President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, described the reconciliation with Russia after downing a Russian jet near the Syrian border as "a milestone" in relations with Russia. Speaking at a press conference with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Ankara on Friday, Erdoğan said: "We are going to leave the sour period behind and return to our old relations."
Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said that the meeting between Erdoğan and Putin help speed up the normalization process between Turkey and Russia. Speaking to Russian TASS News Agency on Thursday, Kalın said that Turkey considers Russia an important friend and partner. "We assumed a constructive and friendly position as soon as it became clear that the military jet downed in November 2015 belonged to the Russian Air Forces and it took a few months for talks between the two governments to reach a certain level. In the end, the two leaders reached an agreement and the normalization process kicked off," Kalın said.
Regarding the agenda of the Aug. 9 meeting, Kalın said that the two leaders will discuss bilateral relations and regional challenges, including counter-terrorism and the Syrian crisis. "This is a time when national and regional issues have global implications. In other words, it is no longer possible to clearly separate national, regional and global issues from each other; requiring us to assume a global and holistic perspective," he said.
Commenting on the Syrian crisis, Kalın said that in cooperation with Russia, Turkey would like to facilitate a political transition in Syria as soon as possible. "Naturally, it is impossible to talk of a political transition in Syria as long as Bashar Assad remains in power. Assad's stay in power means a continuation of clashes in Syria. After five years of bloodshed and half a million Syrian lives lost, I believe that it is very clear we cannot accomplish the goal of a lasting peace in Syria with Assad. The important thing here is to build a democratic, pluralistic and inclusive political structure that all Syrians will accept. Such an outcome is necessitated by Russian and Turkish interests," he said.
Kalın underlined that Turkish democracy has become stronger in the wake of the July 15 coup attempt, and also expressed Turkey's appreciation for the fact that the Russian Federation assumed a clear position against the coup plotters from the beginning. "In this sense, our relations with Russia will continue to normalize and become stronger," Kalın added.
Touching upon cooperative efforts in the tourism industry and other joint projects, Kalın said that Turkey expects the number of Russian tourists to quickly reach pre-November 2015 levels; potentially surpassing previous levels in the near future. He also noted that there is no problem regarding national security. "We will continue our close cooperation with Russia in all areas. The important thing here is for the steps we take to serve the interests of both countries as well as help address regional and global problems," Kalın noted regarding joint projects.