Putin announces previously strained Turkish-Russian relations now normalized

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a joint press conference following their meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi on May 3, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Alexander NEMENOV

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday that strained relations between Ankara and Moscow have now been normalized as his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, pays a second visit to Russia in as many months.

Addressing a joint press conference with Erdoğan in Sochi on Wednesday, Putin said Russian-Turkish relations have achieved a special status and are being fully restored after they deteriorated following the downing by Turkey of a Russian jet in late 2015 near the Syrian border over alleged infringement of Turkish airspace.

It is good to announce it today. All sanctions have bad effects on the economy. … We agreed to revoke all [sanctions]. Of course, we can make it convenient for experts, regular visitors to Russia. Of course, we will not close our market to Turkish tomatoes forever,” he said.

Erdoğan said during the press conference that Turkey and Russia have serious work ahead and a heavy responsibility on their shoulders concerning the fate of the entire region, especially Syria.

Putin also congratulated Erdoğan on the results of an April 16 referendum on constitutional amendments that expanded his powers as president and will introduce an executive presidency in the country.

Syrian cease-fire tops agenda of Erdoğan-Putin talks in Russia

During the press conference in Sochi on Wednesday, Putin said the top item on the agenda of their meeting was the situation in Syria, as both Ankara and Moscow are aiming to consolidate a cease-fire in the country.

According to the Hürriyet Daily News, Russia has suggested that Turkey deploy cease-fire monitoring forces in Syria after Moscow established the same mission in the northern Afrin region. Russia raised the proposal of a truce monitoring mission by Turkish security in the field after Moscow deployed troops near Menagh Airport in the Afrin region in March, in collaboration with the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

While Russia and the US supported the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, Turkey repeatedly asked Moscow and Washington to cut their ties with the Kurdish YPG as Ankara considers it a terrorist group due to its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

On May 2, Putin had a telephone call with US President Donald Trump that signaled improving prospects for cooperation on Syria.

A Kremlin statement said on Tuesday that Trump and Putin agreed to bolster diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian civil war, which has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions more displaced.

The White House also announced it would send a top State Department official to Russian-led talks on Syria that began on Wednesday in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana.

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