Turkey, Politics, Europe

Putin touts ties with Turkey picking up pace

Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lead Russian-Turkish talks in Moscow amid growing bilateral ties

Elena Teslova   | 08.04.2019
Putin touts ties with Turkey picking up pace


Russian-Turkish ties have recently significantly stepped up in pace and volume, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday, concluding a meeting at the Kremlin with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

During several phases of talks today at the Kremlin, the two leaders discussed the whole range of bilateral ties, Putin told a news conference in Moscow.

He recapitulated growth data, with the trade volume rising almost 16% to top $25 billion, and the volume of mutual investments approaching $20 billion.

Following the meeting, the heads of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and Turkiye Wealth Fund signed a pact to establish a joint investment fund to finance important projects.

“Nominal capital is $1 billion, and with such capital it will be able to attract investments of at least $5 billion for various projects,” Putin said.

‘Not easy’ talks

The Russian president said the talks were not easy, as the sides argued on some points, including taxation in the metallurgical industry and gas prices.

“But we know what we're talking about. Our Turkish partners are fighting for their interests; we’re fighting for our interests. Our cooperation is for the benefit of the peoples of Turkey and Russia, and we will work on balance,” he said.

Putin called Russia and Turkey’s cooperation in the energy domain “strategic.”

He promised to complete construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Plant by 2023, the centenary of the Turkish Republic.

About differences over gas prices, Putin said they do not come from Gazprom, but from the market.

“We will look for and find solutions, because we value the Turkish market. Turkey has many gas supply contracts, but not all of them are fulfilled, and Russia is fulfilling all of its obligations. This creates the basic conditions for an atmosphere of trust,” he said.

The construction of TurkStream is going according to schedule, he said, adding that by the end of the year, Russian gas will begin to flow to Turkish consumers along this route.

Once the Turkish part is completed, the transit part of TurkStream will start to deliver Russian natural gas to Europe, he said.

“Both of these projects meet the highest environmental and economic standards and will become important elements of the regional and pan-European energy security system,” Putin stressed.

Russia, Turkey can launch joint military production

Vladimir Putin said he and Erdogan discussed military cooperation, in particular the contract for Turkey to buy S-400 air defense systems from Russia.

“There is room for developments here. We may enter into joint development and joint production of high-tech military equipment,” he said.

Visa regime to be liberalized

Putin said humanitarian contacts and relations between the countries’ civil societies are strong, citing regular meetings of university heads and exchanges between Russian and Turkish news agencies.

“Last year, Turkey was visited by 6 million Russians, making Russia the top country in the number of tourists visiting the country. We’re grateful to the Turkish side for ensuring the safety and comfort of Russian tourists,” he said.

Putin promised “to work consistently” to liberalize the visa regime.

“In the near future, the issue of ending visa requirements for professional drivers will be resolved. We agreed that all holders of service passports will enjoy a visa-free regime, Turkey has three times more holders of such passports than in Russia.

“As for the visa-free regime in general, it is connected with ensuring security in the region as a whole, including a lasting solution to the Syrian problem. Here, our special services must develop certain parameters. And the work goes on,” he said.

Idlib, Syria 'solvable' problem

On the situation in Syria, Russia and Turkey along with Iran will continue trilateral work in the Astana format aiming to resolve the crisis, Putin said.

“Now, when the main terrorist forces have been defeated, it is important to focus on final stabilization of the situation on the ground and promoting a political settlement in line with UN Resolution 2254. We agreed to facilitate early launch of the constitutional committee,” he said.

On the situation in the province of Idlib, he said he expects joint efforts will help normalize the situation inside and around the de-escalation zone, and will eventually lead to neutralization of the terrorist hotbed.

“At the same time, we proceed from the need to preserve Syria's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. It is unacceptable to divide the country into zones of influence.

“The Idlib problem is acute, we were not able to reach the parameters that were agreed to in Sochi, but I believe it is solvable,” he said.

Putin mentioned how the defense ministers of the two countries met and discussed this issue and agreed on joint patrols.

“We have not yet succeeded in establishing a joint monitoring center, but I am confident that we will do so. The movement is not as fast as we would like, but there is movement in this direction. All terrorist centers must be destroyed. For the peace process, we need to solve this problem,” he said.

Putin also stressed the need for post-conflict rehabilitation of Syria’s basic infrastructure – houses, hospitals, schools, and water and energy.

“It is important that the entire world community participate in this process. Only together will we be able to return Syrian refugees to their homes,” he said.

Putin also called U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territory “contradictory to UN Security Council resolutions.”

Asked about the beginning of a full-fledged political process in Syria, he said it could begin only after formation of the constitutional committee.

“Its composition is under review by the UN special envoy for Syria. We are actively working on this from both the Russian and Turkish sides,” he said.

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