Russia, Turkey move toward reconciliation, sign pipeline deal

by WorldTribune Staff, October 11, 2016

Russia and Turkey acted to patch up frayed relations on Oct. 10.

In his first visit to the country since Turkey downed a Russian jet near the Syrian border last November, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Istanbul for the World Energy Congress where he and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed an inter-governmental agreement to build the stalled TurkStream gas pipeline under the Black Sea to Turkey.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right and Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, look at each other during a news conference following their meeting in Istanbul on Oct. 10. /AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Istanbul on Oct. 10. /AP

Putin and Erdogan said they also discussed delivering humanitarian aid to Aleppo, Syria and other forms of military and intelligence cooperation.

In June, Turkey apologized for the jet incident, leading to a gradual improvement in relations and Moscow’s easing of sanctions that were damaging the Turkish economy.

“Our relations will (improve) in many fields, be it in defense industry, political, economic, trade, tourism or culture,” Erdogan told reporters on Oct. 10. “We will make up for lost time in the coming days.”

The reconciliation comes as Turkey has become increasingly isolated diplomatically, particularly with the United States due to differences over the Syrian Kurdish YPG, viewed by the U.S. as some of the most effective fighters against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) but viewed by Turkey as a terror group.

Turkish relations with the West were also tested following the July 15 failed coup attempt that was followed by Erdogan’s purges and demands for the U.S. to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blamed for the coup attempt.

Putin, meanwhile, immediately threw his support behind Erdogan after the coup, in what analysts said was an overt attempt to drive a wedge between NATO member Turkey and the West.

In Istanbul on Oct. 10, Putin also announced Russia would resume imports of fruits and vegetables from Turkey and the two sides set up an investment fund to “boost relations in many areas, such as tourism, energy, agriculture and transport,” Turkish state-run Anatolian News Agency reported.