Putin in Turkey for Bilateral Talks on Trade, Syria

Posted December 3rd, 2012 at 11:50 am (UTC-5)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin is meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss a range of issues, including the countries' burgeoning trade relationship and differences over the Syrian conflict.

Mr. Putin arrived in Istanbul Monday for a one-day visit, his first foreign trip in two months. The Russian leader was originally due to travel to Turkey in October, but the trip was postponed over speculation about his health.

Protesters with banners and placards against Mr. Putin's visit gathered outside the Russian consulate in Istanbul as Prime Minister Erdogan hosted the Russian leader. Analysts expect Mr. Erdogan to push for tougher action from the Kremlin against Syria.

Turkey relies greatly on Russia's natural gas exports, while Russia uses Turkish construction companies. At the same time, Ankara is playing a careful diplomatic game with Moscow, as they both disagree greatly on Syria's nearly two-year popular uprising against the Syrian government.

In October, tensions came to a head when Russia objected to Turkey intercepting a Syrian plane en route from Moscow to Damascus on suspicion that it had military cargo. Separately, Russia also objects to Turkey's request to NATO for the deployment of U.S.-made Patriot missiles near its border with Syria.

President Putin has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout the crisis, blocking Western-sponsored resolutions at the United Nations condemning the Syrian government. Mr. Erdogan is a former ally of Syria, but now, he is one of its most vocal critics, calling the violence “the last footsteps of a regime on its way out.”