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Putin-Erdogan meeting round-up

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan agree Russia-Turkey relations have returned to their normal level

SOCHI, May 3. /TASS/. The period of restoring relations between Russia and Turkey after the crisis has been completed and they have returned to their normal level, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

"Some time ago, our bilateral relations [between Russia and Turkey] were tested for their strength," the Russian leader said at a press conference after negotiations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Now we can confidently state that the restoration period in the Russian-Turkish relations has been completed and we are returning to normal partner interaction," Putin said.

Syrian crisis

Putin has said that Russia and Turkey are unanimous the conflict in Syria can be settled only by political and diplomatic means.

"Mr. President (Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of Turkey) and I adhere to the viewpoint the Syrian conflict can be settled exclusively by political and diplomatic means," Putin told a news conference following talks with Erdogan on Wednesday.

Putin recalled that pro-active efforts by Russia, Turkey and Iran had put an end to combat operations in Syria and brought the authorities in Damascus and the armed opposition to the negotiating table in Astana.

Also, the talks paid much attention to the struggle against international terrorism. 

"It was agreed to enhance interaction along these lines between the special services and defense ministries. In particular, inter-departmental consultations on anti-terrorist operations will continue to be held on the regular basis," Putin said. 

"About terrorists, in spite of creation of these zones the war on terror will be ongoing - against such organizations as so-called Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra (banned in Russia) and those ones that are put on the list of terrorist organizations approved by the United Nations," Putin said.

In the meantime, the talks are underway on how to control the ceasefire in security zones in Syria, he said.

Russia hopes that participants in the inter-Syrian conflict settlement talks in Astana will come to a decision of setting up de-escalation zones in Syria, Putin said.

"As for the flights over de-escalation zones - combat aviation will not be operating there on condition that no military activity is registered in such zones," Putin said.

According to Putin, "this is a very delicate professional issue," which will be worked out in tight cooperation between the defense ministries and special services."

"We proceed from the fact, that the conflict’s direct participants, who gathered for talks today in Astana, will make a final decision, since in the end the fate of their country depends solely on them," Putin said.

According to the Russian president, Moscow held preliminary consultations on the issue with Damascus and Tehran. He said that it was necessary of creating mechanisms , which would guarantee the cessation of bloodshed and would form the basis for beginning a political dialogue.

"We share the same position on this issue with the president of Turkey," Putin said.

The Russian president also said that Russia, Turkey and Iran as the guarantors of ceasefire, would do everything possible to make such mechanisms effective and constantly developing.

The United States supports the idea of creating zones of de-escalation of tensions in Syria, he said.

"One of the means of enhancing truce is to create zones of security and de-escalation. We heard the US president say so in one of his statements," Putin said. "Yesterday we discussed that theme with Trump by telephone. As far as I understand the US administration supports these ideas."

Ergodan says he discussed with Putin creation of de-escalation zone in Syrian region of Idlib.

"Unfortunately, some problems sometimes surface in Idlib. A so-called ‘green zone,’ or a de-escalation zone, has been set up there. We hope and wish that that zone would continue to operate. Today, we have used a map to discuss this issue with Mr. President."

Putin recalled that Russia was adamant the Syrian crisis could be settled exclusively by political means. To let the political process go on ceasefire must be guaranteed, he said.

"Russia, Turkey and Iran as countries that made the greatest contribution to that formula, to the cessation of hostilities, have been thinking all the time what can be done to make the ceasefire stronger," Putin said.

Erdogan said  "With reliance on the Astana meetings we must enhance truce whenever the chance offers itself. Yet certain circles spend their energy on disrupting this process. The chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun was an obvious example of that. Such a barbaric attack must no remain unpunished. Mr. Putin and I agreed it is extremely important to ensure those who committed the attack should be punished."

In particular, he said that any attack aimed at upsetting truce not only destabilized the situation in the region, but also torpedoed efforts by the guarantor countries.

"Struggle with all the terrorist organizations in Syria is important for the future of that country, for the viability of the Syrian people, for global tranquility," he said. "The weeding out of terrorist organizations is a matter of our responsibility."

"We won't admit the emergence on our southern borders of enemy enclaves that would endanger our territorial integrity and security," Erdogan said.

He pointed out Turkey's resolve to continue doing everything in its power for ensuring our people's security and "cooperating with Russian friends in struggle with terrorism."

Trade barriers

Trade restrictions and barriers lifting was discussed along with the possibility of making settlements in national currencies.

"Particular attention was paid to interaction in the economic sphere and elimination of restrictions and barriers preventing expansion of trade and investment exchanges; an opportunity of transferring mutual settlements to national currencies was touched upon," the Russian President said.

Domestic agricultural producers borrowed loans for production development after Russia had imposed the ban on supplies of tomatoes and other agricultural products, the Russian leader said. "This [repayment of loans and profit making] is a certain cycle related to time and sales of products," Putin said.

"We agreed today that we will notify when this cycle will end. This is easily calculated," the Russian President said. Relevant agricultural products can also be supplied from Turkey to Russian in seasons when Russia has no respective production, he added.

Economic cooperation 

Russia and Turkey agree upon comprehensive settlement of restrictions in bilateral economic relations. 

"We agreed upon a comprehensive solution of all problems related to restrictions. We assume any restrictions jeopardize the economy and eventually inflict damages to our producers," Putin said.

Erdogan has invited Putin to take part in the summit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Organization due to be held in Istanbul.

"I’d like to invite Mr. Putin to take part in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization’s summit, which will be held in Istanbul on May 22 this year," Erdogan said, adding that the event would be held on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Organization.

Russian tourists’ security 

It is crucially important to provide security for Russian tourists in Turkey, Putin said.

"On these May days, a third of Russian tourists, who have gone on holiday abroad, have chosen Turkey," Putin said. "So it is principally important to ensure reliable security for Russian citizens at Turkish resorts."

"Russian relevant agencies are ready to provide any assistance possible to Turkish special services with regard to these issues," he said.

Speaking about humanitarian cooperation, Putin said that Russia and Turkey would hold the Cross Year of Culture and Tourism in 2019.

"We should improve coordination between our special services in the wake of a terror threat," Putin said, when answering a reporter’s question about prospects for a visa-free travel agreement with Turkey.

"However, we realize that there are some Turkish citizens who regularly enter Russia on business. And we are ready to introduce special, more liberal regulations for them than for the rest citizens coming to our country," he continued, noting that the foreign ministries of Russia and Turkey should exchange corresponding lists.

"We are ready for this decision," he said.