Turkish-Russian Relations: Erdogan, Putin Discuss Attack on Turkish Soldiers in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the conflict in Syria and attacks on Turkish troops there in a phone call on Friday, sources in President Erdogan’s office said.

Three Turkish soldiers were killed and ten wounded near the Syrian city of al-Bab in an air strike thought to have been carried out by Syrian government forces on Thursday, the Turkish military said. Russia is among the main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Erdogan told Putin that Turkey respected Syria’s territorial integrity and that an incursion launched in August to drive Islamic State militants from the border is evidence of Ankara’s determination in fighting militant groups.

Both leaders agreed on stepping up efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Syria’s Aleppo, the sources said.

Turkey-Russia relations on the Syrian crisis

Turkey has stepped up retaliation efforts after the Daesh terrorist organization intensified attacks targeting Turkey, as a group of 15-20 Turkish Special Forces entered Syria for reconnaissance and preparation for Turkey’s retaliation, published by Yeni Şafak.

Turkey has been struggling against terrorist organizations, particularly Daesh, in an effort to neutralize threats that specifically target Turkey.

Progress on Syria, over which they remain deeply divided, has been more problematic. Erdogan described the topic as “very sensitive”, but said he had discussed Turkey’s military operations in Syria with Putin, according to Reuters.

Both men said they had agreed on the importance of delivering aid to the city of Aleppo, whose opposition-held eastern sector has been encircled by Russian-backed Syrian forces for all but a short period since July.

“We have a common position that everything must be done to deliver humanitarian aid to Aleppo. The only issue is … ensuring the safety of aid delivery,” Putin said, adding he had agreed with Erdogan to intensify military contacts.

Member of the Scientific Council of the Russian Security Council Prof.Dr. Andrey Manoylo said that Washington’s plans to launch a Russian-Turkish war in Syria were unsuccessful; The US was trying to wage a war between Russia and Turkey in Syria. “Let’s remember the plane crisis that started on November 24th. But Washington’s plans have been unsuccessful. This time, the US attempted to demolish Erdogan by organizing unsuccessful military coup attempt on 15 July. But this plan did not hold. All these developments led Erdogan to enter an unofficial military-political alliance with Russia in fact. Our relations with Turkey are important”, said Manoylo.

A new page opened between the two countries – ‘Turkish Stream’ gas pipeline

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan last month hosted Russia’s Vladimir Putin in October at an Ottoman-era villa in Istanbul for talks which touched on energy deals, trade and tourism ties, defense and the conflict in Syria, where the two leaders back opposing sides.

“Today has been a full day with President Putin of discussing Russia-Turkish relations … I have full confidence that the normalization of Turkish-Russian ties will continue at a fast pace,” Erdogan told a joint news conference.

The warming relations between NATO member Turkey and Russia comes as both countries are dealing with troubled economies and strained ties with the West.

Putin said Moscow had decided to lift a ban on some food products from Turkey, imposed after the Turks shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border last November, and that both leaders had agreed to work toward the full-scale normalization of bilateral ties.

They signed a deal on the TurkStream undersea gas pipeline, which will allow Moscow to strengthen its position in the European gas market and cut energy supplies via Ukraine, the main route for Russian energy into Europe.

The plan for TurkStream emerged after Russia dropped plans to build the South Stream pipeline to Bulgaria due to opposition from the European Union, which is trying to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

Erdogan also said plans for a Russian-built nuclear power plant in Turkey would be accelerated. Time lost on the Akkuyu project because of strained relations would be made up, he said.

In 2013, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom won a $20 billion contract to build four reactors in what was to become Turkey’s first nuclear plant, but construction was halted after the downing of the Russian jet.

Russia May Block EU Energy Ambitions With Turkish Stream Pipeline

The strategic agreement for a stalled gas pipeline, known as Turkish Stream – running under the Black Sea to Turkey and then on to Greece – which was signed in Istanbul last month between Turkey and Russia  would offer Russia a way to sell gas to Europe that bypasses existing pipelines in Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine.