Turkey, Russia eye strategic partnership in Medvedev visit

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose visit to Turkey begins today, wrote an article for Today’s Zaman ahead of his visit. Turkey and Russia will discuss plans to introduce a visa-free regime and ways to deepen cooperation in energy, economy, agriculture and security, in addition to political ties, during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Turkey.

Turkish-Russian ties have predominantly expanded on an economic basis, with gigantic energy deals and projects constituting the backbone of the growing cooperation. But Medvedev's visit is likely to be a cornerstone in introducing a political and strategic dimension to the growing ties, with the two countries formally creating a high level cooperation council.

“We can confidently say that Russian-Turkish relations have advanced to the level of a multidimensional strategic partnership,” Medvedev wrote in an article he penned for Today's Zaman ahead of his visit. He described the council as a new mechanism for intergovernmental cooperation and said:

“The purpose of this council is to develop a strategy on basic ways to develop Russian-Turkish relations, coordinate the implementation of critical projects and provide incentives for businessmen in both countries to cooperate with each other. Moreover, it aims to create synergy between foreign policies to ensure international peace, stability and safety.”

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Medvedev also described Turkey as “one of our most important partners with respect to regional and international issues.” Officials from the two countries are expected to discuss the situation in the southern Caucasus, with a special focus on the Nagorno-Karabakh problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia, during Medvedev’s two-day visit.

Most of the discussions, however, will still be focused on energy, which Medvedev says comprises the main axis of Russian-Turkish cooperation. The planned South Stream and Blue Stream-2 natural gas pipelines, the construction of the Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline and a nuclear power plant to be built by Russia on Turkish soil are the most critical items of the talks.

The two countries will also discuss ways to boost the mutual trade volume. Russia is Turkey’s single biggest trading partner and provides two-thirds of its gas. The two countries have bilateral trade ties totaling some $40 billion. Medvedev said they should aim to increase trade three to fivefold during the next five years, not only in raw materials but also through cooperation in hi-tech fields and mutual investment.

The Russian president is expected to kick off his meetings in Turkey on Tuesday after visiting the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In Ankara, Medvedev is scheduled to meet with President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Medvedev’s wife, Svetlana Medvedeva, will also accompany the Russian president during the visit.

According to Turkish diplomatic sources, during Medvedev’s visit a deal initialed between the two countries envisaging the elimination of visa requirements may be signed without waiting for the domestic confirmation process. Nearly 3 million Russian tourists flock to Turkey every year and the visa-free regime would largely affect Russian tourists, for whom Turkey is highly attractive destination for tourism.

Medvedev will be accompanied by a large number of businessmen and officials, and various agreements regarding energy, economy, agriculture and security are expected to be signed during the historic visit. The two countries are also expected to discuss regional and international issues and bilateral relations in particular.
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