Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan hosted Russia’s Vladimir Putin at an Ottoman-era villa in Istanbul for talks which touched on energy deals, trade and tourism ties, defence and the conflict in Syria, where the two leaders back opposing sides.
“Today has been a full day with President Putin of discussing Russia-Turkish relations ... I have full confidence that the normalisation of Turkish-Russian ties will continue at a fast pace,” Erdogan told a joint news conference. "Our relations will [improve] in many fields, be it in defence industry, political, economic, trade, tourism or culture. We will make up for lost time in the coming days.”
The warming relations between NATO member Turkey and Russia comes as both countries are dealing with troubled economies and strained ties with the West.
Putin said Moscow had decided to lift a ban on some food products from Turkey, imposed after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border last November, and that both leaders had agreed to work towards the full-scale normalisation of bilateral ties.
They signed a deal on the TurkStream undersea gas pipeline, which will allow Moscow to strengthen its position in the European gas market and cut energy supplies via Ukraine, the main route for Russian energy into Europe.
Turkish plan replaces EU South Stream project
The plan for TurkStream emerged after Russia dropped plans to build the South Stream pipeline to Bulgaria due to opposition from the European Union, which is trying to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. South Stream was scrapped after years of planning, with Putin furiously blaming Brussels for its failure.
The pipeline agreement was signed by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Turkish counterpart Berat Albayrak, in the presence of Putin and Erdogan after their talks, an AFP correspondent reported.
The TurkStream project had languished amid uncertainty after the crisis triggered by the shooting down of a Russian war plane by Turkish forces over the Syrian border in November 2015.
The chief executive of Russian gas giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller, had said ahead of the signing that the agreement foresees the construction of two lines of pipe on the bed of the Black Sea.
The annual capacity of each line is to be 15.75 billion cubic metres of gas (bcma) making a total capacity of over 30 bcma. The agreement aims to build the lines by 2019, Miller added.
Erdogan also said plans for a Russian-built nuclear power plant in Turkey would be accelerated. Time lost on the Akkuyu project because of strained relations would be made up, he said.
In 2013, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom won a $20 billion contract to build four reactors in what was to become Turkey’s first nuclear plant, but construction was halted after the downing of the Russian jet.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)