Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an interview broadcast live on Wednesday by television stations managed by his family, accused the opposition of treason and serving as the tool of foreign powers. Erdogan said there were three main messages he wanted to give to voters ahead of the May 14 elections: that they would not involve Turkey in a war; that they would preserve the sanctity of the family; and that they would be sensitive to public opinion, which is against accepting new refugees from Syria. He also accused the West of drawing Turkey into the environment of war against Russia.
Stating that “our region has turned into a field of international struggle,” Erdogan added that they were able to build a strong and independent Turkey that must be preserved.
“If it weren’t for our efforts in the last two years, the Western club would have drawn Turkey into an environment of war against Russia. We won’t allow that as long as we’re here.”
“We fought and we will continue to fight so that war does not come to these lands. Let me explain. We will not take our country to war,” Erdogan said.
Defining the war between Russia and Ukraine as a “process,” Erdogan said Turkey would continue its attempts to end this process as a serious and determined mediator. Erdogan has never stated that Russia invaded Ukraine. He also said he told his NATO counterparts that the West had provoked and underestimated Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During the live interview, Erdogan did not hide his desire to see Putin attend the April 27 inauguration of the first reactor at the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, built by Russia in southern Turkey.
“There is a possibility that Mr. Putin will come on the 27th of April. If not, we’ll connect virtually.”
Emphasizing the importance of nuclear energy so that Turkey does not fall victim to an energy shortage, Erdogan said that in the past, he told Germany’s former chancellor, Angela Merkel, that Germany had made a huge mistake by closing their nuclear facilities.
The Kremlin denied reports on Monday that Putin was coming to Turkey. However, the Turkish government aims to strengthen Erdogan’s image by holding a ceremony attended by Putin before the elections.
NATO member and EU candidate Turkey previously announced it would not participate in the sanctions imposed on Moscow by the United States and European Union due to its dependence on Russia for natural gas and also because Turkey is a favorite destination of millions of Russian tourists.
Foreign trade statistics since the beginning of the war, however, show that Turkey’s trade with Russia increased considerably in 2022. According to Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK) data, trade volume with Russia, which was $34.73 billion in 2021, doubled to $68.19 billion in 2022, with imports from Russia accounting for a significant part of the increase
Since Turkey, not a part of the Western bloc against Russia, was rewarded by Moscow, it saved on oil expenditures and earned some money from cheap Russian oil during a currency crisis due to a deteriorating economy, with the Turkish lira depreciating more than 28 percent against the dollar in 2022.
In March President Erdogan made a controversial statement concerning Russian oligarchs to pro-government journalists on the way back from the NATO summit in Brussels, saying: “… if there are certain capital groups that want to come to our country and ‘park’ their facilities with us, of course, we won’t keep our doors closed to them. Our door is open to them as well.”
Erdogan’s call must have been heeded by Russian businesspeople since Russians ranked first by country in the number of foreign joint ventures established in Turkey in 2022, with 1,363 companies set up with Russian partners. Of these, 140 were joint stock companies and 1,223 were limited liability companies. In 2021 only 177 companies were founded with Russian capital. Russians invested primarily in real estate and investment advisory companies.