Joint news conference of Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan 2018-04-03 20:30:00 Ankara The news conference with the leaders of the two countries took place at the close of the first day of the working visit by the head of state of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Turkey. The presidents of Russia and Turkey made statements for the press and fielded questions from journalists. President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (retranslated): Mr dear friend Mr Putin, ladies and gentlemen, I wholeheartedly welcome all of you. First of all, I would like to once again say with satisfaction that we are happy to welcome Mr Putin and the accompanying delegation to our country. I would like to again congratulate Mr Putin, who is my friend, on his victory in the presidential election. It is highly significant that Mr Putin has made his first foreign visit following the election to Turkey. This visit is evidence of the high level of relations between Turkey and the Russian Federation. I would like to offer our condolences to the Russian people over the Kemerovo tragedy. It is especially painful because the majority of the fire victims were children. We have completed the seventh meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council. We have compared views on many issues at the Council meeting and in the one-on-one format. The Council members also held separate meetings. I would like to point out that our political dialogue is having a positive effect on the economy, trade and cultural ties. Compared to last year, our trade turnover has increased by 31 percent and exceeds $22 billion. Of course, we have a more ambitious goal. We want trade between our countries to grow to $100 billion. On the other hand, the talks on services and investment agreements should be completed as soon as possible, which will accelerate our movement towards the $100-billion target. As you know, today we launched the construction of the foundation for the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant. We plan to complete the first stage of this project in 2023. I hope we will be able to accelerate this process and so complete this project ahead of plan. As of now, we intend to invest some $20 billion or possibly more in this project. In the future, this plant will satisfy 10 percent of Turkey’s electricity needs. Work is underway on the second line of the Turkish Stream. We are also developing cultural and social relations. In 2019, Russia and Turkey will hold events within the framework of cross-years of culture and tourism. I believe that the Yunus Emre Cultural Centre, which opened in Moscow and the Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Ankara will seriously contribute to this. The number of Russian tourists coming in Turkey reached 4.7 million in 2017. This is the largest number of foreign tourists from any country. I believe the figure will increase to 6 million this year. We are willing to resume the efforts to liberalise the visa regime as soon as possible. Friends, The agenda of our talks included not just matters relating to bilateral relations but also and primarily the Syrian question, as well as other regional matters. As you know, we have coordinated the establishment of de-escalation zones during the Astana process. Tomorrow we will hold a trilateral summit with our Iranian friend to exchange opinions. I think that we will be able to discuss Syria and other topics at this summit. We will discuss ways to resolve the Syrian conflict. I would like to take this opportunity to say that we have held consultations with our dear friend regarding Operation Olive Branch. I have personally updated Mr Putin about this operation in Afrin. It was launched to ensure the security of Turkey and the territorial integrity as well as the national unity of Syria. We will continue to work together with Russia to restore stability, tranquillity and security in this region. This has to do with the Syrian problem. We continue to cooperate with our Russian friends and to discuss our concerns. Ladies and gentlemen, Over the past 15 years, the rapid development of Russian-Turkish relations was promoted by neighbourliness, common interests along with mutual respect. Of course, this has not just benefitted the citizens of Turkey and the region, who faced major tribulations. Certain forces certainly wanted to poison Russian-Turkish relations. Praise be to Allah, we have withstood this test. None of these provocations have attained their goals. Our relations continued to strengthen and have become strong as steel. I believe that we have managed to further strengthen our relationship during the meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council held today. I would like to once again welcome our friend, Mr Putin, and the accompanying delegation to Turkey. I hope that our meetings will be beneficial for our nations. Thank you very much. