Russia, Turkey pledge to put ties back on track
REUTERS photoTurkey and Russia can rebuild their damaged ties and grow even closer, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, said Aug. 9 in a critical meeting, their first since Ankara seriously strained relations by downing a Russian jet last year.
Putin said both sides would follow a program to restore their economic and trade relations, noting that the priority for Russia and Turkey was that their ties return to their pre-crisis level.
“Your visit today, which you made despite the really complex domestic political situation in Turkey, shows we all want to restart our dialogue and restore our relations,” said Putin, addressing Erdoğan.
Erdoğan’s visit to Russia is his first foreign trip since a July 15 coup attempt, in which more than 240 people were killed.
Putin said Russia would phase out sanctions against Turkey step by step, while adding that the priority was to return to the situation before the jet crisis.
The Russian president also described the talks with Erdoğan as “constructive.”
“The most important point here will be our joint energy projects. We need to take robust political steps so as to realize these projects. The Turkish side has already taken key steps to realize them, yet we put a number of limitations. We will of course need some time to return to the pre-crisis levels in several fields, including tourism. We will, however, resolve the issue of resuming charter flights to Turkey in the near future. We will also enable Turkish construction companies to enter Russia,” said Putin.
Erdoğan underlined the importance of the meeting, a first after months of strained ties.
Strategic investment status for Akkuyu nuclear power plant
“Talks with Putin were comprehensive and beneficial. Both sides are determined to restore our ties to the pre-crisis levels, and even better… I must say at the beginning that Turkey will grant a strategic investment status to the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. We will boost closer ties in the defense industry together with Russia,” said Erdoğan, adding that both sides would also accelerate works to establish a joint investment fund.
“The Turkish Stream project with Russia will be realized swiftly following a thorough review,” he added.
Turkey and Russia are reinstating their annual bilateral trade target of $100 billion, Erdoğan added.
“We used to reach $35 billion in bilateral economic and trade ties on annual basis, but this figure has regressed to $27 billion or 28 billion now. We are determined to increase this to $100 billion,” he noted.
The president said the visa issue with Moscow should also be resolved, saying it affected economic cooperation.
Opening Russian market to Turkish goods
Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said the Russian market could be open for Turkish food and imports by the end of this year.
Ulyukayev noted it was necessary first to do quality checks on Turkish products.
A number of sectors, notably trade and tourism, as well as some key energy projects, including the Akkuyu power plant and the planned Turkish Stream gas pipeline project, were deeply affected by the deterioration of relations with Russia following the downing of the Russian jet by Turkey last November. Now, companies and sectors from the both countries hope to return to the old days in the near future.
Exports from Turkey to Russia showed a sharp decline this year. Russia, which ranked ninth last year during the first seven months, regressed in the list to 20th over this year, following the ban on Turkish goods by Russia at the beginning of 2016.
Charter flights between Russia and Turkey were suspended in late October 2015, with regular flights resuming on July 22.
The number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey in the first half of the year decreased to 183,828, an 87.36 percent decline compared to the same period in 2015, the official data showed.