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Erdogan says military cooperation important for both Russia and Turkey

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stresses Russian companies must be relieved from sanctions and restrictions imposed by the West

MOSCOW, March 10. /TASS/. Military cooperation is important for both Ankara and Moscow, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a meeting of the Russian-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council. According to Erdogan, he discussed military cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"As for military cooperation, we have discussed it at a bilateral meeting. This is a very important issue," the Turkish leader said. It is crucial for Russia, Turkey to take joint action to end bloodshed in Syria, Erdogan stressed. 

"As far as security matters in our region are concerned, I believe that it takes joint efforts to end bloodshed in Syria," Erdogan said.

He said one of Turkey’s most important tasks was clearing Syrian territory of terrorists.

Erdogan paid great attention to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. He said he believed that issue was extremely important and hoped that settlement talks by the parties to the conflict would begin in the near future. Erdogan expressed the hope that Russia would play a positive role in that process.

Western sanctions

Russian companies must be relieved from sanctions and restrictions imposed by the West, Erdogan said.

"We must undertake all the requisite steps for development of our economic relations. All barriers on the development path of our relations should be removed. All these sanctions and restrictions should be eliminated in respect of them [Russian companies]," Erdogan said 

At the same time, the trade turnover between Russia and Turkey may reach $100 bln if Moscow lifts economic restrictions against Ankara, Erdogan noted.

"We expect Russia will fully abolish economic restrictions effective against our country. Then there will be an opportunity to reach the trade turnover of $100 bln," he said.

It was reported earlier today the Russian government has lifted the ban on exports of onions, cauliflower, broccoli and carnations from Turkey.

Su-24 incident 

Erdogan said he was confindent Russia and Turkey had managed to get over all the problems and to prevent provocative actions in the wake of the November 2015 Su-24 insident:

"Over the course of the time that has passed [since the date of the incident - TASS] we've managed to avert provocative actions and to settle all the problems," he told the Russian president.

The Turkish Air Force shot down the ill-fated Russian Sukhoi-24 bomber on November 24, 2015. Ankara then claimed that the plane had strayed into Turkish airspace. The Russian Defense Ministry said that the plane had remained in Syrian airspace the entire time. The crew - the pilot and navigator - ejected themselves. The pilot, Oleg Peshkov, was killed from a ground-based machine-gun round while descending by parachute. The navigator was rescued and taken to base. During the rescue operation, a Mi-8 helicopter involved was lost and a contract marine was killed.

Four days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on measures to ensure Russia’s national security and protect Russian citizens from criminal and other unlawful actions and on imposing special economic sanctions against Turkey. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan apologized in late June 2016 for the incident and relations between the two countries started normalizing.

Alparslan Celik, a Turkish ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves member, suspected of killing the Russian pilot, was detained by Turkey’s law enforcement authorities in March 2016, but he denies the charges.

Russia’s MS-21 aircraft

Turkey is interested in supplies of Russian aircraft MS-21, the president said. 

"We are interested and it is necessary to carry out cooperation and involve Turkish manufacturers in delivery of MS-21 aircraft which is made in Russia," Erdogan said.

The Turkish leader also marked close cooperation in energy sector the two countries have established. First of all it concerns the Turkish Stream pipeline project, which is already in progress.

Another important project in this sector, according to Erdogan, is the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant.

"We constantly monitor the development and implementation of these projects," Erdogan said.

Erdogan invited Putin to attend the meeting of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) in Istanbul. "As far as security in the Black Sea region is concerned, this is a highly important program and it often plays a key role. A BSEC meeting will be held in Istanbul. I invite you and hope you will attend it," Erdogan said.

The Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) came into existence as a multilateral political and economic initiative with the signing of the Istanbul Summit Declaration on 25 June 1992. BSEC covers a geography encompassing the territories of the Black Sea littoral States, the Balkans and the Caucasus with an area of nearly 20 million square kilometers and represents a region of 330 million people.

Visa-free travel 

Additional steps need to be taken to introduce visa-free travel between Turkey and Russia, the president said.

"As for visa-free travel, we have been taking some steps but they need to be facilitated," Erdogan noted.

He added that preparations were underway to introduce visa-free travel for crew members of Russian and Turkish civil aircraft. Erdogan expressed hope that the issue would be solved in the near future. He also said that in the past few years, Turkey’s tourism industry had suffered a significant damage due to the deceasing Russian tourist inflow. "But I am confident that we will make up for lost time," he said.

According to Erdogan, in 2019, Turkey and Russia will conduct a Bilateral Year of Culture, so a Turkish Cultural Center is planned to be opened in Russia.