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Russia: Putin Meets With Turkish Premier For Talks On Trade, Energy, Regional Issues

Putin and Erdogon have a discussion during a stroll today (INTRO) Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kicked off two days of talks yesterday at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Trade and energy issues dominated the talks. Putin vowed to boost energy supplies to Turkey and proposed to build new pipelines to Europe via Turkey. Both leaders also discussed a broad range of regional problems.

Moscow, 18 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Speaking to reporters before talks with the Turkish premier late yesterday, Putin made it clear economic issues would take center stage.

He said both countries had ambitious plans to boost trade in many spheres.

“Over the past years, cooperation between Turkey and Russia has been constantly increasing," Putin said. "I am referring to trade -- economic turnover has exceeded 10 billion (U.S. dollars), and we have set ourselves the realistic task of achieving a 25 billion (dollar) turnover over the next years. However, not only trade but also investment, cooperation in the field of energy and high technologies are of interest to us.”

Putin stressed Russia was eager to augment the volume of its investment in Turkey and called on the Turkish authorities to improve conditions for Russian investors.

Speaking to reporters after a second meeting with Erdogan today, Putin laid particular emphasis on energy issues.

He pledged to honor previous agreements to boost oil and gas exports to Turkey.

"First of all we will expand our cooperation in traditional areas such as energy, and we will not simply increase our supplies of oil and gas (to Turkey) but we will develop real cooperation," Putin said.

Putin said Russia was eager to develop Turkey’s existing infrastructure for gas storage and distribution. He added Moscow was also eyeing construction of new pipelines carrying oil and gas to European markets via Turkey.

"We are ready to build subterranean gas storage facilities in Turkey," Putin said. "We are ready to invest in gas-distribution networks during the privatization process (in Turkey) and to use gas pipelines that are currently under construction in Turkey and also build new ones to deliver our energy resources via Turkey to other countries, including southern Europe."
Putin said Russia was eager to develop Turkey’s existing infrastructure for gas storage and distribution.

Erdogan, for his part, said he wished to see the “Blue Stream” pipeline, which delivers Russian gas to Turkey, reach its full potential. The pipeline, he observed, delivers 4.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Turkey annually, much less than its capacity of 16 billion cubic meters per year.

Speaking at a press conference following the talks today, the Turkish premier reiterated his country’s support for Russia’s candidacy to join the World Trade Organization.

Arms sales were also on the agenda, with Putin declaring there was much space to enhance exchanges in this area.

"Our military and technology cooperation is practically at a zero level," Putin said. "At the same time the interest of Turkish consumers in our special equipment and military machinery is evident. I am pleased to hear that Mr. Prime Minister (Erdogan) believes it is possible for our producers to participate once again in a tender for selling our helicopters to Turkey."

Although public statements focused mainly on economic issues, both leaders said they had discussed a range of regional issues such as the situations in Iraq, Iran, and the Caucasus, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Putin also said Russia was in favor of ending the economic isolation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and that it will back the United Nations’ efforts to resolve the conflict.

This is the fourth meeting of Putin and Erdogan over the past seven months. They last met in May when the Turkish prime minister attended the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of World War II, held in Moscow.

After today's talks with Putin, Erdogan is due to leave for Mongolia.