Putin, Erdogan Agree on Steps to Mend Relations

Putin, Erdogan Agree on Steps to Mend RelationsPutin, Erdogan Agree on Steps to Mend Relations

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cozied up to his “dear friend” Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in a visit intended to send a message to his allies in the West, whom he blames for what he considers a lack of support after a failed coup.

President Erdogan has pressed the United States to extradite the man he claims was behind the failed insurrection and has sought more funds and visa-free travel from the European Union, but it’s unclear what leverage improved ties with Russia could give him, AP reported.

Putin, in turn, expects Turkey to become more accommodating of Russia’s interests in Syria and move faster on major energy projects—demands Ankara could find difficult to meet.

After their talks in St. Petersburg’s Konstantin Palace, both leaders emphasized their shared desire to rebuild ties, but it remained unclear if they could reach common ground on the Syrian crisis.

While Moscow has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the nation’s civil war and further bolstered that support by launching an air campaign last September, Turkey has pushed for Assad’s removal and helped his foes.

Putin said he and Erdogan would have a separate discussion on Syria involving top diplomats and intelligence officials.

Repeatedly calling Putin his “dear friend”, Erdogan refrained from mentioning any sticking points after the talks, saying he expects ties to fully blossom again soon.

The downing of a Russian jet at the Syrian border last November, which Putin called a “treacherous stab in the back”, brought relations to a freezing point where they remained for seven months until Erdogan apologized to Russia in June.

Putin responded by ordering his government to start rebuilding ties with Turkey and when Erdogan faced the botched coup attempt on July 15, the Russian leader quickly offered his support.

Erdogan emphasized that pledge of support, saying “it was very important for us psychologically. It offered us moral support and showed Russia’s solidarity with Turkey.”

While Putin also spoke of rebuilding ties, he sounded more cautious, warning that it will take time to fully restore them.

Moscow has accused the Turkish government of turning a blind eye to the flow of weapons and supplies to the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group and other extremists in Syria. While Kremlin has tempered its rhetoric amid the rapprochement, Putin will most certainly push Erdogan to cut support for the rebels engaged in a fierce battle with Assad’s forces in Aleppo.

Moscow could use economic levers to force Turkey to compromise on Syria. Turkey badly needs the flow of Russian tourists to resume, and Turkish farmers, construction companies and other businesses badly need to regain access to the Russian market, which has been shut to them after the plane’s downing.