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Turkish Chief of General Staff Put Secret Plan to Improve Relations with Russia | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan after a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, on December 1, 2014. Reuters

Ankara-A high-ranking diplomatic source revealed a secret plan that was implemented to regain good relations between Russia and Turkey after they had deteriorated with the downing of a Russian Su-24 jet by Turkish F-16s on Nov. 24, 2015, killing the two Russian air force pilots.

According to İbrahim Kalın, the spokesman for Erdoğan, businessman “Cavit Çağlar played a very important role in solving the crisis, as well as Nursultan Nazarbayev, who showed great friendship to Turkey” and “the patriotic initiative taken by Gen. Hulusi Akar, the Chief of General Staff” despite the area being out of his responsibility.

According to high-ranking diplomatic and security sources who asked to remain anonymous, the secret diplomacy ending the Turkish-Russian crisis unfolded as follows:

Late April, Akar told Erdoğan that there might be a channel that could be used to solve the crisis.

He told Erdoğan that Cavit Çağlar, a textile investor, had business in the Russian Federal Republic of Dagestan.

Çağlar used to be in politics in the 1990s, serving as a minister of state in Süleyman Demirel’s cabinets and knew the Dagestani president, Ramazan Abdulatipov, well from those times.

Abdulatipov had access to Putin through his chief adviser, Yuri Ushakov.

When Çağlar was a minister, Akar was the chief of the cabinet for the then-chief of General Staff, and they had known each other well since then.

Çağlar had been beneficial to the state as a minister and then as a businessman before, Akar told Erdoğan.

He was the channel between Ankara and Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan in Nakhchevan and in Baku in the mid-1990s.

After meeting with Çağlar and Akar in Istanbul on April 30, Erdoğan gave the green light for the operation.

Appointed by Erdoğan as the contact person for Turkey in relations with Ushakov for Russia, Kalın started to pen the draft of the letter from Erdoğan to Putin. Through Çağlar and Abdulatipov, shuttle diplomacy started between Ankara and Moscow, where the content and form of the letter was edited by the two parties a number of times during May and early June.

Kalın wrote a draft and working together with Russian translators and diplomats from the Kazakh Embassy in Ankara, they managed to find the Russian word of “izvinite” – which is stronger than saying “sorry,” but not as strong as “apology.”

Erdoğan signed the letter and asked Kalın to take off immediately.

Moreover, a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan was held on Monday in order to end the jet’s crisis and to begin a new chapter in the two countries’ relations.

Ahead of the meeting with Putin, Erdogan commented in an interview with TASS on Moscow-Ankara relations, the military coup attempt, the Kurdish question, Syrian peace settlement and anti-terrorism efforts.

Erdogan said: “I am certain that we will have an opportunity to discuss all these aspects and that a new page in Russian-Turkish relations will be opened.”