Turkey and Russia on same page regarding territorial integrity of Iraq, Syria, Erdoğan says


Turkey and Russia are on the same page regarding the territorial integrity of both Iraq and Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Thursday in a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders hold a meeting at the presidential complex in capital Ankara, which lasted for about three hours.

Speaking to press representatives after the bilateral meeting, Erdoğan said that regional issues, including latest developments in Syria and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) controversial independence referendum were discussed.

“We need to protect the Iraqi central government in order to assist them in safeguarding the country’s sovereignty,” Erdoğan said.

The president also said that Turkey and Russia agreed on the joint will and close cooperation to solve the Syrian crisis through diplomacy, adding that he was happy with the progress made in the Astana process, sponsored by Turkey, Russia and Iran.

Erdoğan stressed that Ankara and Moscow were “committed to the political solution of the Syrian crisis.”

Meanwhile, Russian President Putin praised Erdoğan for his efforts and initiative to establish de-escalation zones in Syria, saying they “have de-facto created the necessary conditions for the end of the fratricidal war in Syria and the final defeat of terrorists as well as for the Syrian people’s return to normal life.”

The two leaders also discussed bilateral trade relations and the increasing flow of Russian tourists to Turkey.

Erdoğan said Ankara was pleased that trade volume between the two countries has risen by 22 percent so far this year, reiterating that Turkey and Russia aimed to reach $100-billion trade in the near future.

Putin, in turn, said that export of Turkish agricultural products to Russia increased 58 percent in the first half of 2017, citing lifting of restrictions as a reason for the rise.

“The number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey this year rose 11 times, reaching more than 2.5 million people,” Putin said, adding that it was due to series of high-level talks and consultations between officials of the two countries.

After Turkey shot down a Russian military jet over an airspace violation in Nov. 2015, Moscow took several measures against Ankara, including banning imports of Turkish agricultural products and ending visa-free travel for Turks.

Since last summer, Russia has relaxed the measures and lifted bans on some products, particularly citrus fruits.

During a May 3 visit to Russia, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had agreed on the resumption of trade, including food and textiles, but with the exception of tomatoes.

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