Last week, the Turkish public has been busy with five main topics.
First was the meeting between the EU Council and EU Commission heads, and the Turkish President.
Second was the presidential meeting between the leaders of Ukraine and Turkey.
Third was the presidential meeting between the leaders of Russia and Turkey.
Fourth was the online conference that took place between Turkish-Azerbaijani Defense Ministers.
And the fifth was the ongoing lockdowns and vaccination efforts against the coronavirus pandemic.
Amid signs of improving ties between Turkey and the EU, Turkey’s President on Tuesday received top EU officials paying an official visit to the country.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Charles Michel, head of the EU Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, head of the EU Commission, at the presidential complex in the capital Ankara.
Following the nearly three-hour meeting, at a press conference at the EU Delegation to Turkey, Michel said: “The EU is ready to present a concrete agenda to strengthen cooperation on the economy and immigration, and inter-societal ties.”
He added that the EU recognizes the strategic importance of mutually beneficial and positive relations with Turkey and security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Leyen stressed that the visit was meant to give momentum to Turkish-EU relations, adding that areas of mutually beneficial cooperation were covered during their meeting with Erdogan.
Noting that Turkey was currently hosting 4 million refugees, Leyen underlined that Brussels would continue providing aid to them, as well their host country.
On the two sides’ intense mutual economic relations, she pointed out that the EU is Turkey’s number-one export and import partner.
She said Brussels and Ankara would continue to deal with the current challenges in implementing their Customs Union and eventually start work on updating it, referring to a 1995 trade deal between Turkey and the bloc.
Leyen said the meeting with Erdogan was held in a sincere atmosphere and voiced intentions to build better relations.
However, she said the sides were yet at the initial stages of this effort, adding that the coming weeks and months would show how much progress would be possible.
Agreeing with Leyen on the multi-dimensional and extensive nature of relations between Turkey and the EU, Michel said efforts to deepen cooperation with Ankara in the economy, immigration and inter-societal relations would continue gradually and proportionally.
He expressed appreciation for Turkey’s efforts to host refugees and upheld Leyen’s position that the EU should continue to provide aid to Turkey in this context.
Michel also noted that the EU’s concerns on the rule of law in Turkey had been conveyed to President Erdogan during the meeting
The EU Council chief had also held a meeting with the US ambassador to Turkey on Monday evening.
According to an EU source who spoke on condition of anonymity, the US and EU share several concerns but are equally fully aligned on the need for a stable and secure environment in the Eastern Mediterranean, and of a positive and mutually beneficial relationship between EU and Turkey.
Washington and Brussels agree that it is up to Turkey to seize the opportunity, the source noted.
Tensions have been running high for months in the Eastern Mediterranean as Greece, an EU member, has disputed Turkey’s rights to energy exploration.
Turkey — the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean — sent out drill ships to explore for energy resources on its continental shelf, asserting its rights in the region as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Greece has made maximalist maritime territorial boundary claims based on small islands just kilometers off the Turkish coast. To reduce tensions, Ankara has called for dialogue and negotiations to ensure fair sharing of the region’s resources.
Turkey-Ukraine Presidential Meeting
The Turkish and Ukrainian Presidents met in Istanbul on Saturday.
The meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Zelensky is closed to the press and began at Huber Mansion.
Zelensky is in Istanbul to attend the 9th meeting of the Turkey-Ukraine High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council. Cooperation in the defense industry, free-trade agreement (FTA), and tourism are expected to top the agenda of the meeting.
Turkey’s president held extensive discussions with his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul on Saturday.
The Turkish president called for a de-escalation of tension in Ukraine and said that his country desires a “peaceful” Black Sea.
“Our main goal is that the Black Sea continues to be a sea of peace, tranquility and cooperation,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky.
“We do not want an escalation of tension in our common geography in any way,” Erdogan added.
“During the meeting with the Ukrainian President we, as Turkey, strongly defended Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said.
