Erdogan: Turkey ready for Turkish Stream gas pipeline with Russia

Turkey is ready to "make a decision" on the proposed Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview published Monday, ahead of a planned trip to Russia.

The proposed pipeline is scheduled to run from southern Russia to Turkey via the Black Sea and possibly on to European Union member Greece.

Erdogan's meeting Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg will be their first since a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian warplane on the Syrian border in November 2015.

The incident sent the countries' already tense relationship into a tailspin, including economic sanctions.

In June, the leaders agreed to meet after Turkey expressed regret for downing the plane. Turkey has been hit hard by Russia's reaction to the incident, including watching the number of tourists from the country plummet by 93 per cent, in the most recent data.

Since the rapprochement, Moscow lifted a ban on charter flights to Turkey. Just ahead of the meeting on Tuesday, Turkey also unbanned Sputnik, a news portal loyal to the Kremlin.

Turkey and Russia disagree on a large number of issues, including the Syrian civil war, the conflict in Ukraine and numerous issues in Central Asia, says Ozgur Unluhisarcikli with the German Marshall Fund in Ankara.

"Turkey is not pivoting towards Russia," Unluhisarcikli tells dpa in an interview.

"Turkey and Russia don’t share strategic interests, their interests are actually clashing in almost every area," he notes, adding that despite sometimes dogged relations with Europe and the United States, Ankara and the West share many more commonalities.

"At best they can rebuild compartmentalized relationship and cooperate economically and agree to disagree without stepping on each other’s toes," he says about the relationship with Russia.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency stressed the meeting would be good for the economy, noting the business volume of Turkish contractors in Russia was 5.4 billion dollars last year.

In the interview with Russian state news agency TASS, Erdogan said Turkey already purchases most of its gas from Russia and emphasized that his country welcomes tourists and can ensure their safety.

"At the moment, there are no problems in Turkey, especially in the tourist areas," Erdogan was quoted as saying.

Despite the lifting of sanctions Russians are still wary of travelling to Turkey, in the aftermath of an attempted coup against the civilian government last month by rouge elements in the army.

A survey by the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, a state pollster, reported that 24 per cent of respondents said they distrust Turkey's leadership.

More than 25,000 people have been detained, over 13,000 of whom have been formally arrested, since the coup attempt, while more than 60,000 government workers have been suspended or fired. Some 20,000 teachers have also lost their licenses.

While Western officials have repeatedly expressed concern about the purges and potential human rights abuses, including allegations of torture in prison, Erdogan has repeatedly noted that Putin has not questioned Turkey's handling of the failed coup.

This will be Erdogan’s first trip abroad since the July 15 coup.

Last update: Mon, 08/08/2016 - 17:18

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