Erdoğan, Putin agree on increased cooperation, partial payments for gas in roubles

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday agreed to switch part of payments for Russian gas to the rouble currency, Reuters reported, citing Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak.

The two leaders also agreed to boost cooperation in the transport, agriculture and construction industries during their four-hour meeting in Russia’s southern city of Sochi, the agency said.

The agreements between the pair arrive as the Russian economy has been hard hit by sanctions and the exit of international business since the country invaded Ukraine in February. Turkey is facing its own economic crisis as inflation has hit 24-year high of 79.6 percent in July and the lira’s continued weakness and global energy and commodity costs  are pushing prices in the country higher.

Ahead of Friday’s meeting, Putin told Erdoğan that Russia was looking for a deal to strengthen economic cooperation with Turkey, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

"I hope that today we can sign a memorandum on strengthening our economic and trade ties," AFP cited Putin as saying at the start of the meeting with Erdoğan.

Putin thanked the Erdoğan for his efforts to reach an agreement between Moscow and Kyiv on the delivery of grain from Ukrainian Black Sea ports, AFP said.

"Thanks to your direct involvement and the mediation of the UN Secretariat, the problem of Ukrainian grain deliveries from the Black Sea ports has been resolved. Deliveries have already started, and I would like to thank you for that," the agency cited the Russian president as saying. 

Last month, Ukraine and Russia signed a breakthrough agreement designed to help relieve a global food crisis caused by blocked Black Sea grain exports. The deal brokered by Turkey and the U.N. marked the first major deal between the warring sides since Russia's February invasion of its neighbour against the backdrop of soaring global food prices, and the threat of starvation for people in some of the world's poorest countries.

"European partners should be grateful to Turkey because it ensures the uninterrupted transit of Russian gas," Putin said, referring Ankara’s role in the transit of Russian gas to Europe via the TurkStream pipeline.

Turkish President Erdoğan said he hoped his meeting with his Russian counterpart would "open a very different page in Russian-Turkish relations", AFP reported.

The Turkish leader said that delegations from both countries had held "very productive" talks, including on trade and tourism, according to the agency.

Talks between the sides on developments in Syria will "bring relief to the region," state-run Anadolu news agency cited the Turkish president as saying ahead of the meeting.

"I believe that our handling of the developments in Syria on this occasion will also bring relief to the region,’’ Erdogan said.

Turkey and Russia support opposite sides in a Syrian war that has killed up to 400,000 people and since the beginning of the conflict that began over a decade ago. Turkey has conducted four major military operations into the north of the neighbouring country targeting Kurdish forces, which it sees as an existential threat over what it maintains are links to an insurgency on its own soil.

Erdoğan and Putin were set to discuss regional and international issues, as well as relations between Ankara and Moscow, Anadolu cited the Turkish presidency as saying.

Prior to the meeting, Erdogan stressed the importance of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant project, ruled out any postponement, Anadolu said.

"Because it’s very important that the agreed-on calendar works and that Akkuyu is completed at the specified time. Because Akkuyu Power Plant will handle 10 percent of Turkey’s energy potential in energy supply, and I believe it would be beneficial for us to have a detailed discussion of this issue," it cited Erdoğan as saying.

Located in Turkey’s Mediterranean coastal town of Mersin, Turkey’s first nuclear power plant Akkuyu is a joint Russian-Turkish project with Russian energy company Rosatom as the majority stakeholder. Erdoğan and Putin kicked off the construction of the plant in 2019 amid concerns about the potentially destructive ecological consequences of the plant. 

Last month, Russia's Rosatom signed a new construction contract for the plant following a report by Bloomberg that the Russian nuclear power giant was transferring money to its subsidiary Akkuyu Nuclear JSC in Turkey to alleviate concerns that war sanctions could stall the project.

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