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Putin, Turkish Premier To Discuss Economic, Military Cooperation

Erdogan (left) and Putin during their recent meeting in Moscow 18 July 2005 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin begins two days of talks today with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the southern Russian resort town of Sochi.

Erdogan's visit comes after Putin traveled to Turkey in December, the first official visit to the country by a Kremlin leader in three decades.

The talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi are likely to focus on prospects of Russian-Turkish economic cooperation and also on regional problems.

The Kremlin said Putin and Erdogan would discuss an increase of natural gas exports to Turkey and some aspects of regional and military cooperation.

Kirill Koktysh, an analyst with the Moscow Institute of International Relations, said there are no serious problems in relations between the two nations. He says possibilities for closer economic ties exist.

"In fact, there are no strategic disagreements between Russia and Turkey," Koktysh said. "There are no problems between the two countries [in the questions of foreign policy] that would need the serious attention [of the two heads of state]."

Koktysh said Putin and Erdogan would likely discuss the situation in Iraq and the issue of the Kurds, which Turkey considers to be vital. He said Turkey is also interested in developments in the Caucasus but that relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia continue to stagnate. Prospects for a resolution in the near future of the Nagorno-Karabakh do not appear promising.

There is more space for Turkish-Russian cooperation in the economic field.

ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed Kremlin source as saying that gas supplies to Turkey are expected to reach 30 billion cubic meters by 2010. The same official said the volume of deliveries of Russian natural gas to Turkey in 2004 totaled 14.5 billion cubic meters.

The official also said the two countries have potential for "interaction in military technological cooperation and the aerospace sector." He gave no details but said the work is coordinated within the framework of the Mixed Commission for Military-Technological Cooperation, which held its last meeting in Ankara in September 2004.

Turkey's ambassador to Russia, Kurtulush Tashkent, told ITAR-TASS that military cooperation is "developing dynamically." He said Turkey plans to buy Russian helicopters and spare parts and other military equipment.

But Koktysh cautioned against expecting anything too dramatic out of this weekend's talks.

"There are unlikely to be any serious breakthroughs [in relations]," Koktysh said.

Koktysh said tourism and mutual trade is growing between the two countries. ITAR-TASS reported that trade between Russia and Turkey amounted to $11 billion in 2004, with cooperation in the gas and energy sectors on the rise.

Erdogan is meeting Putin for the fourth time in the last seven months. Their last encounter took place in May, when the Turkish prime minister came to Moscow to attend celebrations of the 60th anniversary of World War II.

Erdogan's visit comes in the wake of a terrorist attack in Turkey.

At least five people were killed in an explosion on a minibus in the popular Turkish coastal resort of Kusadasi on 16 July. One Irish and one British tourist died.

"Dear friends, like I said in Hereke -- terror is a phenomenon of which you don't know where, when, how, why, or whom it is going to hit," Erdogan commented on the blast while speaking to reporters the same day in Istanbul. "Terror has no religion. It has no race, no nationality, no country. Unfortunately, an hour and a half ago, such an act of terror has happened in Kusadasi."

There has been no claim of responsibility so far.

Kurdish rebels have said they were behind recent bomb attacks in Aegean resort towns.

(compiled from wire reports)

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