On the 4th of April, the Presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran will meet in Ankara to discuss the progress of a political peace settlement to the Syria conflict in the Astana format. Today, Russian President Putin arrived early to hold private meetings with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After an elaborate welcoming ceremony both leaders watched groundbreaking on the Akkuyu nuclear plant. Akkuyu, which will be Turkey’s first ever nuclear power plant, is being by Russia’s Rosatom, as part of a wider effort to expand cooperation on energy, trade and cultural exchange between the two nations.
In addition to the Turk Stream gas pipeline, Akkuyu represents one of the two most important shared projects in the field of energy between Turkey and Russia. Additionally, the two countries are set to boost agricultural trade, mutual technological and educational projects and host a variety of events in cities throughout Russia and Turkey as part of the year of cultural exchange. Turkey is also in the final stages of a deal to purchase Russia’s S-400 missile defence systems, having ignored protestations from the US which has threatened Turkey with sanctions if Ankara purchases the cutting edge Russian weapons.
The cooperation between the two countries also includes working closely in the fields of security and anti-terror cooperation. A day prior to Putin’s visit, Turkey issued a fresh arrest warrant for wanted terrorist Fethullah Gulen for his role in orchestrating the brutal assassination of Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey, Sergey Karlov, in December of 2016. Additionally, Turkey has thanked Russia for its constructive role in the Syria conflict as a top aid to President Erdogan said that the success of recent Turkish operations in Syria, including Operation Olive Branch “were conducted thanks to Russia’s support”.
Tomorrow’s meeting of the Astana group in Ankara further cements the wider cooperative effort among Russia, Turkey and Iran to devise a peaceful settlement to the Syria conflict, one in which Moscow, Ankara and Tehran have taken a clear lead over efforts by the US and major EU states, all of which have failed to achieve their goals in Syria.
All of this happens as relations between Turkey and its former US partner become increasingly strained.