Russia's Medvedev in Turkey with energy deals, Caucasus agenda

Russian President Medvedev arrived in Turkey to discuss relations in South Caucasus region and seal several energy deals.

Russia's Medvedev in Turkey with energy deals, Caucasus agenda

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Turkey on Tuesday to discuss relations in South Caucasus region and seal several energy deals.

On his first official visit to Turkey, Medvedev was due to attend a dinner with President Abdullah Gul after arriving from Syria, and meet Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday.

Seeking to balance off its West-facing foreign policy, Turkey has strengthened relations with Russia and other former Soviet republics as well as fellow Muslim nations in the Middle East over past years.

Speaking ahead of Medvedev's arrival, Russian officials have said state energy companies Gazprom and Rosneft were expected to sign contracts during the visit. No further details were available.

Russia already provides 60 percent of Turkey's gas needs which has raised concerns of Turkey becoming over-dependent on Russian energy. Officials said they also hoped to agree on a deal for a Russian firm to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant. Deals on shipping oil products from the Black Sea and ferry transport were also expected among some 25 agreements due to be signed.

Major progress on proposed cross-border pipeline projects, including the Moscow-backed Southstream gas pipeline, were less likely because of their complexities, Turkish officials said.

Bringing greater stability to the South Caucasus will be also on the agenda. The mountainous region, that fell firmly under Moscow's influence following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, is riddled with old enmities.

"Russia and Turkey are both very important countries of the region. Of course we have our differences," a Turkish official said, confirming the topic would come up.

Several conflicts erupted in the region following the collapse of the Soviet Union, including the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan.

Ethnic Christian Armenians, backed by Armenian forces, in Nagorno-Karabakh attacked on Azeri rule and villagers and some 30,000 people were killed before a ceasefire was agreed in 1994.

Turkey has sealed its border with Armenia in support of fellow Muslim Azerbaijan.

Last month, Armenia suspended ratification of the protocols that would have resulted in an opening of its western border with Turkey, because Erdogan introduced a condition calling on Armenia to make moves to defuse the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Turkey hopes to enlist Russia's help to break the deadlock.

"We are traditionally interested in development of mutually beneficial cooperation both with Armenia and Turkey," a Russian official said.

Progress on visa free travel was also expected during the visit. Last year, Russians were the second largest number of foreign tourists to Turkey.

Reuters

Last Mod: 12 Mayıs 2010, 08:19
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