Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have met in St. Petersburg, Russia on Tuesday for the first time since the Russian jet crisis last November.
— AYSEL BULUT (@Ay14sima14) 9 August 2016
Before their closed door meeting, Erdoğan said Turkey’s relations with Russia was entering a “very different period” since Erdoğan had written to Putin and followed up with a few phone conversations.
Erdoğan thanked his counterpart for being one of the first leaders who sincerely offered support during the failed coup which took place on July 15.
Erdoğan on Monday highlighted the importance of cooperation between Turkey and Russia in finding a solution to the long-standing Syria conflict.
In remarks made during an interview on Monday, Erdoğan said, “I must tell this clearly, the most important step, and primary actor in bringing peace to Syria is the Russian Federation.
"I think that we, Russia and Turkey, should resolve this [Syria] issue by taking a step together."
He added that if need be, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the US too could be included in the process. In a reference to the Bashar al Assad regime, he said Turkey will not back the "killer who committed the state terrorism."
"Let the Syrian nation elect the one or ones who will rule them.”
Erdoğan also said that Iran can be included in the transition process, adding that everyone desires "to end the blood and deaths as soon as possible."
‘New page’ in bilateral ties
Asked about his scheduled meeting with Putin, Erdoğan said both sides will discuss a number of sensitive issues, including the downing of a Russian jet last November, which he described as an “unfortunate incident.”
He noted that “eight months have passed since then. During this time we continued to contact each other. As you know, we had a project in the economy, worth about $100 million. A number of huge projects have been suspended in between, such as the Akkuyu [nuclear power plant agreement, which was signed in 2010 between Russia and Turkey].
“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, including cultural, trade, political, military, economy [sectors]. I have no doubts in this matter,” he said.
He later described his upcoming visit to Russia as a “rebirth” and a "new beginning of relations between the two countries and an opening of a new page.”
Erdoğan noted the loss of time and long delay in Turkey's first nuclear power plant project, which is being built with Russia.
In 2010, Turkey signed agreements with Russia for the construction and operation of nuclear power plants in Turkey.
The project was planned to end in around seven years. However, even though the due date is approaching, the project could not be started properly, Erdoğan said.
Turkey’s first nuclear power plant Akkuyu in the province of Mersin on the southern Mediterranean coast was due to be carried out by Russia with a budget of $25 billion. It remains under construction and is expected to have a capacity of 4,800 megawatts.
“Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant Project is the most important contract signed by us with Russia,” he said.
“Due to the latest issues, we are losing time, continually. We wish to discuss it and finish the project, soon.”
Turkish Stream pipeline
Erdoğan said the two sides should also take steps to make progress on the Turkish Stream pipeline project.
Turkey has imported around 12.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas from Russia, so far. “We are now the biggest buyer of Russian gas and there are steps to be taken jointly, in this regard,” Erdoğan said.
Announced by Putin in December 2014 during a visit to Ankara, the Turkish Stream pipeline project plans to carry Russian gas via the Black Sea and Turkey to southeastern Europe.
The project was shelved following the November crisis. Now with the normalisation of relations between the countries underway, the project is expected to once more be an important topic during bilateral talks.
On July 29, Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said talks with Turkey had resumed on the Turkish Stream natural gas project.
"We should take more steps for diversification of Turkish products to Russia,” he added.
Erdoğan will go to Russia with a delegation that will include Turkish businessmen. “They are the most powerful investor firms in Turkey,” he said, adding that he hoped both sides would start a fresh process.
Turkey invites Russian tourists
Erdoğan said there were no problems in Turkey’s tourist areas and dismissed fears based on security concerns.
"All security measures have been taken," the president said.
"We are ready to host our Russian friends in Turkey," Erdoğan said.