Turkey, Russia sign deal on natural gas project

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday signed an agreement on piping Russian natural gas to Turkey and possibly Europe following a meeting in Istanbul.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (5th-R) talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (4th-R) during the World Energy Congress (WEC) in Turkey's Istanbul, on Oct. 10, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

Russian President Vladimir Putin (5th-R) talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (4th-R) during the World Energy Congress (WEC) in Turkey's Istanbul, on Oct. 10, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

"I strongly believe that the normalization process between Turkey and Russia will continue," Erdogan said at the signing ceremony.

"As part of the Turkish Stream deal, we have also agreed to provide a discount on natural gas for Turkey," noted Putin.

The so-called Turkish Stream project, initiated by Putin in 2014 as an alternative route to the canceled South Stream project that would pass through Bulgaria, intends to deliver Russian gas to Turkey and European markets through the Black Sea.

The project was suspended following Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane in November 2015, but negotiations resumed after Ankara and Moscow moved to revive their relations in late June.

Putin's appearance in Istanbul for the 23rd World Energy Congress and a third meeting with Erdogan in two months is seen as a clear sign of warmer relations between their countries.

The two leaders also announced that they discussed the Syrian issue in all its aspects.

Putin said they agreed that the bloodshed in the region must be "urgently" stopped.

"I informed my partner Erdogan about our request to the United States to ensure the safety of humanitarian aid deliveries," noted Putin. "But somehow our request remained unanswered."

For his part, Erdogan said he and the Russian leader agreed to develop new strategies to deliver humanitarian aid into Syria, especially to the besieged city of Aleppo.

Disputes over the battle for Aleppo have led to a cessation of talks between Moscow and Washington, two stakeholders in the long-running Syrian war.

Erdogan said he also gave information to Putin about Turkey's military operations inside Syria launched on Aug. 24, in which Ankara is fighting both the Islamic State (IS) militants and Syrian Kurdish militias.

"We have discussed the possibilities of cooperation," added Erdogan.

On the occasion, Putin announced as well the lift of a ban on Turkish fruits imposed after the downing incident.

Both leaders made it clear that the normalization process will continue in the fields of military cooperation, trade, tourism and culture at a high speed to make up for the lost time.

"We can consider Putin's visit as a good opportunity for the two countries to develop their cooperation in all aspects and exchange views about regional and international topics," Aydin Sezer, the head of Turkey and Russia Center of Studies, told Xinhua.

"The two countries have lost a significant amount of time in realizing their projects," observed Gurkan Kumbaroglu, the president of the International Association for Energy Economics. "Now they take necessary steps to compensate the lost time."

For Kumbaroglu, the rapprochement in other fields will be helpful in smoothing the two countries' diverging views on Syria.

"And that means in the near future we can see new initiatives in the region," he told Xinhua.

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