Moscow ready to rise above Syria discord with Turkey

30th November 2012, Comments 0 comments

Russia said Friday it was willing to "set aside differences" with Turkey ahead of talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish officials that will focus on Syria.

"Turkey and Russia have clearly different positions on several questions, notably the Middle East, but these must be put aside when Mr. Putin holds talks in Istanbul," Russian Ambassador Vladimir Ivanovsky told reporters.

"Turkish Russian cooperation will not suffer from these divergences," he added.

Their discord was highlighted further after Turkey intercepted in October a Syrian plane en route from Moscow to Damascus, seizing radar equipment and prompting an angry response from Moscow.

The Russian president is expected to visit Turkey on Monday to discuss bilateral relations with Turkish leaders, as well as regional developments, topped by the 20-month-old conflict in Syria that has claimed some 40,000 lives according to rights groups.

Earlier this week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Putin's visit could provide an opportunity to compare notes on conflict-wrecked Syria.

"Putin arrives in Turkey on Monday," Erdogan told reporters during a visit to Spain. "We are going to discuss this question in depth."

"If Russia shows a more positive position, that could push Iran to re-examine the situation," Erdogan said.

Ankara, once an ally of the Damascus regime, has become one of its fiercest critics, while Moscow remains one of the few allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, routinely blocking draft resolutions against his regime in the UN Security Council.

"The sooner we forget about the unfortunate incident, the better," said Ivanovsky, referring to the interception.

Moscow also last week opposed Turkey's request from NATO to deploy Patriot missiles on its volatile Syria border, saying that such a deployment could spark a "very serious armed conflict" involving NATO.

Ankara insisted that the US-made Patriots would be used for defensive purposes, and NATO is expected soon to respond to the Turkish request, submitted last Wednesday.

Several agreements are also expected to be signed during Putin's visit, particularly in the field of energy, as Moscow is the largest supplier of Turkey's natural gas and is set to build Ankara's first nuclear power plant.

© 2012 AFP

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