Russia’s Putin to meet Turkey’s Erdogan for Syria talks
Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a landmark visit to Istanbul on Monday to discuss their differences over the crisis in Syria.
The visit follows a delay because of tensions between the two countries over the 20-month-old Syrian conflict and speculation that the Russian president might postpone his long-awaited trip due to a back injury.
But the visit, which marks Putin’s first trip outside Russia since he visited Tajikistan on October 5, has been confirmed by both Turkish and Russian officials.
Syria is expected to figure high on the agenda during Putin’s talks with Turkish leaders.
“The negotiations are to touch upon a series of urgent international and regional issues including reconciliation in the Middle East, the situation in the Gaza Strip, the crisis in Syria, as well as cooperation,” Putin’s foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov said in a statement.
Turkey and Russia are at loggerheads over how to tackle the bloody crackdown in Syria, which has claimed more than 40,000 lives according to monitoring groups.
Those tensions came to a head in October when Turkey intercepted a Syrian plane en route from Moscow to Damascus on suspicion that it had military cargo, drawing an angry response from Russia.
Ankara said the cargo contained military equipment destined for the Syrian defence ministry. Moscow insisted it was dual-purpose radar equipment which was not banned by international conventions.
Turkey, once an ally of the Damascus regime, has become one of its fiercest critics. But Moscow remains one of the few allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, routinely blocking resolutions against his regime in the UN Security Council.
Russia also objects to Turkey’s request to Nato for the deployment of Patriot missiles near its volatile border with Syria. It has warned that such a move could spark a broader conflict that would draw in the western military alliance.
But Turkey insists the US-made Patriots would be used for purely defensive purposes, and Nato’s response is expected this week.
In Istanbul, Putin will co-chair with Turkey’s Erdogan a high-level cooperation council meeting, a mechanism established between the two countries to foster ties in every sphere.
After that meeting, there is a telephone conversation scheduled between Putin and Turkish President Abdullah Gul, the Russian aide said.
Despite their divergences on some issues, the two countries enjoy growing trade and energy links.
Turkey depends on Russia for most of its natural gas and oil supplies. In 2010, Ankara struck a deal with Moscow to build the country’s first nuclear power plant at Akkuyu in the southern Mersin province.
After the Istanbul meeting, both countries are expected to sign a number of agreements including a memorandum of understanding in the sphere of banking and finance.