President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to St Petersburg to meet President Vladimir Putin on August 9, Turkey’s deputy premier Mehmet Simsek said on July 26.
Erdogan has already made overtures to Russia to repair ties that were severely damaged by the downing of a Russian bomber by a Turkish jet near the Syrian border last year. The incident prompted Moscow to impose a raft of sanctions that has hit Turkey’s economy hard, especially its tourism industry.
Last week, two pilots who downed the Russian plane were arrested for their alleged involvement in the putsch. The arrest of the pilots could be part of Turkey’s charm offensive or pure coincidence.
The rapprochement efforts seem to be bearing some fruit. Earlier this week Moscow said it was restarting its trade links with Ankara, with the resumption of talks on a draft trade and economic cooperation programme for 2016-2019.
Erdogan’s visit will take place at a time when tension between Turkey and its long-time ally US is increasing over Ankara’s demand for the extradition of US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, who the government says was behind the unsuccessful coup attempt. The US says it could hand him over to Turkey only if Ankara presents clear evidence regarding his involvement.Washington’s stance has angered the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Ankara has also been at odds with the EU over a number of issues, including the implementation of a key migrant deal, the country’s human rights record and recently over Turkey’s plans to reintroduce the death penalty for the coup plotters. Brussels has warned that such a move would bring Turkey’s membership talks to a halt.
This week Erdogan once again slammed Europe for failing to deliver its promises. As part of the migrant deal, the EU promised an easing of visa rules for Turkish nationals, fast-track accession talks and €6bn in financial aid until 2018.