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Putin, Erdogan Pledge Cooperation To Help Bring End To Syrian Conflict

  • RFE/RL

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, citing improved bilateral ties, pledged to work together to help bring an end to the conflict in Syria.

The two leaders held talks on March 10 to address the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, economic and energy ties, and efforts to combat terrorism.

"We are working actively on the settlement of the most acute crises in the world, first of all in Syria," Putin said. "I am pleased to say that nobody expected this, but at the level of military authorities, intelligence services, we have a very trustful, very effective dialogue."

Erdogan's trip to Moscow is seen as a chance for him to bolster ties with the Kremlin at a time when Turkey's relationship with the West has been fraying. It also comes amid tension with Turkey's NATO allies and the European Union.

Erdogan was sharply criticized by authorities in Germany after making comments accusing Berlin of "Nazi" practices when several German cities canceled rallies planned by Turkish government ministers.

The rallies were to be aimed at raising support from Turkish voters who live in Europe for a Turkish referendum that would give Erdogan more powers, a move criticized by many in the West who say it would consolidate too much power in the president’s hands.

But relations between Russia and Turkey, regional rivals for centuries, have also had sharp ups and downs in the past two years.

Turkey and Russia support opposing sides in the Syrian war, and their ties were severely strained when Turkish jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border in November 2015.

That incident occurred weeks after Russia launched a campaign of air strikes in Syria targeting opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's government.

"As far as security matters in our region are concerned, I believe that it takes joint efforts to end bloodshed in Syria," Erdogan said after the meeting.

Russia and Turkey now jointly support a Kazakhstan-based series of negotiations to end the fighting in Syria, and have begun coordinating military operations there in some cases.

Russia said on March 9 it had lifted a ban on imports of carnations and some types of vegetables from Turkey that was imposed after the plane was shot down.

Erdogan said during the meeting that cooperation in implementing two energy projects, the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey and a planned natural-gas pipeline called Turkish Stream, was returning "very rapidly to previous levels."

Russian and Turkish media have reported that the talks would include a meeting of the high-level bilateral cooperation council that will include negotiations on the possible purchase by Turkey of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.

With reporting by Reuters, TASS, Interfax, and TRT TV
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