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Will improved ties with Russia make Turkey regional player?

Not everyone close to the government thinks developing relations with Russia to counterbalance tense ties with the West is the right way to go.

Spurred by anger at the West, Turkey appears to be moving increasingly into Russia’s political orbit, especially in Syria. The Dec. 31 adoption by the UN Security Council of a resolution welcoming the cease-fire Turkey and Russia brokered in Syria was a diplomatic coup for Ankara and their efforts to end the crisis. The widespread coverage of the Turkish-Russian initiative also put Turkey back in the international spotlight as a regional power whose contributions could help end the bloody conflict. Having been sidelined for some time in attempts to end the Syrian war, Turkey now has the opportunity to return to center stage as a key regional player. This is not guaranteed, however, as there are hurdles that still must be overcome. Ankara seems nevertheless ready to exert more effort in doing so.

Despite the anti-Iranian mood in Turkey that peaked after the fall of Aleppo, Ankara is maintaining a close dialogue with Tehran on regional issues. Turkey has also decided to normalize its tense ties with Iraq. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a phone conversation Dec. 30 with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, although the two were hurling abuses at each other not so long ago over differences involving Turkey’s military presence in Iraq. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is planning to visit Baghdad in the coming days.

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