Moscow and Ankara have agreed to speed up delivery of S-400 anti-ballistic missile systems to Turkey despite growing concerns in NATO over the Turkish government’s purchase of a non-interoperable system.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Moscow will speed up initial deliveries of S-400 missile batteries to Turkey at a press conference with visiting Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu after lengthy talks in the Russian capital on March 13.
“The sooner Turkey receives [the S-400 missile system] the better. Works are continuing to this end,” Çavuşoğlu said upon a question at the press conference.
Turkey signed an agreement to buy the multibillion dollar S-400 missile system from Russia in late December, in a move which raised concern in the West because they cannot be integrated into NATO’s military architecture. Moscow is scheduled to begin supplying the missile systems in the first quarter of 2020.
The Turkish foreign minister paid a two-day visit to Moscow to hold talks with his counterpart as part of Turkey-Russia 6th Joint Strategic Planning Group. Describing Russia as “one of Turkey’s most important partners” in the economy and politics, Çavuşoğlu said their priority was to develop bilateral ties in a stable way under the leadership of both countries’ presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Turkey and Russia will hold a High-Level Cooperation Council meeting at the presidential level in Turkey in the coming months, he said, adding that he and Lavrov had gone through the agreements to be signed during the Putin-Erdoğan summit.
“We have to overcome visa problem that prevent economic and cultural interaction [between Turkey and Russia]. Our Russian friends travel to Turkey without visas. We were even hoping for passport-free travels. We see that Russia is about to take some positive steps on visa regulations applied to Turkish nationals but our absolute wish is for the full abolition of the visa regime,” Çavuşoğlu stressed.
Lavrov, meanwhile, said they had discussed the existing visa regime on the Turkish nationals.
“We have negotiated steps that would ease the visa regime for Turkey. These steps may involve an attempt to lift the visa requirement,” he added.
The trade volume between the two countries increased by 37 percent in 2017, Lavrov also noted, vowing to continue working for the removal of bureaucratic obstacles in front of trade opportunities.