Turkey – Russia aim to strengthen relationship

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference during their meeting in Ankara, Turkey. (AP)

After a major diplomatic row three years ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have put aside their differences and are working on better ties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin heads to Turkey on Tuesday for a series of meetings, including with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The two presidents will take part by video conference from Ankara in a breaking ground ceremony for Turkey’s first nuclear power plant being built on the Mediterranean coast at Akkuyu. The plant is being built with Russian technology and Russian and Turkish investment.

On Wednesday, Putin, Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are scheduled to hold a trilateral summit in the Turkish capital of Ankara with the war in Syria top of the agenda.

Russia and Iran have been the Assad regime’s key allies in Syria. Turkey backs the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Despite their differences over Syria, Turkey and Russia are forging closer ties, particularly in the economic field.

In December, Ankara and Moscow finalised an agreement for Turkey to purchase Russia’s long-range S-400 missile defence system.

TRT World’s Caitlin McGee has more on Putin’s visit, and the Ankara summit.

Economic cooperation

The two countries are also building the Turkstream pipeline to transport Russian gas to Turkey.

“Turkish-Russian relations are in a better mood compared with two years before, both parties are working together,” said Mitat Celikpala, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

“They managed to compartmentalise issues,” Celikpala said, citing Turkish and Russian divisions, including over the divided island of Cyprus and Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“If you set aside all those issues, they are good partners for the resolution of immediate interests.”

Syria summit

Russia and Turkey – along with Iran – are also working together to create “de-escalation zones” to reduce the fighting in Syria and bring the sides of the conflict together to negotiate the country’s future.

The co-operation comes despite their positions on opposing sides in the Syrian conflict – with Moscow siding with Syria’s Bashar al Assad and Turkey supporting opposition groups – since the start of the Syrian war seven years ago.

The conflicting interests led to the downing of a Russian warplane by a Turkish jet at the Syrian border in November 2015, complicating relations. But since then the two sides have improved ties, despite their differences over Syria.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies