MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 22nd January, 2022) Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy are unlikely to hold a bilateral meeting in Turkey as proposed by Ankara, as the offer mostly serves the Turkish leader's geopolitical goals, experts told Sputnik.
On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara wanted to organize a face-to-face meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents and facilitate dialogue between the two. In response, the Kremlin said no such meeting was in the works as Kiev is still failing to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk agreements and is importing weapons en masse.
"While I can see why Zelenskyy might be willing to accept Erdogan's invitation, I don't think that there is any prospect of Putin doing so. Erdogan's invitation says more about Erdogan and his limited understanding of the world than it does about the tensions between Russia and Ukraine," Gareth Jenkins, an expert at the Joint Center Silk Road Studies Program and Turkey Center at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm, said.
The expert noted that it is not realistic that the Putin-Zelenskyy meeting can take place, as resolving complex political issues requires lengthy contacts at a lower level, with the leaders coming together only during the final stages.
"One of the many problems with Turkey's foreign policy is that Erdogan thinks that all issues can be resolved in face-to-face conversations between countries' leaders, what has become known as 'summit diplomacy' or, given that most of its proponents are posturing alpha males, 'Bro-Diplomacy'," Jenkins said.
Moreover, if a country wants to play the role of moderator in a dispute, it must be trusted and seen as impartial by both sides, which Turkey isn't, according to the expert. Ankara's decision to sell military drones to Kiev, knowing they will be used in the conflict in Donbas, and its stance on the Crimean issue make it highly unlikely that Moscow will consider it a neutral party, he explained.
As things stand at the moment, Turkey is in no position to act as a broker of peace between Russia and Ukraine, as it is neither trusted nor strong enough to convince either side to reach an agreement, Jenkins concluded.
Birol Baskan, an expert from the Washington-based middle East Institute, agreed that there is no reason for Moscow and Kiev to accept Erdogan's offer. For the Turkish leader, on the other hand, the initiative is an attempt to find balance in the precarious situation his country is in, the expert noted.
"For Erdogan, Turkey's relations with Russia are obviously vital. But, Turkey's relations with the US are no less important. So he cannot wholeheartedly support Russia against Ukraine, but cannot commit Turkey to a clear stand against Russia either. He is trying to seek a balanced stand between the two countries. He must be desperately hoping that Turkey will not have to take a clear side in the ongoing crisis," Baskan said.
However, the expert did not rule out the possibility that Russia and Turkey can find ways to continue their working relationship following the Syrian scenario, where the two are on the opposite sides of the conflict.