Erdogan travels to Russia to meet with Putin in “new milestone of bilateral relations”

Turkish president to meet with Putin in Russia, refers to Putin as “friend”; Meeting to center on restoring diplomatic and trade relations, as well as gas pipeline

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan arrived in St. Petersburg Tuesday to meet with his “friend” Russian President Vladimir Putin, their meeting to center on restoring diplomatic and economic relations as well as regional security, Syria, and resumed talks on a natural gas pipeline.

The visit is Erdogan’s first official foreign visit since the attempted coup in Turkey in July and follows months of strained relations between Turkey and Russia following the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkey in November. At the time Russia stated that the incident was “carried out by the accomplices of terrorists”, the Turkish government’s official statement on the incident “This isn’t an action against any specific country- our F-16s took necessary steps to defend Turkey’s sovereign territory.”

Before heading to Russia, Erodgan referred to Putin as his “friend”, stating that “This visit seems to me a new milestone in bilateral relations, beginning with a clean slate, and I personally, with all my heart and on behalf of the Turkish nation salute President Putin and all Russians.”

Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s advisor of foreign affairs stated that “This is the first meeting amid the long-term pause in all contacts, political, trade and economic and others, which is why it is important to hold a detailed conversation now, to see where we stand and plan the possible prospects of further cooperation.”

Russia was vocal in its support of Erdogan during the attempted coup, despite severed ties over Syria and Russian jet incident in November. Spokesman for Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, stated ahead of their meeting that Turkey “would like to look at the future with hope,” and that Turkey would “like to facilitate a political transition in Syria as soon as possible.”

Russia and Turkey’s economic relations came to a halt last year, Russian-Turkish economic ties until then estimated at $30 billion annually. Russia placed economic sanctions on Turkey that including halting progress in pursuit of constructing a gas pipeline, as well as the construction of a nuclear power plant in Turkey.

Putin’s meeting with Erdogan comes during extensive diplomatic efforts in the region.

On Monday, Putin met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev in Baku. Their meeting was centered on talks and agreements in economic cooperation and most importantly the North-South transport corridor- a railway link between Iran and Azerbaijan.

Putin stated ahead of their meeting “we are starting off with a clean slate in our relations with this trilateral meeting,” with President Aliyey stating “Azerbaijan is the only country in the world that has borders both with Iran and Russia. There are railway links between Russia and Azerbaijan. This year we’ve taken a decision that Azerbaijan will construct a railroad to Iran’s border. Hopefully, we’ll do it within the nearest months.”

The three leaders additionally signed agreements in security and combatting terrorism.

A declaration released from their meeting states “The sides intend to make efforts on integration of regional transport and communication opportunities for creation of safe transport infrastructure. They are determined to take effective steps for development of transport-communication infrastructure.”