Leaders of Turkey, Russia to Discuss Syria

Russia and Turkey’s respective presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will meet on March 10 for the sixth meeting of their bilateral high-level cooperation council in Moscow, as relations continue on the delicate path of normalization following a spat over Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet in 2015 that led to the cancellation of the meeting later that year.

Syria to top agenda

Erdoğan plans to discuss the issues of Iraq and Syria in detail during his meeting with Putin, spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told reporters on March 9, adding that the outcomes of the recent Antalya meeting of the top generals of the United States, Turkey and Russia would also be assessed.

Turkey and Russia are currently coordinating their military activities in Syria, especially around the town of al-Bab, which the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) has seized from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). There is an ongoing effort to prevent a military standoff between FSA fighters and the Syrian army south of the town, as well as a potential Turkish-Syrian confrontation.

However, Russia’s cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has frustrated Ankara, with Moscow proposing a draft constitution to Syrian opposition groups in Astana including “cultural autonomy” for the Kurdish population of the country and hosting PYD representatives in Moscow after allowing them to open a representative office in the country.

Agreements to be signed

The parties will sign several agreements, Kalın said, adding that discussions will also include process that have launched since normalization in June 2015, but not completed yet. The spokesperson was referring Russia’s resistance to clearly lifting restrictions on trade and economy.

Turkey has urged Russia to make a discount in the price of natural gas imported by Turkey, lift all prohibitions on the exports of Turkish agricultural products to Russia, waive visas for business leaders and tourists and increase the number of work permits for Turkish nationals in Russia. Moscow has been lifting sanctions on Turkey that were imposed after the jet crisis, but Moscow has only been taking gradual steps.

While there were around 40,000 Turkish citizens in Russia before the crisis, the number has been reduced to 13,000 due to the visa and other subsequent restrictions.



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