04/05/2018, 10.49
RUSSIA-TURKEY
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Putin meets Erdogan: Business deals and religious missions

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The crisis sparked in 2015 over the shooting down of a Russian jet, has been buried. Contracts for nuclear power plants, gas pipelines, agricultural products and tourism. A phone call to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for Orthodox Easter greetings.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The first foreign trip for Putin IV, the modern Russian tsar, took place yesterday to the territory of the former Byzantine Empire, the "second Rome" of Istanbul and Ankara, to meet the modern "Sultan" "Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The meeting between the two main "sovereign" leaders lasted over an hour and a half, putting an end to the many reasons for conflict that have divided the only two bi-continental and Eurasian powers of the contemporary world in recent years.

Since November 2015, relations between Russia and Turkey had become very complicated, when Turkish cruisers shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber on the Syrian border. Moscow had therefore banned the importation of fruit and vegetables from Turkey, placed serious restrictions on Russian tourism on the Anatolian coasts and frozen several collaborative projects, including the construction of a nuclear power plant and a gas pipeline. Now it seems like all the problems have been solved.

On March 4, Putin and Erdogan launched the "Akkuju" nuclear power station, which will guarantee Russia tens of thousands of jobs. This is a contract worth about 20 thousand billion euros, intended to support the Russian mechanical and metallurgical industry, which had been blocked after the meeting between the two leaders in August 2016 in St. Petersburg; Erdogan had declared himself ready to give the agreement a strategic value, but refused to compensate Russia for the accident of the previous year.

For Russia, the project was and remains indispensable, as an alternative to the "Southern Stream", the gas pipeline from Bulgaria to reach the European states facing the Mediterranean. With the Turkish agreement, Russia will now be able to forgo the transit of the southern pipeline in Ukraine, for which over 1000 kilometers of pipes have already been laid, which can now be diverted into "friendly" territory.

The renewed Russian-Turkish alliance will overcome the "tomato crisis", as Turkey is Russia’s main supplier of the red gold and many kinds of fruit and vegetables, especially sought after during the long winter frosts; fruit and vegetables can reach Russia from Anatolia  in a week. In the last three years in Russia there had been a real "boom" in the construction of greenhouses for tomatoes, creating disruptions in the domestic market and serious problems in the Turkish one, provoking reactions from Ankara, forced to put serious duties on the wheat from southern Russia.

Now the two countries have apparently overcome all of the obstacles, including the ban on tourist trips, so next summer a Russian exodus to Turkish beaches is expected : last year Russian tourists were estimated at about 800,000, while in 2015 they numbered more than 5 million. This year it is hoped the number will exceed 7 million visitors, a true peaceful Russian invasion of Turkey.

Putin's agreements also concern the military sector, with the sale of advanced missile systems for over 2.5 billion dollars. This despite the American threats of sanctions against Turkey, if it buys arms from Russia; Turkey being  a partner of NATO.

Putin did not limit himself to economic-military negotiations, but he took advantage of his visit to Turkey to reaffirm his mission as head of Orthodoxy. On the sidelines of the meeting with Erdogan, as the spokesmen of the Russian delegation announced, the president had a long telephone conversation with the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew (Archontonis) of Constantinople, the highest authority of Christianity in the Byzantine tradition. The patriarch congratulated Putin on his re-election as president of the Russian Federation, and both exchanged greetings for the upcoming Easter holidays (the Orthodox Easter this year falls on April 8th, and now we are in Holy Week). The Russian leader exchanged greetings on behalf of Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev), who called for the greatest mutual support for the unity of the Orthodox world.

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