“We reaffirmed our principled stance of not recognizing the annexation of Crimea,” the president added.
Erdogan said that Turkey supports the Crimean Platform, the initiative of Ukraine, which aims to bring the international community together on Crimea.
“We hope that this initiative will have positive results for all the Crimean peoples, including the Crimean Tatars, Crimea, and Ukraine in general,” he said.
Erdogan called for a “peaceful and diplomatic” solution to the ongoing crisis.
“We believe that the current crisis must be resolved through peaceful and diplomatic means, based on the territorial integrity of Ukraine and international law,” he added.
“We hope that the worrying escalation we have observed in the field recently will end as soon as possible, the cease-fire will continue and the conflict will be resolved through dialogue on the basis of MINSK agreements,” he said.
Zelensky, for his part, praised Turkey’s “extremely important” support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
He said that the defense industry was the driving force behind the Turkish-Ukrainian strategic partnership.
An agreement signed on housing construction, Zelensky said, was a project that brings the peoples of Turkey and Ukraine closer.
The two leaders also discussed cooperation in the field of aircraft manufacturing. “This is extremely important for both countries,” he said.
Following the news conference, Zelensky wrote on Twitter: “Ukraine is pleased to have a reliable neighbor, even if our border is the sea.”
The two countries, he said, are “opening new horizons of cooperation: possible growth of investments in infrastructure, increase in trade turnover, partnership in energy and defense spheres.”
Turkey-Russia Presidential Meeting
The Turkish and Russian Presidents on Friday discussed steps to further improve bilateral relations.
In a phone call, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin also exchanged views on regional developments, the Turkish Presidency said on Twitter.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of “dangerous provocative actions” in its eastern Donbass region in the phone call, the Kremlin said on Friday.
The two leaders also discussed possible joint production of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19.
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russian-Turkish relations are very rich, both in terms of contacts at the highest level and their substantive agenda.
Lavrov also said the two countries are able to produce solutions, even for issues on which the parties have almost opposite views.
Turkish-Azerbaijani Defense Minister’s Online Conference
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar held a video conference with his Azerbaijani counterpart on Wednesday.
The Turkish National Defense Ministry said in a statement that Akar and Zakir Hasanov discussed joint military exercises that were launched.
During the meeting, Akar said the countries draw their strength from a common historical and cultural unity.
“Our brotherhood, unity, and solidarity, strengthened in every field under the principles of one nation, two states, almost became clinched with the liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Akar said.
The injustice and trouble that Azerbaijan has faced for 30 years came to an end, he stressed.
Congratulating Azerbaijan once again for its success during the 44-day-long conflict with Armenia, he said they prepared and started to implement a roadmap “to support the restructuring and modernization of the Azerbaijani army in line with the requirements of the age” and for the armed forces of the countries to further work together in the future.
Underlining the importance of going back to normalization in the liberated territories, he said the region must be cleared of mines and hand-made explosives.
Lockdown and Vaccination Efforts Against the Coronavirus Pandemic
Turkey’s daily count of coronavirus cases reached 50,678 (2548 symptomatic) and 237 people have lost their lives as of Sunday, according to the Health Ministry.
Turkey’s total case number is around 3.85 million, while the nationwide death toll has reached 33,939.
As many as 30,194 more patients in the country won the battle against the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to over 3.33 million.
More than 41.5 million coronavirus tests have been conducted in Turkey to this date.
The latest figures show that the number of COVID-19 patients in critical condition has risen to 2,824.
Since the vaccination campaign began on January 14th, Turkey has administered over 18.51 million coronavirus vaccine shots nationwide, according to official figures.
Over 10.9 million people to date have gotten their first doses of the vaccine against coronavirus, while second vaccine doses were given to nearly 7.58 million.
And in order to fight this new wave of the virus, Turkey recently announced the return of weekend curfews in high-risk areas, as well as other restrictions, in addition to special measures for the upcoming holy month of Ramadan.