Russia’s Medvedev to attend Black Sea Economic Cooperation summit in Istanbul
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will pay a visit to Istanbul on May 22 to attend a summit of the Organization of the Black Sea Cooperation (BSEC) and hold talks with senior Turkish officials amid expectations that Moscow will soon lift all sanctions imposed on Turkish agricultural goods.
Before Medvedev, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Energy Minister Alexander Novak came to Istanbul to participate in a preliminary meeting as part of the summit hosted by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş on May 21. The last high-level talks between Ankara and Moscow took place on May 3 in Sochi between the respective Turkish and Russian presidents, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin, who discussed joint efforts to reinforce a cease-fire in Syria and the state of the countries’ bilateral relationship.
Although Turkey and Russia could mend ties after a long-crisis due to the former’s downing a Russian warplane in November 2015, a number of sanctions imposed on Turkish goods, as well as a strict visa regime on Turkish nationals have not been lifted. In a statement to Russian media, Dvorkovich announced that trade and travel restrictions on Turkey would be lifted within a week, saying, “Nearly 99 percent of the work has been completed.”
In another sign of further improvement of ties between the two countries, Moscow announced that it would appoint Alexei Yerkhov as its new ambassador to Ankara, five months after the assassination of Envoy Andrey Karlov.
Turkish, Russian officials in talks
In Istanbul, Turkish and Russian delegations are expected to meet on the sidelines of the summit and discuss all aspects of their relations, with a special focus on trade and energy. The Turkish delegation will be led by Erdoğan, who will also open the summit on May 22.
BSEC summit opens
The BSEC was established in 1992 by 11 countries, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine in a bid to foster interaction and harmony among member countries, as well as to ensure peace, stability and prosperity by encouraging friendly and good-neighborly relations in the Black Sea region. Serbia subsequently joined the BSEC.
This year’s summit will mark the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the BSEC.
“The declaration will convey a strong and loud message that the BSEC is here, it is adapting to changing circumstances, and it is reacting positively and in a timely way to new challenges,” BSEC Secretary-General Michael Christides said at a preliminary meeting.
“[The BSEC] is ready to lead the way to turn our geostrategic region into an area of cooperation, stability and prosperity,” he added.
Türkeş, speaking at the same meeting, underlined that Turkey would like to see changes in the BSEC to make it a more effective group. “Turkey favors reforms to the BSEC. For instance, the chairmanship period should be extended from six months to a year. This would be very useful for the country holding the chair, and the level of attendance at meetings would rise,” Türkeş said.