Syria on agenda as Putin, Er­do­gan meet in Rus­sia

Muscat Daily - - REGION -

Sochi, Rus­sia - Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and his Turk­ish coun­ter­part Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan met in Sochi on Mon­day, with ef­forts to bring peace to Syria set to dom­i­nate the agenda at the Black Sea Re­sort.

De­spite be­ing on op­pos­ing sides of the Syr­ian con­flict, Rus­sia and Turkey have been work­ing to­gether since a 2016 rec­on­cil­i­a­tion deal ended a cri­sis caused by the shoot­ing down of a Rus­sian war plane.

“Our re­la­tion­ship has been re­stored al­most to its full ca­pac­ity,” Putin said ahead of the talks, adding that he was glad to see the Turk­ish leader.

“I am sure our meet­ing to­day will be very ef­fec­tive,” Er­do­gan said.

“The main talk­ing point will be the sit­u­a­tion in Syria - the func­tion­ing of de-es­ca­la­tion zones and the con­tin­u­a­tion of the process of po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment,” Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said ahead of the meet­ing.

The pair last met in Ankara in Septem­ber, when they agreed to push for the cre­ation of a ‘de-es­ca­la­tion’ zone in Syria’s key north­ern prov­ince of Idlib, in ad­di­tion to oth­ers al­ready pro­posed.

Rus­sia, along with Iran, is the key backer of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad. Moscow’s mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Syria is widely seen as tip­ping the bal­ance in the con­flict.

Turkey, how­ever, has backed the rebels seek­ing As­sad’s ouster.

Moscow and Ankara have sup­ported ne­go­ti­a­tions in Kaza­khstan’s cap­i­tal As­tana from the start of the year, which have run par­al­lel to talks tak­ing place in Geneva with the back­ing of the United Na­tions.

Alexei Malashenko, di­rec­tor of re­search at the Di­a­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions in­sti­tute, said Putin and Er­do­gan had a ‘mu­tual need’.

“Rus­sia, which is in a very dif­fi­cult po­si­tion (in Syria), sim­ply can­not lose al­lies there - they can’t even lose part­ners, let alone al­lies,” he said.

Mean­while Er­do­gan is dis­sat­is­fied with the West’s at­ti­tude to­wards him, Malashenko said, point­ing to a deal Ankara has signed to buy S-400 air de­fence sys­tems from Rus­sia.

The deal, re­port­edly worth US$2bn, has shocked Turkey’s NATO al­lies.

Malashenko said the econ­omy could also be on the agenda at the talks, as Turkey seeks to re­gain a lead­ing role in the con­struc­tion busi­ness in Rus­sia.

“It’s a meet­ing of two charis­matic peo­ple, two peo­ple with a very high opin­ion of them­selves, two lead­ers,” Malashenko added, stress­ing the strength of the pres­i­dents’ per­sonal re­la­tion­ship.

An ap­par­ent agree­ment at the last talks be­tween Putin and Er­do­gan saw the re­lease of two lead­ing Crimean Tatar ac­tivists who had been sen­tenced by Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties for their po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties in the penin­sula an­nexed from Ukraine.

Er­do­gan has pledged to sup­port Crimea’s Turk­ish-speak­ing Tatar mi­nor­ity.

Rus­sia and Turkey have a record of strug­gling to over­come a re­gional ri­valry that goes back to the Ot­toman Em­pire and the Ro­manov dy­nasty.

Ties be­tween the two coun­tries went through their worst cri­sis since the end of the Cold War when the Turk­ish air force shot down a Rus­sian war plane over Syria in Novem­ber 2015.


Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin (right) and Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan in Sochi on Mon­day

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