Putin's Turkey visit to boost economic ties amid political differences

GMT 03:48 2014 Saturday ,29 November

Arab Today, arab today Putin's Turkey visit to boost economic ties amid political differences

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President
Ankara - XINHUA

Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Turkey on Monday is expected to boost trade and economic ties between the two countries while political differences over crises in Syria and Ukraine remain.
"Turkey and Russia agree to disagree on several political issues but they are committed to enhancing the economic ties," Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, professor of international relations at Ankara-based Gazi University told Xinhua.
"Business relations with Turkey become much more important for Russia after the West's sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine crisis," he added.
Putin's official visit to Ankara is scheduled within the framework of the High Level Cooperation Council, which is an inter-governmental conference between the two governments established in 2010.
The mechanism was designed to fast track the cooperation on various issues by involving senior leaders and cabinet ministers. It also helps cut the bureaucratic red tape.
Putin's one-day visit to Ankara will cover discussions such as economic and commercial relations, energy projects, developments in the tourism sector as well as regional and international issues.
Ankara and Moscow initially set a target of increasing the volume of bilateral trade to 100 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 but later revised the deadline for 2020.
"This target does not seem to be realistic," Hasan Kanbolat, Turkish expert on Russia, said. He recalled that the trade volume between the two countries dropped from 37.8 billion dollars in 2008 to 32 billion dollars in 2014.
In the first ten months of this year, the trade volume stood standstill with respect to the same period in 2013, which was 26 billion dollars .
Kanbolat also underlined that the trade heavily favors Russia because of oil and gas exports to Turkey constituted the bulk of the volume.
Turkey is also looking to take advantage of Western sanctions on Russia by increasing food exports as an alternative supplier. Unfortunately, Ankara has not been able to tap into that potential yet since sanction regime was put in place more than three months ago.
The impediments to boosting the trade are expected to be taken by Turkish and Russian leadership at the summit.
In an interview with Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency on the eve of his visit, Putin underlined that the position of Turkish government on sanctions "opens up new opportunities for increasing bilateral trade."
"We highly value independent decisions by Turkey, including on economic cooperation with Russia. Our Turkish partners refused to sacrifice their interests for somebody else's political ambitions," Putin said.
Ankara is also looking for ways to reduce its natural gas bill and is prepared to ask Russian side to consider a discount on the sale price. The gas contract for the Blue Stream pipeline will have to be renewed next year as Turkey asks more supplies to the line.
It is not certain whether Russia will agree in slashing gas prices for Turkey although in the past Russia agreed to give a discount to Turkey.
Russia is also interested in taking part in building the third nuclear power plant project in Turkey. The construction of Turkey's first nuclear power plant by Russian company Rosatom with 20 billion dollars in equity capital in Mersin-Akkuyu is already ongoing.
Both sides will review visa-free regime that was established in April 2011. The number of Russian visitors in Turkey will reach five million by the end of the year although it may decline next year because of weak ruble against the dollar and decline in oil prices.
For the moment, Turkey allows Russian tourists to stay two months in Turkey without a visa, whereas Russia allows Turkish visitors to stay a month. Turkey will ask Russia to increase the stay to two months.
The two sides have considerable differences on several international issues, which include Syria, Ukraine and Cyprus.
Turkey wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down and supports the Sunni opposition in the country while Russia is strongly opposed to such move. Although both Ankara and Moscow see the Islamic State as a major threat, Turkey insists on an integrated strategy that includes the ouster of Assad in the plan.
Crimea's annexation by Russia and the civil war in eastern Ukraine are another source of friction between the two countries. Ankara does not recognize the annexation, places emphasis upon the preservation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The problems of Crimean Tatars, an ethnic community that has a strong diaspora in Turkey, will be among topics that will be discussed.
Putin acknowledged that positions between the two sides on some issues are different. "This is natural for states carrying out independent foreign policy," he remarked.
However, Turkey is not happy about Crimean situation.
Sahin Alpay, professor of political science, believed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is "highly upset over the annexation of Crimea by Russia, but has to keep quiet because Turkey imports 60 percent of its gas from the latter and 20 percent of its gas from the other patron of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iran."

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