President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
During my recent telephone conversation with Mr Erdogan, we agreed to hold a meeting in Sochi to thoroughly discuss the current state of bilateral affairs, give additional impetus to their development, and continue our exchange on the situation in the region, including, of course, the Syrian settlement process.
As regards Russia-Turkey cooperation, you could say our relations have been practically fully restored. This is evidenced by the growth of bilateral trade: in the first nine months of this year, it increased by 36 percent. There is every reason to believe that we will be able to compensate for last year's decline.
Such progress is largely due to the consistent removal of trade barriers and restrictions. In line with the agreements following my meeting with Mr Erdogan in Ankara, imports of a wide range of products resumed starting October 30.
Today we have discussed joint measures to eliminate restrictions on other kinds of agricultural products. Together with ministers and heads of top companies, we considered key aspects of strategic cooperation in the energy industry.
This concerns the Turkish Stream and the construction of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant. Soon, Rosatom Corporation is due to start the practical stage of the project’s implementation. Our plans also include the launch of the first reactor as early as 2023.
Of course, the Syrian settlement was also on the agenda today. Taking into consideration the recent achievements in the fight against terrorists, the President and I agreed on the need to step up efforts to promote a lasting settlement in the country. These efforts must above all focus on a political settlement and on assisting the Syrian people in post-conflict recovery.
I informed Mr President that at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang, the President of the United States and I approved a joint statement on the main approaches to the situation in Syria. Specifically, we highlighted the need to secure a definitive victory over ISIS, and rigorously respect the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian state.
I told Mr President of the results of my recent visit to Tehran and the meetings with the Iranian leadership. In this regard, let me note that our joint efforts with Turkey and Iran as guarantor countries of the Astana Process continue to yield tangible results. Violence has clearly receded, and favourable conditions are being created for promoting intra-Syrian dialogue under UN auspices.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Mr President and all our Turkish colleagues and friends for our productive talks. We have a positive record of exchanging views in a business-like, informal manner, adjusting our plans and reviewing results.
These meetings are arranged on short notice, and are free of red tape, quasi-diplomatic procedures or protocol encumbrances, but at the same time, they are very effective. For that, we thank our Turkish friends and hope that we will continue working together along these lines.
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (retranslated): Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to greet you.
I would like to express my gratitude to you, primarily, Mr President and the Russian agencies concerned, for your hospitality.
This is the third time that I have visited Russia this year. This is also my sixth meeting with Mr Putin this year.
Mr Putin and I have come to an agreement on the deepening of our bilateral relations. We maintain active contact in the form of personal meetings and telephone conversations.
Based on this, we can say that we have started preparations for the seventh meeting of the High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council. Like our political dialogue, our economic relations have reached a high level.
During my visit to Russia in March this year, my dear friend Mr Putin delighted us by saying that restrictions on the import of certain Turkish agricultural products had been lifted and that they are working on visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
Since then, we have maintained intensive contact to remove all of the obstacles. The Intergovernmental Commission held a successful meeting last month.
We were pleased to learn about the decisions taken at that meeting, including those on facilitating the import of Turkish egg-plant, tomatoes, pomegranates and other agricultural produce to Russia. However, we would like to see all other restrictions lifted as well.
In the first quarter of this year, our economic ties increased by 26.5 percent compared to the same period last year, exceeding $15 billion.
However, we still need to remove all barriers in our economic ties, primarily for our business people, to reach the $100 billion target. The reintroduction of visa-free travel is extremely important in this respect.
On the other hand, we attach great importance to continuing the Turkish Stream and Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant projects. We believe it is very important that these projects be completed on time.
We were happy to learn that the laying of the gas pipeline in Russia has been completed. As for the construction of the Turkish section, we are closely monitoring this process.
We intend to hold the first concrete pouring ceremony at the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant in the coming weeks. If Mr Putin’s schedule allows it, we would like to take part in this ceremony together.
We would also like to take our relations to a new level in tourism and culture. In the first nine months of 2017, more than four million Russian tourists visited our country. In 2019, Turkey will hold the Year of Russia and Russia will hold the Year of Turkey, which I hope will mark a milestone in our relations.
During the meeting, we also discussed regional and international issues with an emphasis on the Syrian conflict. We believe that the Astana meetings, as well as the memorandum on the de-escalation zones helped curtail violence in this region.
We agreed that a foundation has been laid for promoting a political settlement. We also attach great importance to the joint statement issued by Mr Putin and Mr Trump in Vietnam.
I would also like to express satisfaction with the fact that relations between our countries have reached a new level and become stronger. However, we believe that more can be done. Both sides agreed on the need for closer cooperation between our countries and peoples. I attach special importance to our joint efforts in the defence sector.
I would like to thank Mr Putin, my friend, once again, as well all the relevant agencies, for your hospitality.
Thank you very much.