Putin to visit Turkey with ‘extremely pragmatic’ goals

Putin to visit Turkey with ‘extremely pragmatic’ goals

Sevil Erkuş – ANKARA
Putin to visit Turkey with ‘extremely pragmatic’ goals

Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Ankara on Sept. 28 to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with a wide range of topics on the agenda: The Astana process on a cease-fire in Syria, the independence referendum held by the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Sept. 27 said the trip had “extremely pragmatic” goals, according to Russia’s official TASS news agency.

“Russia and Turkey are in close cooperation in the economic, military, technical and cultural area,” Peskov said.

The visit is expected to cement rapidly developing bilateral relations, which were strained for two years after Turkey shot down a Russian military jet in November 2015 due to an airspace violation, but ties have still not fully recovered.

Erdoğan and Putin are expected to discuss the issue of de-escalation zones in the northwestern province of Idlib, where guarantors of the ceasefire deal - Turkey, Iran, and Russia - will assume a monitoring role in the rebel-held province.

In September Turkey, Russia, and Iran agreed on deploying hundreds of observers around the province to check de-escalation efforts.

During Putin’s visit the Turkish side is expected to raise concerns over recent Russian airstrikes on rebel-stronghold, in which Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said several civilians and moderate opposition members were killed.

Turkey and Russia also recently sealed an agreement on the procurement of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, causing concern among Turkey’s NATO allies, who say the Russian air defense system is incompatible with the NATO system.

Economic ties between the two countries and the ongoing disagreement between Ankara and Moscow over the former’s efforts to restart exports of tomatoes to Russia will also be on the agenda.

Russia has loosened its restrictions on Turkish food exports, with the exception of an embargo on tomatoes, which have traditionally formed a large part of Turkish vegetable exporters’ shipments to the Russian market.

Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said on Sept. 26 that an agreement on this longstanding issue was “very likely.” He also denied that it will be done in return for Turkey’s purchase of meat from Russia.

Erdoğan reportedly discussed the issue of the Iraqi Kurdish referendum on independence on the phone with Russian President Putin on Sept. 25. Russia has not expressed a firm rejection of the referendum yet, though Turkey has issued a series of harsh warnings to KRG President Masoud Barzani over the vote.

Moscow has voiced its support for Kurdish national ambitions but also warned about Iraq’s territorial integrity.