Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart have held talks in Moscow in a bid to boost military and economic ties between their countries. The war in Syria was a major focus of the leaders’ discussion.
Following his meeting with the Turkish leader on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the “efficient and close contact” between the two countries’ militaries and intelligence agencies when it came to Syria.
“Russia and Turkey … have made a major contribution not only to securing a ceasefire between Syrian government forces and the armed opposition, but also to launching direct, concrete talks” between them, Putin said at a joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Moscow.
Although Russia and Turkey back opposing sides in the Syrian war, they have been increasingly working together there in recent months to carry out attacks on terror groups such as “Islamic State” and to enforce a nationwide ceasefire. They also co-sponsored two rounds of talks this year between the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its opponents. A third round of talks in Kazakhstan is scheduled for next week.
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“We have kept all lines of communication open until now, and we will continue to do so from now on,” Erdogan said. “Whether it is Turkey or Russia, we are working in full cooperation militarily in Syria. Our chiefs of staff, foreign ministers, and intelligence agencies cooperate intensely.”
Relations between Moscow and Ankara took a hit after Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane on the border of Turkey and Syria in 2015. Moscow responded by barring the sales of package tours to Turkey and halting imports of agricultural products.
Erdogan’s apology for the plane-downing incident in mid-2016 helped rebuild ties. During Friday’s press conference, Erdogan referred to Putin as “my friend” and urged Russia to lift all restrictions against Turkish business, restore visa-free travel and increase the number of commercial flights between the two countries.
Russia agreed to partially lift a ban on Turkish foods, allowing the imports of Turkish onions, cauliflower, broccoli and other agricultural products. Additionally, Moscow announced it would reverse restrictions for Turkish companies and employees in Russia.
The two countries also cemented economic collaboration on the planned Russian natural gas pipeline and a nuclear power plant in Turkey, and declared 2019 to be a year of cultural exchange between the countries.