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Putin receives Erdogan for talks on trade, Ukraine and Syria

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MOSCOW’s Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Russia on Friday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, focusing on a grain deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, prospects for talks on the end of hostilities in Ukraine, the situation in Syria and economic growth ties between Moscow and Ankara.

Speaking at the start of the meeting at Putin’s Black Sea Residence in Sochi, Erdogan said their negotiations would help highlight the role Turkey and Russia are playing in the region. He called the talks pivotal, saying they were being watched closely by the rest of the world.

Today, of course, the eye of the world is on Sochi, Erdogan said. They follow him, wondering what is being discussed and what is being done in Sochi.

Last month, Turkey and the United Nations helped broker agreements between Russia and Ukraine to pave the way for Ukraine to export 22 million tons of agricultural products stuck in its Black Sea ports since Moscow sent troops to the country more than five months ago. The agreements also allow Russia to export grain and fertilizers.

Three more ships carrying thousands of tons of corn left Ukrainian ports on Friday. The first ship to depart under the deal left Ukraine earlier in the week.

Putin thanked Erdogan for helping broker the grain deal, which is overseen from Istanbul by Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and United Nations officials. The cargo ships are accompanied by Ukrainian pilot ships for safe passage due to explosive mines scattered in the Black Sea.

The Russian leader stressed the importance of the agreement for many countries around the world that depend on Russian and Ukrainian exports to feed their people and grow their own crops. It is an acute problem for many developing countries, which face major food and fertilizer problems, he said.

In a statement released after the four-hour talks, Putin and Erdogan stressed the need for full realization of the comprehensive agreement reached in Istanbul. . . including the unhindered export of Russian grain and fertilizers.

They also noted the key importance of sincere, frank and trusting ties between Russia and Turkey for regional and global stability.

In March, Turkey hosted a series of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, who discussed a possible deal to end hostilities. The talks collapsed after the Istanbul meeting, with Russia and Ukraine blaming each other for the lack of progress.

When Putin and Erdogan met in Tehran last month on the sidelines of a trilateral summit with Iran, the Turkish leader made the Russian president wait nearly a minute before entering the room. Some observers interpreted the action as a reflection of Erdogan’s newly asserted position in his relations with Moscow, which has faced increasing pressure from the West.

There was no sign of such a posture during Friday’s talks, which saw the two presidents hailing their ties and pledging to develop them further. Erdogan’s visit to Sochi underlined the importance of close ties with Russia for Turkey.

Turkey and Russia, members of NATO, have a complex relationship. While the two countries back opposing sides in Syria and Libya, they cooperate closely on defence, energy and trade deals. Their relationship has frustrated Turkey’s Western allies, who have been particularly annoyed by Ankara’s purchase of a sophisticated Russian air defense system.

Turkey provided Ukraine with drones, which played an important role in deterring a Russian advance early in the conflict, but it did not join in imposing sanctions on Russia.

Putin praised the energy cooperation between Russia and Turkey, stressing the importance of the TurkStream gas pipeline which brings Russian gas to Turkey and southern Europe via the Black Sea.

European partners should be grateful to Turkey for ensuring the uninterrupted transit of our gas to European markets, Putin said.


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