Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin emphasized political solution for the prolonged Syrian conflict during a meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi where they discussed the next phase of their cooperation for de-escalation zones.
“Our relationship has been restored almost to its full capacity,” Russian President Putin said before the meeting. He then praised the “very productive” discussions with his Turkish counterpart.
Mr. Erdogan’s visit comes after Mr. Putin and U.S. President Donald J. Trump reached an agreement for the establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria under the auspices of Geneva process.
President Erdogan criticized the deal, calling on the U.S. and Russia to pull out of troops from Syria.
Turkish ties with Russia came to the brink of breakdown and even a military confrontation after Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane over the Syrian border in late 2015.
A month before a failed coup last year, both sides moved to mend ties after President Erdogan sent a letter of apology to his Russian counterpart.
Since then, both leaders cultivated a strong, cordial relationship. The Sochi meeting was the sixth this year, an indication of a strong chemistry between the two leaders, which paved the way for working together in Syria where both countries have been backing opposing sides.
Turkey, Russia and Iran reached an accord in May to build de-escalation zones in Syria.
Mr. Putin said he informed the Turkish president on the U.S.-Russia statement and his meeting with the Iranian leadership during a trip to Iran earlier this month.
“Our joint work with Turkey and Iran has brought concrete results,” AP quoted the Russian leader as saying. “Violence has abated, and favorable conditions have been created for advancing an inter-Syrian dialogue under the U.N. auspices.”
His assessment was shared by Mr. Erdogan who said de-escalation zones in Syria facilitated “setting the ground for political settlement.”
Despite the remarkable progress in bilateral ties, there are still unresolved matters that negatively affect the full restoration of trade in some areas, especially agricultural products. Russia is slow to fully allow for imports of Turkish fruit and vegetables.
Despite fluctuating signs, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said last week that purchase of Russian S-400 air defense system has been completed. Turkey also moved to reach an accord with French-Italian consortium to seek ways for a joint production with Eurosam.
During his meeting with the Russian president, Mr. Erdogan said Turkey is paying special attention to military and defense cooperation with Russia.