Turkey, Russia sign natural gas deal, normalize relations

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) speaks to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) as they attend a press conference on October 10, 2016 in Istanbul. Putin visits Turkey on October 10 for talks with counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pushing forward ambitious joint energy projects as the two sides try to overcome a crisis in ties. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first visit to Turkey since a crisis over a downed jet strained relations last year, Russia and Turkey signed a deal on a natural gas pipeline deal called Turkish Stream and took steps forward the normalization of bilateral relations.

The energy ministers of both countries on Monday signed the deal, which would carry Russian natural gas under the Black Sea and through Turkey to Europe. In a joint press conference Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan both spoke about the efforts to normalize relations after the latter apologized in June for downing a Russian jet that had violated Turkish airspace for 17 seconds at the Syrian border.

At the press conference Putin announced the removal of sanctions against Turkish fruits and vegetables imposed after the jet crisis in November and said that a discount in natural gas prices would be offered to Turkey.

In his remarks Erdoğan said he has full faith in the normalization of relations between the two countries. According to Erdoğan, he and Putin discussed possible cooperation in Operation Euphrates Shield, which Turkey has been conducting in northern Syria to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

As far as Syria is concerned, despite disagreements over embattled leader Bashar al-Assad, Turkey and Russia discussed sending humanitarian aid to Aleppo. However, Putin expressed reservations on the “reliability” of the actors to send aid to the besieged city. According to Putin, the United States does not or is unable to prevent gunfire against humanitarian convoys in Syria despite his suggestion of an alternate route.

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