Putin Erdogan

Putin and Erdogan hold first face to face talks in 18 months

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday (Sept. 29) met in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks, marking the two leaders’ first in-person meeting for 18 months.

As the two powerful men sat down for about three hours of talks, Putin said that relations between Russia and Turkey were developing positively thanks to their ability “to find compromises that are beneficial to both sides”. He also made a passing reference to Syria in his opening comments.

Erdogan echoed that sentiment and said  at the start of Wednesday’s talks: “The steps we take together regarding Syria carry great importance. The peace there is dependent on Turkey-Russia ties.”

In Syria- where Moscow and Ankara support opposing camps in the civil war-last year they sponsored a cease-fire deal in the northwestern Idlib region.

The agreement halted a three-month Syrian government offensive that killed hundreds of civilians and displaced nearly one million people.

Syria’s 10-year-old civil war has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced more than half of the prewar population.

Despite the rivalry in Syria- Russia is the main ally of the Syrian government, while Turkey supports groups that have fought to unseat President Bashar al-Assad, the two countries have forged close cooperation in the fields of energy, tourism and defense.

NATO member Turkey bought Russian S-400 missile defense batteries in 2019, triggering U.S. sanctions against its defense industries.

Erdogan last week indicated Turkey still intended to procure a second batch of S-400s, saying no country could dictate Ankara’s actions, a move that would sharpen divisions in NATO.

In an apparent reference to the U.S., Erdogan told Putin he wanted to discuss further defence cooperation regardless of Washington’s objections.

“At the UNGA (U.N. General Assembly), the typical persons especially asked us about certain issues specifically of course,” Erdogan told Putin.

“We gave them the necessary response anyway. It is not possible for us to turn back from the steps we took. I especially believe this: it is of great importance for us to continue by strengthening Turkey-Russia ties every day.”

The two powerful men did not address reporters after the talks, though Putin thanked Erdogan for the visit which he called useful and informative. “We will be in touch,” he added. Writing on Twitter, the Turkish President called the talks “productive”.

Rachel Ellehaus, of the Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) told Al Jazeera the talks were an indication Erdogan was attempting to publicly “move closer to Russia” amid the tensions with Washington.

“But at the end of the day, I think this is more of a continuation of a marriage of convenience between Russia and Turkey in which they’re continuing to advance their short-term interests,” Ellehaus said citing closer economic cooperation and the situation in Syria as examples.

With reporting by Reuters, Al Jazeera, TASS, Daily Sabah, RT