Putin, Erdogan move to fix ties amid tension with West
August 11, 2016
Image: President Putin of Russia (sourced)
Russia and Turkey took a big step toward normalizing relations on Tuesday, with their leaders announcing an acceleration in trade and energy ties at a time when both countries have troubled economies and strains with the West.
President Vladimir Putin received his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a czarist-era palace outside his home city of St. Petersburg. It was Erdogan’s first foreign trip since last month’s failed military coup, which left Turkey’s relationship with the United States and Europe badly damaged.
The visit is being closely watched in the West, where some fear both men, powerful leaders ill-disposed to dissent, might use their rapprochement to exert pressure on Washington and the European Union and stir tensions within NATO, the military alliance of which Turkey is a member.
Putin said Moscow would gradually phase out sanctions against Ankara, imposed after the Turks shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border nine months ago, and that bringing ties to their pre-crisis level was the priority.
“Do we want a full-spectrum restoration of relations? Yes and we will achieve that,” Putin told a joint news conference after an initial round of talks. “Life changes quickly.”
Cooperation would be increased on projects including a planned $20 billion gas pipeline and a nuclear power plant to be built in Turkey by the Russians, Erdogan said, as well as between their two defense sectors.
“God willing, with these steps the Moscow-Ankara axis will again be a line of trust and friendship,” Erdogan said.
The leaders were to discuss the war in Syria, over which they remain deeply divided, in a subsequent closed-door session. Progress there is likely to be more halting, with Moscow backing President Bashar Assad and Ankara wanting him out of power.
Turkey has been incensed by what it sees as Western concern over a post-coup crackdown but indifference to the bloody putsch itself, in which rogue soldiers bombed parliament and seized bridges with tanks and helicopters. More than 240 people were killed, many of them civilians.
Putin’s rapid phone call expressing his solidarity to Erdogan in the wake of the failed putsch had been a “psychological boost,” the Turkish president said.
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