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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine Peace Talks: Erdogan's Chance To Cement Turkey As Key Power Broker

Photo of ​Erdogan speaking at the Ukraine-Russia peace talks in Istanbul

Erdogan speaking at the Ukraine-Russia peace talks in Istanbul

Massimo D'Angelo

After more than a month of fighting, a fresh round of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine has begun in Istanbul in the hope that progress can be made. Following weeks of fruitless talks in Belarus, negotiations were hosted by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who made a short opening statement telling both sides: “The world is waiting for good news, and good news from you.”

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The very fact that talks have moved from Belarus, a key Russian ally, to Turkey is an indication that things have changed and that Russia’s military position is not as strong as it had originally hoped for. Meanwhile, the decision to hold the meetings in Turkey make sense for a number of reasons.

It’s not the first time the two sides have met since the invasion on February 24. Turkey hosted a meeting in Antalya on March 10 between the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and his opposite number, Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba. The talks took place against a backdrop of worsening violence across Ukraine and were largely unfruitful, except as an opportunity for the two sides to send messages to the watching world.

Lavrov said that the US and its allies had forced Ukraine to choose between Russia and the west. Kuleba, meanwhile, appealed for Russia to allow the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, which was – and remains – under heavy bombardment.

Now the talks have returned to Turkey – this time to Istanbul. The Nato member has plenty of recent history with Russia going back several years. Turkey has always feared Russian interference in the strategic Bosphorous and Dardanelles, which is why it joined the western alliance in 1952. Russia’s annexation of Crimea also worried Ankara as it increased its influence in the Black Sea region. This much was evidenced when Turkey closed the Bosphorus Strait to warships at the end of February.

Complicated power plays

Russia’s involvement in Syria introduced tensions between the two countries. In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near its border with Syria. Turkey said the aircraft was in its airspace at the time and had ignored warnings to leave. Russia insisted the aircraft had remained within Syria’s borders and had received no warnings. For a few days there were fears of a confrontation, which would have been the first between Russia and a Nato member.

The two countries started to patch things up in 2016, against a backdrop of a deterioration of relations between Turkey and the US over Washington’s support for Kurdish militias in Syria. In July of that year, after an attempted coup by a faction of the Turkish army, Putin was quick to express solidarity with Erdoğan, who then made Russia his first port of call after the coup. Erdoğan also apologised to Russia for the shooting down of its aircraft, offering compensation to the family of the Russian pilot who died.

In 2017, Turkey concluded a US$2.5 billion (£1.9 billion) deal with Russia to purchase the S-400 mobile surface-to-air missile system. For Nato, the prospect of Russian systems being integrated into Nato’s larger defence structure were extremely worrying. The then Trump administration duly imposed sanctions on Russia. Relations hit rock bottom.

To complicate things further, in 2019 Bayraktar – a company owned by Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar – started to sell to Ukraine its combat drone Bayraktar TB2. These are cheaper than their western equivalents but have inflicted a great deal of pain on Russian convoys, surprising military analysts.

Photo of Russia's Putin and Turkey's Erdogan shaking hands at a meeting

Putin and Erdogan shaking hands at a meeting


Playing the honest broker

This history has given Turkey a unique position as a host for talks. Being seen to help resolve the crisis in Ukraine will no doubt help Ankara improve its relations with the west, which seems ready to pursue a degree of rapprochement with one eye on what Turkey could do to help with instability in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as developments in the South Caucasus and Afghanistan.

Turkey also needs to keep on the good side of Russia. It was recently suggested that Turkey might supply Ukraine with the Russian S-400 systems it purchased in 2017. But this would irredeemably jeopardise relations with Russia, which would be the last thing Ankara wants given the extent to which Turkey’s economy benefits from good relations with Moscow.

Russian tourists nowadays dominate Turkey’s tourism sector representing 28% of all tourists. In addition, Turkey relies on Russia for 45% of its natural gas, 17% of oil and 40% of its gasoline.

So, faced with a need to improve relations with both Russia and the west, playing the role of mediator in Ukraine will suit Erdoğan’s purposes well. The country also has a track record of mediation in the Middle East and the Caucasus and is an acknowledged Black Sea power, as its closure of the Turkish Straits shortly after the Russian invasion clearly demonstrates.

These are high stakes for Erdoğan to play for. So much could go wrong, but if Turkey emerges as having played a key role in ending Russian violence against Ukraine, then its status as a first-level power in the region will have been secured.The Conversation

Massimo D'Angelo, PhD Researcher at the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance, Loughborough University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGOTikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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