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News 09 Aug 16

Russian, Turkish Presidents Meet to ‘Reset’ Relations

Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an attempt to restore stronger ties after relations with the West were strained by Turkey’s post-coup crackdown.

Ankara, Istanbul
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and Russian President Valdimir Putin, at the G-20 summit in Antalya in November 2015. | Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

Putin and Erdogan meet in St Petersburg on Tuesday in what the Turkish leader said was an attempt to establish a “new beginning” in the two countries’ relationship after a crisis caused by Turkey’s downing of a Russian military plane last year.

"Now, I believe, we have a chance to reconsider everything, to open a new page in Turkey and Russia relations. I believe we have a lot to do as two important actors in all areas," Erdogan said in an interview with Russia's TASS news agency and state television station Rossiya 24, which was also published by the Turkish Anadolu agency.

"I consider this visit as rebirth, a new beginning of relations between the two countries and an opening of a new page," he added.

This is the two leaders’ their first face-to-face meeting since they spoke in June 2015 in Azerbaijan, and Erdogan’s first official visit since the coup attempt was defeated in Turkey .

Since last year, relations between Moscow and Ankara have soured dramatically, after Turkey in November 2015 shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 plane which it claimed violated its airspace.

Vladimir Putin refused a meeting with Erdogan during the climate summit in Paris in November, then Russia introduced economic sanctions against Turkey in the areas of tourism, construction, textiles, agriculture and other sectors.

But hints that relations could be mended came after the failed coup attempt on June 18, which caused Erdogan and his government to launch a massive crackdown on alleged conspirators.

Putin was among the first word leaders to voice his support for Erdogan after the coup attempt, Turkish officials reported. On June 19, he personally rang the Turkish president to express his condolences for those killed in the violence, and to offer his backing for Erdogan’s government.

On June 27, Erdogan then sent a letter to Putin, expressing his regret for the death of the pilot who was killed when Turkish armed forces downed the Russian jet, the Kremlin said.

Meanwhile, Turkish links with the West have deteriorated as Washington has remained reluctant to hand over, without concrete evidence, the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who was blamed for the attempted coup by the Erdogan government, and after EU countries and officials expressed serious concerns with the post-coup crackdown in Turkey.

Some commentators have speculated that Moscow is also keen to take advantage of this cooling of relations between Ankara and the West.

Turkey became a NATO member country in 1952 and was a key Western ally on the Soviet Union’s border during the Cold War.

Ankara submitted an application to join the EU in 1987, but the Turkish membership bid has long been stalled.

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