Erdogan and Putin renew ties during visit to Russia

By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Tuesday to restore economic ties damaged after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane in November.

The pair shook hands and exchanged pleasantries after meeting at Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, with Erdogan thanking Putin for calling him soon after the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey. The Russian leader praised his counterpart’s commitment to restoring ties, according to the BBC.

“Your visit means that all of us want the dialogue to be resumed,” Putin said, the BBC reported.

The two leaders promised to reverse all sanctions put in place after the plane was shot down, the Associated Press reported. Erdogan, referring to Putin as his “dear friend,” said they agreed to construction of a Russian natural gas pipeline through Turkey and to a deal for Moscow to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, the AP reported.

Economic relations between the nations were fractured after the Russian jet was shot down, which occurred as ties between Turkey and Russia were already strained over the Syrian civil war. Turkey supported rebel fighters, while Putin sent military forces in September to bolster embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Russian warplane was shot down about a month later.

Erdogan and Putin also plan to discuss Syria’s five-year civil war during their visit.

The talks, however, could increase tensions with the United States and Turkey’s other NATO allies, who have expressed concerns about Erdogan’s widespread crackdown on freedom after the failed coup. Tens of thousands of judges, police, military and university professors have been purged from their posts in the aftermath.

Turkey is also demanding that the U.S. extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, claiming Gulen and his followers were behind the coup attempt. Gulen has denied the allegations.

Tuesday’s meeting with Putin came after Erdogan wrote a letter in June apologizing to the Russian leader for downing the plane.

Putin described the incident at the time as a “treacherous stab in the back” and curtailed economic relations, placing an embargo on agricultural imports from Turkey and banning package tours to the country. The incident also placed on hold the much-favored Russian natural gas pipeline.


(Photo: Alexander Nemenov, AFP/Getty Images)