Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish host, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, were expected to gloss over their striking differences over the crises in Syria and Ukraine during talks on Monday, focusing instead on their countries’ booming economic and trade ties.
Putin arrived in Turkey accompanied by a large delegation, including 10 ministers, for discussions officials say will concentrate on trade, including a Turkish demand for a price reduction on natural gas purchases from Russia. The two countries, who are major trading partners, have set an aim of increasing their two-way trade volume from the current $33 billion to $100 billion by 2020.
Russia provides the bulk of Turkey’s gas and is set to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. Turkish construction firms are active in Russia while millions of Russian tourists travel to Turkey each year.
The Russian and Turkish leaders, often compared to each other for their drift toward authoritarianism, have opposing positions on Syria’s crisis. Russia remains Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s closest ally while Turkey supports Syria’s opposition forces and Erdoğan makes no secret of his desire to see Assad deposed.
Turkey has expressed concerns over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Turks have ethnic ties to the Crimean Tatars in the region and Turkey has pledged to defend their rights.