Turkey, a NATO member, to boost cooperation with Russia

Russian leader Vladimir Putin met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday. They agreed to boost cooperation in the transport, agriculture, finance and construction industries, they said in a joint statement after a four-hour meeting.

Prior to this discussion, President Erdogan had called earlier meetings between Turkish and Russian delegations on politics, economic and trade issues “fruitful”.

Their meeting came less than three weeks after previously holding talks in Tehran in the wake of Turkey taking on the role of broker in a deal to resume Ukraine's Black Sea grain exports. The Turkish intermediation helped unblock the trade routes in question and rendered the Black Sea sailable again. The Russian blockades had been in place since it invaded Ukraine on February 24.

In the statement, Putin and Erdogan stressed the need for “the full implementation of the Istanbul agreement, including the unimpeded export of Russia's grain, fertiliser and raw materials for their production.”

The two leaders also agreed to switch part of the payments for Russian gas to roubles, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told reporters after the talks.

For its part, Russia has been sending natural gas to Turkey. Last year, the share of Russian gas as for Turkey’s purchases of the resource amounted to 45 percent. This resulted from drought and a related rise in gas-driven power production.

Aside from gas, Russia seems to be gaining a nuclear foothold in Turkey, as the Russian nuclear conglomerate Rosatom is now building a nuclear plant at Akkuyu in the south of the country. Putin claims the facility will be in operation as early as next year.

But the two powers have had their differences in the geopolitical arena with Ankara backing fighters in Syria who have fought against President Bashar al-Assad – Putin’s protégé. Moreover, Turkey’s operations in northern Syria have also been directed against Kurdish militias such as the People's Defense Units (YPG), which they view as terrorist groups.

However, Putin and Erdogan “reaffirmed their determination to act in coordination and solidarity in the fight against all terrorist organisations” in Syria.

All this comes amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, strongly condemned by NATO of which Turkey has been a member since 1952.