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, To begin with, I would like to say that the programme of today’s visit was fairly intensive and substantial. At a restricted format meeting, the President and I discussed bilateral issues and a number of urgent international and regional matters. Later on, we reviewed the entire range of issues related to cooperation in politics, security, the economy, and the cultural and humanitarian area at a meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council, which was attended by key ministers and heads of major companies. We mapped out areas for further joint work. A package of interdepartmental agreements and commercial documents was signed following the talks. Relevant ministries were instructed to draft a number of new agreements. I will note that cooperation between Russia and Turkey is making steady headway. Our political dialogue is intensive. Last year alone President Erdogan and I held eight full-scale meetings. Our foreign and defence ministries are in close contact, in particular, in the Joint Strategic Planning Group. Industry-specific ministries and parliamentarians are consolidating their ties. Our business circles are engaged in productive discussions of joint initiatives. I would like to add that today we focused primarily on economic and investment cooperation. The Mixed Intergovernmental Russian-Turkish Commission is playing an important coordinating role in the consolidation of economic ties. I would like to note with satisfaction that Russian-Turkish trade increased in 2017. Mr President cited the figures, but, according to our information, our trade grew even higher, by 40.5 percent to $22.1 billion. Russia has become the third largest market for Turkish exports after Germany and China. Meanwhile, Turkey has risen to 7th place among Russia’s largest foreign economic partners. We also intend to build up mutual investment. This will facilitate the creation of a joint investment platform with the participation of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Turkey. Our cooperation in nuclear energy has reached the level of strategic partnership. As you could see today, Mr Erdogan and I have launched the construction of the reactor building of Akkuyu, Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. Our common task is to ensure that it becomes operational by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. Work is proceeding on schedule on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline. We are building two lines of the pipeline’s underwater section. We will soon start implementing the onshore part of the pipeline, which will not just bring gas to the Turkish market and other countries in Southeast Europe, if they want this, but will also enhance the energy security of the region as a whole. There are good prospects for promoting our cooperation in the iron and steel sector, automobile manufacturing, the agricultural industry and the production of agricultural equipment, as well as in finance, innovation, high technology and research. We also discussed Russian-Turkish cooperation in the sphere of military technology, including the implementation of a contract for the supply of S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft weapon systems to Turkey. We have decided to accelerate the delivery of these highly effective Russian defence systems. We also talked about other promising military technology projects. We prioritise expanding cultural and humanitarian contacts and ties between our countries’ civil societies. The flow of Russian tourists to Turkey continues to grow and develop dynamically. As we have already said, almost five million people (4.7 million) visited Turkey last year. We believe this figure may grow to six million next year. In this connection, we have been discussing liberalisation of visa regime and negotiating what documents would allow visa-free travel. Today, we heard the proposals of the heads of relevant agencies. We discussed possible joint efforts to help resolve the crisis in Syria, to consolidate the ceasefire regime and to create favourable conditions for the intra-Syrian negotiating process in the context of the results of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which was held in Sochi, and the recent trilateral contacts in the Astana format. Mr President has already noted this. Tomorrow, we will discuss these matters further at a trilateral meeting with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani. We conducted a detailed exchange of opinions on other regional and international matters. In conclusion, I would like to thank our friend, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for the detailed talks and hospitality that was accorded to our delegation. I would like to note that expanding Russian-Turkish cooperation fully meets the interests of both countries and helps maintain peace and stability in our region and beyond. Thank you. Question: I have a question for both leaders. You said today that the main drivers of bilateral relations are the largest projects, such as the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, Turkish Stream and the supply of the S-400 systems. Given the negative and even confrontational agenda regarding Russia, do you see any factors that can hinder the implementation of these plans? Vladimir Putin: You mentioned negative and even provocative factors in international affairs. There are no such factors in our relations with Turkey. On the contrary, our bilateral relations are developing highly constructively. You can see the result in our trade and economic cooperation and in the speed with which we are implementing large projects, as I have just said. This concerns Turkish Stream and our nuclear projects. As concerns the supply of gas to Turkey and the Turkish Stream pipeline project, negotiations with our European partners regarding the second line of Nord Stream 2 have been underway for years. I hope these negotiations will produce a positive result, but we are still in talks, whereas a similar project with Turkey will be completed soon. It has entered the final stage. Turkey is a priority and highly reliable partner in this and in all other spheres. This includes compliance with our agreements on many large regional problems that