Putin Pledges to Ease Turkey Sanctions During Erdogan Meeting — Update

By Thomas Grove 
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MOSCOW–Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia on Tuesday, pledging to boost business, energy and tourism ties in a meeting designed to end months of strained relations between Moscow and Ankara.

Speaking at a news conference after the talks, Mr. Putin said Russia would gradually roll back the commercial sanctions imposed after Turkish F-16 jet fighters shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border in November, leading to a diplomatic freeze between the countries.

Those sanctions have hit Turkey’s fruit and vegetable exports to Russia, and have restricted the flow of Russian tourists to Turkish beaches, one of the Turkey’s key generators of cash.

Following Tuesday’s talks, the first meeting between the Russian and Turkish leaders since the plane was shot down, Mr. Erdogan emphasized Turkey’s desire to realize a Russian-backed natural gas pipeline called Turkish Stream. Analysts had predicted the meeting would focus on Turkey’s hopes to become a natural gas hub for Europe, and Moscow’s plans to build the pipeline.

During the news conference, the two leaders pledged to talk about Syria, where they support opposing sides, at a separate meeting to be attended by Russian and Turkish delegations. Mr. Putin suggested he and his Turkish counterpart shared an understanding of the need to fight terrorism.

As well as signaling the end of an nine-month diplomatic impasse, the St. Petersburg talks marked the first trip abroad for Mr. Erdogan since a failed coup attempt last month that left more than 250 people dead.

Mr. Erdogan has expressed concern over a lack of responsiveness from Washington and Brussels over the coup plot against him on July 15. The meeting in St. Petersburg gave him the opportunity to send a signal to the West that Turkey is willing to court Moscow, traditionally the counterweight to Western influence in the Middle East.

Earlier, Messrs. Erdogan and Putin appeared on Russian national television before the meeting. The latter said: “Regardless of the very difficult domestic political situation, our meeting today speaks about our desire to renew dialogue and resurrect ties in the interests of the people of Russia and Turkey.”

The groundwork for the summit was set in late June, when Mr. Erdogan sent a letter expressing condolences over the downing of the Russian plane last November. Days later, the two leaders held their first telephone conversation in almost a year and planned to meet.

Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove[a]wsj.com

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