Although Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan brought his energy minister along on a one-day visit July 18 to Moscow, it’s safe to assume that rather than oil and gas prices, the question of how to resolve the crisis in Syria dominated the discussion between Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
Ankara and Moscow have adopted dramatically divergent positions on how to deal with the crisis, with Turkish leaders publicly calling for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to step down, and Turkey serving as a staging ground for the Syrian opposition. Russia, on the other hand, has emerged as the Assad regime’s most significant international backer.
Although this difference of opinion has yet to result in any sort of visible rupture, analysts warn that the crisis in Syria – along with a handful of other percolating regional issues where the two countries’ interests don’t align – has the potential to undermine Ankara’s post-Cold War efforts to strengthen and deepen its political and economic ties with Russia.
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Yigal Schleifer is a freelance journalist who focuses on Turkey. He is the editor of Eurasianet's Turkofile and Kebabistan blogs.