Russia and Turkey took a big step towards normalizing ties on Tuesday when Russian President Vladimir Putin met his visiting Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan, at a time when both countries have strained relations with the West.
Turkey and Russia are restoring their annual bilateral trade target of $100 billion, Erdogan said on Tuesday. He also told a joint news conference with Putin that talks regarding the renewal of charter flights from Russia to Turkey will be accelerated.
Erdogan said added that both Turkey and Russia are determined to normalize ties and he believed relations between the two countries had strengthened and become more resistant to crisis.
Tensions between the two countries had peaked as the two stepped up military action in Syria in support of opposing sides, edging closer to direct confrontation in the country’s increasingly internationalized war.
The growing rift between the two countries raised the alarms of Western diplomats amid fears that Russia is seeking to undermine Nato by ramping up its clash with Ankara.
Speaking at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan said their talks had been “comprehensive and beneficial” and that Putin’s phone call to him after last month’s failed coup “meant a lot psychologically”.
An official in Erdogan’s office said there was a clear consensus about improving relations that were damaged when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border late last year. “The general mood has been very positive,” the official said after the meeting in St. Petersburg.
“Your visit today, which you made despite the really complex domestic political situation in Turkey, shows we all want to restart our dialogue and restore our relations,” said Putin, addressing Erdogan.
Erdogan’s visit is his first foreign trip since the abortive coup, in which more than 240 people were killed.
Putin told Erdogan that he hoped Ankara could fully restore order after a failed military coup last month, saying Moscow always opposed unconstitutional actions.
Erdogan’s trip is being closely watched in the West where some fear his growing detente with Moscow could affect his links with NATO, of which Turkey is a member.
Putin welcomed Erdogan in a Tsarist-era palace just outside his home town and immediately signaled he was ready to improve relations with Turkey, which he said had gone from a historical high point to a very low level.