Erdogan Visits Russia to Mend Bilateral Ties

Erdogan Visits Russia to Mend Bilateral TiesErdogan Visits Russia to Mend Bilateral Ties

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed in Russia on Tuesday for his first meeting with counterpart Vladimir Putin since the two leaders began healing a bitter feud over Ankara’s downing of a Russian warplane in November.

Erdogan’s visit to Putin’s hometown of Saint Petersburg is also his first foreign trip since the failed coup against him last month that sparked a purge of opponents and cast a shadow over Turkey’s relations with the West, France24 reported.

“This visit seems to me a new milestone in bilateral relations, beginning with a clean slate, and I personally, with all my heart and on behalf of the Turkish nation, salute Mr. Putin and all Russians,” Erdogan said in an interview with Russian state media.

The shooting down of a Russian fighter jet by a Turkish F-16 over the Syrian border last November saw a furious Putin slap economic sanctions on Turkey and launch a blistering war of words with Erdogan that seemed to damage ties irrevocably.

But in a shock reversal in late June, Putin accepted a personal expression of regret over the incident from Erdogan and immediately rolled back a ban on the sale of package holidays to Turkey and signaled that Moscow would end measures against Turkish food imports and construction firms.

Opening the talks, Putin said he was “glad” to be seeing Erdogan again and praised his visit as Turkey’s commitment to repair the soured ties.

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

Putin is interested in mending the rift with Turkey in the hopes of reviving key economic projects, including a much-touted pipeline to carry natural gas to Turkey, and expanding Russia’s clout in Syria.

Both leaders looked composed when they met and shook hands for a picture.

Erdogan, in his opening remarks, thanked Putin twice for inviting him to Russia and said cooperation between the two countries should benefit the entire region.

Analysts say that Erdogan, with the visit, may also be hoping to play the Russian card to strengthen his hand in disputes with the United States and European Union.

Turkey is pressing the United States hard to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen whom the government blames for the failed July 15 coup. Gulen denies the claims.

Putin was one of the first foreign leaders to phone Erdogan offering support and shared none of the misgivings of EU leaders about the ensuing crackdown.