Putin and Erdogan meet in St Petersburg to resolve disputes

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a meeting on Tuesday in St Petersburg with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that it was a chance to open a "different phase" in their relations.

Erdogan thanked Putin for the opportunity to meet ahead of the G20 summit, scheduled for next month in China, and emphasized that their countries can work together to resolve problems in the region.

Putin made an offer to discuss the restoration of economic ties between Russia and Turkey and collaborate in the fight against terrorism during their milestone meeting.

Putin also expressed solidarity with Erdogan following an attempted coup against his government just weeks earlier, with Putin saying during the televised beginning of their meeting that he is categorically against any unconstitutional action.

The meeting, taking place in the 19th-century Constantine Palace on the city's outskirts, is expected to end a months-long crisis in relations between the countries that was triggered in November, when a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian warplane on the Syrian border.

The civil war in Syria, in which Russia and Turkey have backed opposing sides, is expected to be a major topic of their discussions. The war - and especially the downing of the plane - severely frayed the two countries' previously robust relations.

In June, Erdogan expressed his regret, offered condolences for the incident and expressed his intention to rebuild ties with Russia.

Erdogan is accompanied by several ministers and business representatives. The meeting is expected to broach the possible removal of economic sanctions, particularly on imports of Turkish fruit and vegetables to Russia, and ways to boost Turkey's tourism industry.

Another possible topic is the proposed Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, scheduled to run from southern Russia across the Black Sea to Turkey, and then on to European Union member Greece.

Erdogan said in an interview published Monday by Russian state news agency TASS that Turkey is ready to make a decision on whether to construct the pipeline.

The summit comes weeks after the attempted coup against Erdogan, in the aftermath of which tens of thousands of people have been detained and about 60,000 government workers have been suspended or fired.

A growing number of EU leaders have condemned the sweeping purge of suspected coup supporters.

Speaking to French newspaper Le Monde ahead of the St Petersburg meeting, Erdogan said that "when Putin called me to present his condolences [after the attempted coup], he did not criticize me over the number of military personnel or civil servants who were dismissed."

Last update: Tue, 09/08/2016 - 16:33
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