Sep 27, 2011

Crimean Tatars: Turkish-Ukrainian relations on the 20th anniversary of Ukrainian independence

Complementary policies and positive relations between Turkey and Ukraine in the 21st Century: the countries bond over their cooperation in respect to the resettlement of the Crimean Tatars.

Below is an article published by Today’s Zaman

Speaking on Turkish-Ukrainian relations in 1922, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk said: “If we take a look at the geographical location and position of the two countries, we see the Black Sea in between.

If we just assume that the Black Sea is not there for a second, we may say that Turkey and Ukraine share borders. Friendship bears significance for both countries.” Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Ukraine's independence. Bilateral ties resumed after a lengthy period of Soviet Union domination with the Protocol on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations signed between the countries in 1992.

Ankara views Ukraine as a state it needs to improve ties with as part of its initiative for enhancing relations with neighboring countries. A Ukraine that has consolidated democracy and aligned with the West will play a key role in achieving stability and peace in the Black Sea region and the Caucasus.

On the other hand, Turkey is an important country that plays a key role in connecting Ukraine to the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean. For this reason, Turkey bears priority for Ukraine on its southern front. In addition, the foreign policy lines of Turkey and Ukraine mostly overlap in the 21st century. Both countries also seek to protect peace in the Black Sea as part of initiatives under the auspices of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, secure integration with the European Union and improve cooperation in the region and with neighboring countries. Military relations are carried out bilaterally: the NATO-Ukraine Commission and Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task (BLACKSEAFOR).

Turkey and Ukraine complement each other in both political and economic terms. The total population of the two nations, which amounts to 120 million, creates a huge market. Ukraine's potential for defense, space and aerial affairs and Turkey's ability to meet Ukraine's demands for textiles and processed food mean that the national economies of the two countries are able to complement each other. Turkey is Ukraine's sixth-largest trade partner after the Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Italy, Germany and the US. In terms of imports, Turkey ranks third after the Russian Federation and Germany.

One of the issues that bond Turkey and Ukraine is their cooperation in respect to the resettlement of the Crimean Tatars, who were forced to migrate from Crimea to other Soviet republics during the Stalin era. Crimea and Crimean Tatars have never been a source of tension between the two countries; rather they serve as a bridge of friendship and cooperation. Turkey has been fairly understanding in respect to the difficulties that Ukraine encountered in the resettlement and integration of the 260,000 Crimean Tatars returning to their homelands and also offered support in creating infrastructure and building houses for the Crimean Tatars.

Turkish-Ukrainian relations and cooperation remain below their actual potential. One of the primary reasons has to do with the pro-Western civilian political transformations that have influenced the entire Black Sea region. Moscow calls this the color revolution. Ukraine, which has never restored stability, lost influence in the region and faced difficulties in resolving its economic issues ever since the color revolution. In addition, as is the case with the Russian Federation, the presence of Cold War-era perceptions among political elites, intellectuals and people in Ukraine negatively affect bilateral relations.

Ukraine declared its independence on July 16, 1990, and the Agreement of Independence was adopted on Aug. 25, 1991. Aug. 24 is celebrated as the Flag and Independence Day of Ukraine every year. The day was also celebrated on Sept. 6 in Ankara with a modest reception. While the Ukrainian Embassy in Ankara is pretty full, it fails to emphasize its presence in Turkey. Ukraine is now 20 years old and I hope its friendship with Turkey improves further.


Author: Columnist Hasan Kanbolat