Syria will top the agenda of Putin-Erdoğan talks – Russian spokesman

Syria is expected to head the list of topics to be discussed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a meeting in Sochi, Russia on Wednesday.

Erdoğan is seeking a resolution to clashes between the Syrian military, which is backed by Russia, and Islamist opposition groups supported by Turkey, in northwest Syria. Turkey has sent thousands of soldiers into the last rebel stronghold over the past week amid a bombardment by Syrian forces and Russian jets.

“I think that Syria will top the agenda, as well as Afghanistan. They will also exchange views on Libya and other global issues,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday, state-run Russian news agency TASS said.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss economic matters “because there is indeed a lot of common work in terms of bilateral relations, including joint economic projects, trade and economic ties”, Peskov said.

Russia is building a nuclear power station in southern Turkey and is one of the country’s biggest suppliers of natural gas. Rising energy prices are pressuring Turkish inflation, which accelerated to 19.25 percent in August, at a time when the central bank is cutting interest rates to help stimulate economic growth. Turkish construction companies are also very active in Russia.

Ties between Russia and Turkey have grown closer over the past five years. The warming relations have caused disquiet in NATO, in which Turkey has traditionally constituted a key front against Russian influence in the Middle East, the Black Sea, and Central Asia.

Erdoğan’s purchase of S-400 air defence missiles from Moscow have caused consternation in NATO and prompted former President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Turkey’s defence procurement agency in December last year.

Last week, Erdoğan said that Turkey is considering buying a second battery of the weapons. That prompted the United States to repeat a warning that further punitive measures could be imposed in response.

Turkish officials have stepped up criticism of the United States ahead of the Putin-Erdoğan meeting for its support of Kurdish militants in northwestern Syria. Turkey labels the fighters as terrorists. Syria is calling on U.S. and Turkish forces to withdraw from its territory.   

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