Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian Premier Vladimir Putin met 13 times and had eight phone conversations in 2018, making significant progress in strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shake hands after a joint press conference in Sochi, Russia on September 17, 2018.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shake hands after a joint press conference in Sochi, Russia on September 17, 2018. (AA)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Vladimir Putin of Russia are scheduled to have their first meeting for 2019 later this month. 

The meeting follows the Turkish delegation’s visit to Russia on December 29 last year. 

The Turkish delegation included Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, and presidential aide, Ibrahim Kalin.

While Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia and Turkey have reached an understanding over the next steps in Syria, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey and Russia have a common aim to defeat all terrorist groups in Syria.

As part of Turkish president's visit to Russia in January, Erdogan and Putin are likely to make major decisions on bilateral and regional issues including Syria, and also the purchase of S400 air defence systems.

The meeting will also take place in the backdrop of Turkey's recently announced military operation against terror groups in northern Syria, which was postponed after the US president Donald Trump announced the troop pull out from the contested region.  

Turkey perceives the presence of YPG in northern Syria as a cross-border security threat. The YPG is the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US, and the European Union. However, the US rebranded the group as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Erdogan and Putin held seven private meetings and six open door meetings in 2018 alone, besides the two leaders having 8 phone conversations the same year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meet as they participate in the commemorative ceremony within the centenary of the end of World War I, on November 11, 2018 near the Arc de Triomphe monument located in Champs-Elysees in Paris, France.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meet as they participate in the commemorative ceremony within the centenary of the end of World War I, on November 11, 2018 near the Arc de Triomphe monument located in Champs-Elysees in Paris, France. (AA)

In addition to the planned meetings, the two leaders were spotted chatting on the sidelines of the commemoration ceremony of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War that was held in Paris on November 11, 2018. 

2018 meetings, started in Ankara

The first meeting of 2018 was held in Ankara, where Putin came to attend a trilateral summit on Syria.

The two leaders met at the Presidency Complex one day before the trilateral summit on April 4. After one-on-one discussions, Turkey-Russia High-Level Cooperation Council meeting was chaired by Erdogan and Putin.

Two leaders met at 6 summits

Erdogan and Putin met six times at the following summits in 2018.

The two leaders also took important steps in 2018 during the Astana process to solve the problem in Syria and continued to engage over various issues such as regional, bilateral relations and economics. After the Sochi Summit on September 17, it was decided to establish a region where the fighters and heavy weapons would be pulled to a contact line in Idlib region.

The two presidents later announced that the decision to establish a demilitarised zone in Idlib was a result of bilateral agreement and constance engagement between Turkish and Russian delegations in Sochi.

The United Nations (UN) Special Representative of Syria Staffan de Mistura appreciated the role of two leaders in establishing a ceasefire to protect tens of thousands of civilians in Idlib.  "I personally thank Turkey's President Erdogan and Russian President Putin for coming on board. A very important result was received from this meeting," Mistura said. 

Turkish-Russian cooperation in the energy field

The two leaders have also made significant progress in enhancing cooperation in the field of energy in 2018, laying the foundation for Turkey's flagship Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant on April 3.

President Erdogan along with his Russian counterpart Putin attended the ceremony with a video conference from Turkey’s Presidential Complex.

Another ceremony was held at the Istanbul Congress Center on November 19, as the offshore section of the Turkish Stream Project (TurkStream) was completed, which is an important project in terms of demonstrating the scope of Turkish-Russian cooperation.

At the ceremony of multimillion dollar project, the last pipe to be installed in the offshore section was lowered by the order of two leaders, who also attended the event. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (2nd L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) attend the groundbreaking ceremony of Akkuyu Nuclear Santral via video conference call, at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on April 03, 2018.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (2nd L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) attend the groundbreaking ceremony of Akkuyu Nuclear Santral via video conference call, at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on April 03, 2018. (AA)

Continuing S400 process with Russia

Some important developments happened last year, on one of the most important aspects of Turkey-Russia relations, the purchase of S400 air defence systems.

While the US has long desired for Turkey to cancel the purchase of S400 air defence systems from Russia, Turkey has objected saying the purchase of S400s cannot be made a precondition for the Patriot defence system sale.

On his visit to Turkey in April last year, Putin said he's decided to reduce the time of delivery of the S400 systems, a decision made by the Russian premier after meeting President Erdogan. 

President Erdogan, underlining that the topics relevant to S-400 missiles are Turkey's own decision, said “The positive approach of our fellow Russian Federation to this demand has brought this agreement between us and we made our agreement about S400 and we closed this book, it was done”

Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, in his statement following the December 24  Presidential Cabinet meeting, underlined that this decision coming from the US about the Patriot missiles will not affect the S400 process in any way; emphasised that the process regarding the S400 missiles are completed, the delivery of the first parts are expected on October 2019 and  they did not consider those two systems [S400s and Patriots] as alternatives to each other.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies