Friends, enemies, friends again: Russia unfazed by Turkey crisis

As Russia gets ready to welcome Turkey's president and the survivor of a coup attempt, officials in Moscow aren't too perturbed about how these events will test the countries' rekindled relations.

Despite Turkey's political unrest, relations with Russia have been on a gradual course of improvement since the leadership in Ankara apologized last month for the downing of a Russian warplane, the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told dpa.

However, she cautioned that bilateral relations cannot be rebuilt in a day. "It's a long process," she said by phone.

Russia's traditionally robust ties with Turkey plummeted to an unprecedented low late last year when a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian warplane on the Syrian border.

But last month, marking a dramatic pivot in Russian-Turkish relations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized to the family of the killed Russian pilot.

Next month, Russian President Vladimir Putin will host Erdogan in Russia, the Kremlin said Wednesday. The meeting will be their first since the Russian plane was shot down in November.

"This will be a decisive meeting," Alexey Malashenko, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, told dpa. Bilateral relations will surely improve, he said, but the extent will be determined by Turkey's political situation.

Following the attempted coup in Turkey over the weekend, Putin was one of the first world leaders to call Erdogan, in a gesture of solidarity.

Putin "expressed words of sympathy to President Erdogan over the numerous deaths, both among civilians and law enforcement officers who stood against the plotters, and expressed his hope that constitutional order and stability will be restored in Turkey as soon as possible," the Kremlin said in a statement on Sunday.

Next week, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli is expected to visit Moscow to discuss the resumption of trade and economic ties, including in the energy sector.

A major topic of discussion could be the proposed Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, slated to stretch from Russia to Greece via Turkey and the Black Sea.

But Russia views Turkey as unsafe for its citizens and has once again banned flights to what was once one of the most popular Russian tourist destinations.

Russia is still allowing flights from Turkey, though, including as a way to bring Russian citizens back home. More than 2,000 Russians have been evacuated from Turkey since the attempted coup, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Just three weeks prior, Russia lifted a months-long ban on selling vacation packages to Turkey, a measure that had been imposed as retaliation for the downing of the Russian warplane.

Now, in a move that could appease Russia, the Turkish leadership has distanced itself from the pilots of the Turkish fighter jet who were responsible for bringing down the plane.

Erdogan said Wednesday that the pilots have been detained on suspicion of being involved in the attempted coup.

Last update: Thu, 21/07/2016 - 15:58

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