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Erdoğan, Putin to meet in high level cooperation meeting next month

DAILY SABAH
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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are likely to meet next month within the scope of a Turkey-Russia High Level Cooperation Council (HLCC) meeting, claimed a diplomatic source.

Despite some tough time between Russia and Turkey last year, their bilateral relations entered a new phase following an Erdoğan-Putin meeting in St. Petersburg on Aug. 9.

Sources in diplomatic circles told Daily Sabah that ahead of the next month's HLCC meeting, three fundamental issues were on Turkey's agenda with the Joint Economic Commission, which was initially convened in Istanbul last October, being the most important.

The second matter on the agenda was the Strategic Planning Group, which convened on Dec. 1 in Turkey's Alanya province with the attendance of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The third and final issue on the Turkish agenda, according to sources, was the Civic Forum, which has subcommittees, such as the Historical Committee Chaired by prominent Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı.

The source said the goal of the Civic Forum sub-committees was to establish relations in the economic field and not leave relations in the political field only while establishing solid relations. Another part of these goals includes academic cooperation between the two countries, as a meeting was expected to be held prior to the upcoming HLCC meeting. In regards to the existing Russian sanctions, Daily Sabah's diplomatic sources added that the sanctions were gradually being lifted, as they had affirmed that remaining sanctions are there due to sanitary restrictions that are currently being discussed between the two countries. While economic trade relations remain strong between Turkey and Russia, sanctions on over 80 companies have been lifted, said the sources.Meanwhile, visa-free travel to Russia from Turkey was also on the agenda, as the sources said, "Visa liberalization between Turkey and Russia was our expectation; however, the Russian side has some security concerns. Nevertheless, we believe visa-free travel for businessmen and official delegations are on both countries priority list." Touching upon bilateral relations, especially in trade and economy, the diplomatic sources claimed that Turkey was adamant to restore relations with Russia to the pre-crisis level and even enhance it. However, the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, also underlined that enhancing Turkey's relations with Russia was not an alternative to its relations with the West.

Russia is working on lifting visa applicationsNoting that Turkey expects Russia to lift visa applications for Turkish citizens, a Turkish official from the Foreign Ministry said: "Russia is currently conducting a project. I suppose they have thoughts about lifting the visas primarily for businessmen and official delegations." Commenting on Turkish-Russian relations, the official said that a Turkey-Russia High Level Cooperation Council (HLCC) meeting was planned earlier this year. Among the three main mechanisms under the HLCC meeting, the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) and the Joint Strategic Planning Group (JSPG), meetings were initially held, stressing that the Turkish-Russian Social Forum, the third step of this mechanism, aims to continue relations by forming a solid basis from society to society alongside the political field.

‘We expect the HLCC to be crowned with concrete steps'Suggesting that Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım's visit to Russia accompanied by seven ministers is an important step in getting bilateral relations closer, returning to its former close relations, and even moving relations further than before, the official stressed that the assassination of Russian Ambassador to Ankara Andrey Karlov, in an armed attack, was aimed at sabotaging the course of Turkey-Russia relations. With regards to the current stage of bilateral relations, the foreign affairs official said that their current perspective in the new year is for the HLCC meeting to be crowned with concrete results. The official added that the Russian delegation, which came to Turkey in the aftermath of the assassination of Russian Ambassador Karlov to carry out the investigation process with Turkish authorities, continued to work without any problems.

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