Putin Visits Erdogan, as Ties Between Russia and Turkey Deepen

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands after a joint news conference in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday. (Pool photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Turkey on Thursday for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Iraq, Syria and Turkey’s decision to purchase a Russian-made missile defense system.

Putin’s visit comes as Turkey and Russia are deepening ties in a turnaround for the two nations, which have backed opposing sides in Syria and nearly came to blows over Turkey’s downing of a Russian plane in 2015.

Turkish television had a live broadcast of Putin’s arrival in Ankara, the capital, showing the Russian leader shaking hands with a line of Turkish and Russian officials after stepping off his plane.

Moscow sides with Syrian President Bashar Assad while Turkey has supported his foes since the start of the Syrian war six years ago. But Russia and Turkey, together with Iran, are now working on setting up de-escalation zones in Syria that are credited with having helped reduce the fighting.

Turkey, which is battling a more than three-decades-old Kurdish insurgency, strongly opposed the Iraqi Kurdish referendum for independence that was held Monday. Turkey has said it considering economic sanctions against the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq and has not ruled out military action.

Russia has neither supported nor condemned the referendum in which Iraqi Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence. But when asked about it, Russian officials this week said they believe that “territorial integrity” should be preserved in the Middle East.

Erdogan announced earlier this month that Turkey had signed a deal to buy some of Russia’s S-400 missiles.

Some of Turkey’s NATO allies have expressed concern, however, over Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian technology that is not compatible with NATO weapons systems.