New Russian ambassador to Turkey, Alexei Yerkhov, emphasized the momentum gained between Ankara and Moscow and described bilateral ties as "promising."

New Russian ambassador to Turkey, Alexei Yerkhov, appointed after killing of his predecessor in December.
New Russian ambassador to Turkey, Alexei Yerkhov, appointed after killing of his predecessor in December.

Current relations between Moscow and Ankara are "promising", Russia's new ambassador to Turkey, Alexei Yerkhov, has told Turkish media.

"In the meantime, it requires a serious effort to bring them [relations] to a higher level," Yerkhov told Anadolu Agency.

The newly appointed ambassador, previously the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Crisis Management Centre, replaces Andrey Karlov, who was assassinated at an art exhibition in Ankara on December 19 last year.

Karlov had been delivering a speech at the opening of an art gallery when a gunman shot him several times.

Turkish-Russian relations were tested after Karlov's assassination. However, Russian leader Vladimir Putin described the shooting as a "provocation" designed to undermine ties with Turkey.

Yerkhov insisted political dialogue between Russia and Turkey was growing.

"I am talking about the communication between our senior management. Phone discussions between Russia's president [Vladimir Putin] and Turkey's president [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] have gained significant momentum recently," he added

Yerkhov said Karlov's killing had left both the Russian Foreign Ministry and the public in deep sorrow.

"We know that the investigation carried out by Turkey continues. We know that the institutions conducting the investigation in Russia are in intensive contact with their Turkish counterparts.

"We are sure that after completing the investigation, the results will be shared with the public and the Turkish people," Yerkhov said.

He also said Moscow appreciated Turkey's steps to immortalize Karlov's memory.

Ankara renamed Karyagdi Street in Cankaya district, where the Russian embassy is located, after Karlov.

Yerkhov also served as Russia's consul general in Istanbul between 2009 and 2015.

"During my six years of service, of course, I had difficult and beautiful times, but these six years were the happiest years of my life," he said.

"Very tight" coordination on Syria

Yerkhov said there was "very tight" coordination between Moscow and Ankara on Syria, based on "the context of the Astana process."

The ambassador said the fundamental aim of the Astana talks process was to create conditions for a ceasefire in some regions of Syria.

"We know that the situation in northern Syria is now very sensitive and it has become sensitive in the light of recent developments. The sensitivity of this situation indicates that we should have close the cooperation between the two countries," Yerkhov said.

Regarding the Syrian peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, Yerkhov said humanitarian aid could be delivered to regions where clashes had stopped.

Yerkhov said the Astana process was not in conflict with Geneva-based talks, adding: "For this reason, institutions and organszations that can contribute positively to both processes should definitely take part in it."

A December ceasefire in Syria brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran led to the Astana talks, which are being held in parallel to UN-backed discussions in Geneva, to find a political solution to the six-year conflict.

He said a "180-degree change" has not been experienced in Syria due to the difficult situation there.

"There is an emotional aspect for me to establish peace in Syria because I served there for three years and it is a special case for me to have peace there and the regions that I visited before," Yerkhov said.

Economic relations

Yerkhov said the trade volume between Moscow and Ankara had decreased, but economic relationships overall had developed.

"We think there is still substantial potential in trade between the two countries which has not been discovered," he added.

Erdogan frequently reiterates that Turkey's desire is to increase bilateral trade volume with Russia to up to $100 billion.

After Turkey shot down a Russian military jet over an airspace violation in November 2015, Moscow took several measures against Ankara, including banning imports of Turkish agricultural products and ending visa-free travel for Turks.

In June, Moscow lifted the ban on some agricultural produce and Turkish companies involved in construction, engineering and tourism.

Source: AA