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Russia and Turkey Sign Gas Deal, Seek Common Ground on Syria as Ties Warm

Source: Reuters 10/10/2016, Location: Asia

Turkey and Russia signed an agreement for the construction of a major undersea gas pipeline and vowed to seek common ground on the war in Syria, accelerating a normalisation in ties nearly a year after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan hosted Russia's Vladimir Putin at an Ottoman-era villa in Istanbul for talks which touched on energy deals, trade and tourism ties, defence and the conflict in Syria, where the two leaders back opposing sides.

"Today has been a full day with President Putin of discussing Russia-Turkish relations ... I have full confidence that the normalisation of Turkish-Russian ties will continue at a fast pace," Erdogan told a joint news conference.

The warming relations between NATO member Turkey and Russia comes as both countries are dealing with troubled economies and strained ties with the West.

Putin said Moscow had decided to lift a ban on some food products from Turkey, imposed after the Turks shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border last November, and that both leaders had agreed to work towards the full-scale normalisation of bilateral ties.

They signed a deal on the TurkStream undersea gas pipeline, which will allow Moscow to strengthen its position in the European gas market and cut energy supplies via Ukraine, the main route for Russian energy into Europe.

The plan for TurkStream emerged after Russia dropped plans to build the South Stream pipeline to Bulgaria due to opposition from the European Union, which is trying to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

Erdogan also said plans for a Russian-built nuclear power plant in Turkey would be accelerated. Time lost on the Akkuyu project because of strained relations would be made up, he said.

In 2013, Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom won a $20 billion contract to build four reactors in what was to become Turkey's first nuclear plant, but construction was halted after the downing of the Russian jet.

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