Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan set to meet after damaging rift

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in St. Petersburg on Aug. 9 as the two countries continue to improve their once-strained relations.

The visit marks a first since last November when Turkey downed a Russian fighter along its border with Syria and is also Erdoğan’s first foreign visit after a failed coup attempt on July 15 in Turkey.

The two leaders will meet at 1 p.m., private broadcaster NTV reported.

The Turkish presidency said Aug. 8 that the meeting between the two presidents was expected to speed up the normalization process.

Speaking to Russia’s TASS news agency on Aug. 7 before his visit, Erdoğan said he expects talks with Putin will open “a new page” in bilateral relations.

“This will be a historic visit, a new beginning. At the talks with my friend Vladimir [Putin], I believe, a new page in bilateral relations will be opened. Our countries have a lot to do together,” TASS quoted Erdoğan as saying, according to Reuters.

“The visit is expected to accelerate the normalization process between the two countries,” the Turkish Presidency said in a statement.

Erdoğan and Putin are expected to discuss reinforcing bilateral relations, as well as regional and international developments, it added.

“Without Russia’s participation it’s impossible to find a solution to the Syrian problem. Only in partnership with Russia will we be able to settle the crisis in Syria,” Erdoğan said.

Russia and Turkey have been on different sides in Syria, with Moscow backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Ankara wants him ousted.

After the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian jet over the Turkey-Syria border, relations between the two countries soured until the issue seemed largely resolved on June 29 through a letter that Erdoğan penned for Putin, where he expressed his regret over the incident, and subsequent telephone calls between the countries’ leaders.

On June 30, Russia lifted a ban on tourist flights to Turkey following a phone conversation between the leaders.

Turkish and Russian foreign ministers later met in the Russian city of Sochi on July 1.

Erdoğan’s meeting with Putin coincides with renewed strains in Ankara’s ties with the West after a failed military coup in Turkey in which more than 250 people were killed. Turkey accuses the West of showing more concern over a post-coup crackdown than over the bloody events themselves.

Putin, on the other hand, gave his support to Turkey after the July 15 coup attempt and said he stood by the elected government, offering his condolences to the victims of what Erdoğan called the “most heinous” armed coup attempt in modern Turkish history.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the German government said Aug. 8 that Germany did not believe that a thaw in relations between Turkey and Russia would affect Turkey’s role in the NATO alliance.

The spokeswoman said it was important for both countries to communicate given the threat situation in the region, and their respective roles in ending the civil war in Syria.

“We do not believe that the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia will have consequences for the security partnership within NATO,” said spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli. “Turkey is and remains an important partner within NATO.”

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