PM Erdoğan set to meet Putin over Syria
Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan (R) will discuss the topic of Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his two-day official visit to Sr. Petersburg.Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will pay a two-day official visit to St. Petersburg starting today to attend a Turkish-Russian High-Level Cooperation Council with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the ongoing crisis in Syria will likely be the main item on his agenda.
Ankara and Moscow have adopted opposing stances over the Syrian crisis since the uprising erupted in 2011 before agreeing to disagree on Syria even while opting to move forward on improving bilateral ties.
Turkey backs the Syrian opposition, while Russia supports the Syrian government both in political and military terms.
The visit also comes as the international community pushes for the realization of a long-delayed Geneva II meeting, a U.S.-Russia-led peace conference which aims to bring together the Syrian government and opposition.
Turkey will urge Russian officials to also focus on the humanitarian aspect of the Syrian crisis, according to Turkish officials. Erdoğan said earlier this month that Turkey supported the conference on Syria but blamed Russia for the failure this week to agree on a date for the talks.
“The process was again postponed. Why? Because [Moscow] is telling the opposition to accept a transitional government with [President Bashar] al-Assad’s involvement,” Erdoğan said at that time.
“Come and sit at the table, and leave behind all the pre-conditions.”
The Nagorno-Karabakh talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which recently resumed, are likely to be discussed at the meetings, as Turkey has urged both parties to make progress so that normalization between Ankara and Yerevan can be pursued in parallel.
Erdoğan is expected to have a tête-à-tête with Putin. He will be accompanied by ministers including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım.
Turkey’s first planned 4,800 megawatt (MW) Mersin-Akkuyu nuclear power plant to be built by Russia’s Rosatom will also be reviewed during the meetings. An environmental impact report (ÇED) by Rosatom, which the Turkish authorities require, may be conducted at the beginning of 2014.
The nuclear power plant may be delayed by at least a year, a source close to the plans told Reuters in October, as bureaucratic hurdles have hampered the $20 billion project.
Russia is currently one of Turkey’s main trading partners. The trade volume between Turkey and Russia is nearly $34 billion. Both countries have said they hope to increase the figure to $100 billion by 2023.
The balance of trade leans in favor of Russia since it is the primary exporter of gas to Turkey.
The opening of a Russian-Turkish Culture Center in Turkey and the rehabilitation of Turkish war cemeteries in Russia is also on the agenda.