Disputed issues put aside for Putin visit

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Turkey and Russia will set aside differences, particularly the Syrian crisis during President Putin’s visit to Turkey, country Ankara ambassador says

 

Ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Turkey on Dec. 3, the Russian ambassador has said that Ankara and Moscow have agreed to focus on shared bilateral interests, setting aside differences on controversial issues such as Turkey’s confiscation of cargo from a Moscow-Damascus passenger plane in October.

Admitting that there were currently some “problems” between Turkey and Russia, Russian ambassador to Ankara Vladimir Ivanovski told reporters Nov. 30 that “Turkish and Russian leaders have agreed not to risk bilateral relations due to international conjecture. We should not forget our interests in bilateral ties.”

When asked if Putin would discuss the incident in which Turkey landed a Syrian-bound Russian plane in Ankara in October, seizing its cargo of dual-purpose munitions, the ambassador stressed that both sides had decided not to escalate the problem and that they had “closed the case.” The issue should not be discussed further and would not be a part of Putin’s visit to Turkey, Ivanovski said.

Cargo issue between Turkey and Syria

Both Turkey and Russia were justified in their own way regarding the incident, according to the ambassador. The cargo did not endanger the passengers and Moscow’s complaint was due to the Turkish authorities not allowing Russian embassy officials onto the aircraft to talk to Russian passengers on the night of the incident. The ambassador also said, however, that Turkey was right because the transportation company did not notify Ankara about the dual-purpose cargo of the plane, as per obligations outlined in the 1944 Chicago Convention on Civil Aviation.

The cargo consisted of “spare parts of an anti-aircraft radar,” which was fixed in Russia according to an agreement in 2004. Some similar shipments were previously made from Russia to Turkey via civil flights to transfer spare parts of helicopters. The ambassador stressed that Russia’s responsibility for the cargo ended after it was sold to Syria and therefore the issue was between Turkey and Syria.

For Turkey’s part, Ankara will press Putin for a rapid-as-possible end to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently stated that Russia was currently the key to quelling the conflict.

With regard to the plans for the deployment of NATO’s Patriot missiles on Turkish territory, the ambassador stressed that Russia accepted Turkey’s right to defense and understood that the system was not for the purpose of establishing a no-fly zone inside Syria. However, such a deployment might be a step toward “dragging NATO into the Syria issue,” and “any provocation might lead to irrevocable” measures by the Alliance. He added that Putin was likely to express concern regarding this during his meetings with Turkish leaders.

As part of the Russian leader’s visit to Turkey, which marks an end to the Russian president’s unusual break in travel due to health problems, both parties will sign a total of six agreements, Ivanovski said.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak is due to meet his Turkish counterpart, with energy topping the agenda for talks on bilateral economic ties. Russia aims to obtain all permissions required by Turkish regulations for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu by summer 2013, the ambassador said.

The delegation will visit a car manufacturing plant and the headquarters of Turkey’s Denizbank, bought by Russia’s top lender Sberbank in June. Russia plans to build its 63-billion-cubic-meter South Stream gas pipeline through Turkey’s waters to feed European demand, a plan that raises Turkey’s profile as a partner in the project and gives both countries incentives to maintain a friendship.

Russian energy group InterRao is interested in acquiring AEI Energy Holding, the Turkish subsidiary of the U.S. company, AEI, which owns 90 percent of a 478-megawatt power station located near Istanbul.

While in Istanbul, Putin is also expected to visit Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew.

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