President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is paying a one-day visit to Russia’s coastal city of Sochi on Friday to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral ties and international issues.
According to the Turkish presidency, the leaders will hold a one-on-one meeting and chair the talks between delegations in the Russian coastal city of Sochi during Erdoğan’s one-day working visit.
The Syria crisis and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which is now in its sixth month, will be addressed during the Sochi meeting.
The leaders will also evaluate bilateral ties between the two countries, mainly focusing on the economy, trade, and energy that constitute the driving force behind Turkey-Russia relations.
They will exchange views on the potential steps to enhance bilateral cooperation as well.
Erdoğan and Putin meet in person for the second time in 17 days after the meeting in Iran’s capital Tehran, where the leaders had a trilateral gathering with their Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi for the 7th summit in the Astana format to discuss recent developments in Syria, the fight against terror groups, as well as the humanitarian situation and the voluntarily return of Syrians.
Erdoğan is riding high from the diplomatic success of helping orchestrate the resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments across the Black Sea when he visits Sochi for his second face-to-face meeting with Putin in just over two weeks.
During their meeting on July 19, the leaders condemned the increased presence and activities of terrorist groups and their affiliates under different names in various parts of Syria.
Turkey constantly emphasizes its determination to root out terrorist organizations, including Daesh and the PKK, along with its Syrian branch the YPG, in Syria that threaten its security.
The country also reiterates the possibility of another Turkish counter-terrorism operation across its southern border into northern Syria, following other operations in recent years, as long as Ankara’s longstanding concerns have not been met.
But there are tensions. The Turkish leader was told by Putin in Tehran last month that Russia remains opposed to any new operation that Turkey might be planning against YPG militants in northern Syria.
The Kremlin also said on Friday that Turkey has legitimate security concerns over Syria and that it will take them into account.
However, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters it was important to avoid actions that could “jeopardize Syria’s territorial and political integrity”.
Ankara has carried out multiple operations in northern Syria since 2016, seizing hundreds of kilometers of land and targeting the YPG, despite opposition from Moscow.
Russia’s army helped Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad survive a decade-long rebellion by opposition groups backed by Turkey.
Erdoğan is warning to launch an operation into northern Syria to establish a buffer zone that pushes out YPG terrorists threatening the national security of the Turkish state.
Putin told Russian media in Tehran he still has “certain disagreements, obviously” with Erdoğan about Syria.
Analysts believe these strains form part of the “competitive cooperation” that has defined the two leaders’ relationship over the past 20 years.
Besides Syria, Erdoğan and Putin will also discuss the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which is now in its sixth month.
Attempts by NATO member Turkey to remain neutral in the face of Moscow’s historic standoff with the West over Ukraine are starting to pay off.
Months of Turkish efforts saw Moscow and Kyiv sign an U.N.-backed agreement in Istanbul last month to resume grain deliveries from Ukrainian ports.
Turkey wants to translate this success into truce talks in Istanbul between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“We discussed if the grain agreement could be an occasion for a sustainable ceasefire,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said after talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Asia on Wednesday.
Turkey, the United Nations, Russia, and Ukraine signed a historic deal on July 22 to reopen three Ukrainian ports — Odesa, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhny — for grain that has been stuck for months due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which is now in its sixth month.
To oversee Ukrainian grain exports, a joint coordination center (JCC) in Istanbul was officially launched on July 27, comprising representatives from Turkey, the United Nations, Russia, and Ukraine to enable the safe transport by merchant ships of commercial foodstuffs and fertilizers from the three key Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
Thanks to Turkey’s diplomatic efforts to unblock Ukraine grain exports, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, the first grain ship out of Ukraine since the war begin in February, left the port of Odesa on Monday. The ship with over 26,500 tons of corn passed through the Bosphorus Strait after it got security clearance in Istanbul on Wednesday en route to Lebanon for a delivery that many believe is helping ease the global food crisis.
Three more ships carrying grain and foodstuffs on Friday left Ukrainian ports, carrying over 58,000 tons of corn under the deal.
The Panama-flagged Navistar departed the port of Odesa for Ireland with 33,000 tons of grain, the Malta-flagged Rojen left the port of Chornomorsk with 13,000 tons of grain for the United Kingdom, and the Turkey-flagged Polarnet left the port of Chornomorsk with 12,000 tons of corn destined for Turkey.
Turkey is one of the most active countries working to ensure a permanent cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia. Its delicately balanced act of assuming a role as a mediator by keeping communication channels with both warring sides open provides a glimmer of hope in diplomatic efforts to find a solution and achieve peace in the Ukraine crisis. With its unique position of having friendly relations with both Russia and Ukraine, Turkey has won widespread praise for its push to end the war.
Since the beginning of the conflict, Ankara has offered to mediate between the two sides and host peace talks, underlining its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. While Ankara has opposed international sanctions designed to isolate Moscow, it also closed its straits to prevent some Russian vessels from crossing through them.
In a breakthrough, Russian and Ukrainian delegations met for peace talks in Istanbul on March 29 as the war entered its second month, with casualties piling up on both sides. Turkey also hosted the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine in Antalya in March and recently hosted four-way meetings in Istanbul between Moscow, Ankara, Kyiv and the United Nations to solve the grain crisis.
The Kremlin on Thursday said it is concerned about the recent situation in the Karabakh region, calling on Armenia and Azerbaijan to exercise restraint and implement the tripartite agreements.
Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Peskov said Putin and Erdoğan may exchange views on the situation around Karabakh during the meeting in Sochi.
Putin and Erdoğan will discuss the situation in Ukraine and Syria during the meeting, he also said.
Putin’s schedule does not yet include contacts with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev amid the escalation in Karabakh, according to the Kremlin spokesperson, but “it can be quickly organized if necessary.”
Meanwhile, touching upon the sustainability of the grain export deal signed in Istanbul, Peskov said this mechanism, established to support the export of grain accumulated in Ukrainian ports, “does not cover a one-time process. We hope it continues to work with the same efficiency.”
The agreement is a “good example of how the most difficult issues can be resolved with the interests of all parties in mind,” he added.
He also said Erdoğan “personally made a great contribution.”
Besides, the two leaders are expected to exchange views on the issue of grain shipments during a meeting in Sochi, he noted.