Russian President Vladimir Putin has hosted his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where the two leaders discussed regional issues as well as Ankara’s acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
The Kremlin said the Wednesday meeting was an ending to the Russian president’s coronavirus-related self-isolation.
Neither sides made any statement to media about the talks, but Turkish officials said before the meeting that Erdogan would discuss the conflict in Syria. They said the Turkish president was planning to ask for Putin’s support in the region, and call for brokering a ceasefire agreement in the conflict-ridden country. Erdogan had previously said he had “serious expectations” for progress to be made in the negotiations on peace in Syria.
The Turkish president told Putin at the start of the meeting that the “steps we take together regarding Syria carry great importance.” “The peace there is dependent on Turkey-Russia ties,” he added.
Meanwhile, Putin made a passing reference to Syria in his opening comments, saying it was one of the areas where the two countries cooperated fairly successfully.
Russia has been helping the Syrian forces over the past years of conflict, mainly by providing aerial support to ground operations against foreign-backed terrorists.
Turkey has also deployed forces in Syria in violation of the Syrian territorial integrity. Ankara has reportedly sent more troops to northwestern Syria to increase control over the situation in Idlib province.
Earlier this month, Putin criticized the illegal presence of foreign forces in Syria – a rebuke of the United States and Turkey – without the approval of the United Nations and Damascus’ permission.
A potential Turkish purchase of more Russian S-400 missile defense batteries was also on the agenda in the Sochi meeting. Erdogan told Putin he wanted to discuss further defense cooperation regardless of objections by Washington.
“At the UNGA (UN General Assembly), the typical persons especially asked us about certain issues specifically of course,” Erdogan told Putin. “We gave them the necessary response anyway. It is not possible for us to turn back from the steps we took. I especially believe this: it is of great importance for us to continue by strengthening Turkey-Russia ties every day.”
In an interview with the CBS News taped on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York and published on Saturday, the Turkish president confirmed his plans to purchase more S-400 systems. He said that “nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country, at what level.”
Moscow and Ankara signed an agreement in 2017 to deliver the S-400 to Turkey, making it the first NATO member to purchase the air defense missile system from Russia. The United States, which has imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defense industry over the missile purchase, had urged Ankara not to go ahead with the delivery of the missiles. The Kremlin and the White house have long been at loggerheads over Ankara’s purchase of the missile system.