with Russia: What is to be Done?
Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz

TPQ Author

In his second blog for TPQ, Ambassador Çeviköz postures that Turkey's foreign policy in 2016 will revolve around the struggle to navigate through regional crises – most notably the conflict in Syria and the breakdown of Turkish-Russian relations. Tensions between the two countries have been gradually rising since Russia's foray into Syria, culminating in a direct confrontation over the jet downing incident. While Çeviköz does not see the prospect of reconciliation in the near future, he argues that the two regional powers share too many common interests to not prioritize the normalization of relations.

"Russia and Turkey appear to be on opposite camps in Syria; Russia, under the guise of fighting 'terrorism,' is targeting both ISIL targets and Syrian opposition forces that are fighting Assad, whereas Turkey is a strong supporter of Assad's opponents and is concerned about Russia's activities. Signs of a possible confrontation between Moscow and Ankara over their Syria policies were apparent as early as October 2015."

"Although the November 24th incident between Russia and Turkey cannot be equated to the Mavi Marmara incident between Turkey and Israel per se, Turkey can draw some important conclusions if it believes in the importance of sustaining good relations with Russia."

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