we face and want to resolve. I do not see any problems that would hinder the further development of our relationship with the Republic of Turkey. Recep Tayyip Erdogan (retranslated): First of all, I would like to tell our dear friend that Turkey took the decision regarding the S-400 missiles independently. And our dear friends in the Russian Federation gave an affirmative answer to our request, as a result of which we have reached an agreement on the supply of the S-400 systems. This matter is closed. The missiles we are to receive are being manufactured. I would also like to say that our Russian partners have expedited the supply of these missiles to Turkey. As for your other question, regarding the Akkuyu NPP, I can tell you that we should have launched this project sooner, because this power plant will generate 10 percent of the electricity Turkey needs. Russia has taken a decision that has facilitated this project. Moreover, I would like to say that this decision will also help us increase the number of skilled personnel. Taken together, this shows that our cooperation in this sphere has been fruitful. We are satisfied. Today we launched the construction of the reactor building. This will help create a new international image of Turkey. Question: I have a question for the Russian President. Have you discussed the so-called Skripal case and the British position on this matter at today’s meeting with Mr Erdogan? How do you assess this situation, given the latest information coming from the UK? Vladimir Putin: We have broached this subject in passing. Mr President asked some questions in this regard, and I set out our position. As you may know, I myself learned about this incident from the media; I said so time and again. I would only like to add that, according to international experts, about twenty countries in the world can manufacture these neuropathic substances – twenty countries! Scotland Yard, as you know, went on record as saying that it needed no less than two months for a full-scale investigation. Finally, as I have been informed just now, the general director of the laboratory in Porton Down – it is located within eight kilometres of the incident site – told Sky News that his laboratory staff had failed to identify the country of origin of this neuropathic substance. They are unable to identify the country of origin. Neither are they able to say that this substance was produced in the Russian Federation. In this connection, first, one is surprised by the speed, with which they whipped up an anti-Russia campaign, and I would like to inform you, although we have mentioned this already: We are convening a session of the Executive Council of the international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons tomorrow to analyse this situation in the minutest detail. We brought up at least 20 questions, and I hope that this discussion will draw the bottom line under what has happened. We are most certainly interested in a full-scale investigation and we would like to have access to this; we hope to receive the relevant material, because Russian Federation citizens are involved. As you may know, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has opened a criminal case and it will definitely be investigated. Question (retranslated): My first question is for Mr Putin. It is a fact that Turkey conducted Operation Olive Branch and closely coordinated its actions in Syria with Russia. What does Russia think about the future of organisations such as the Democratic Union Party in Syria? My second question is for Mr Erdogan: What do you expect Russia to do in this respect? Vladimir Putin: This is how we address the task of combating terrorism. We are working together with Syria and several other countries that are interested in resolving the Syrian conflict, first of all to ensure Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and to root out terrorism in its territory. We intend to continue to cooperate with Turkey in this sphere. As for the future of Syria and the future and ongoing political dialogue, we believe that Kurds are part of the multinational people of Syria and so have the right to take part in all political processes there and to find their place in Syria’s future. On the other hand, we believe that all processes in this sphere must be coordinated by the parties concerned as closely as possible. Otherwise, the desired result will not be achieved. As for who exactly must take part in these political negotiations and which place each of Syria’s ethnic groups will hold in the future, this is for Syrians themselves to decide. Question (retranslated): Mr Putin, you have said a decision was taken to accelerate the delivery of the S-400 systems. What do you think about the idea of the joint production of these systems? Mr Erdogan, I would like to ask you if you discussed any other issues of military cooperation apart from the S-400. Vladimir Putin: I have said that we discussed various issues, including the possibility to expand our cooperation in the sphere of military technology. As for the accelerated delivery of the S-400 systems, we have taken this decision at the request of our Turkish partners and friends. We have accelerated the manufacturing of these systems and coordinated the price, which is very important. As for joint production, the transfer of technology is not a matter of trust or political interaction. It is a purely commercial issue that is decided between economic entities. There are no military or political considerations or limitations in this sphere. Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Friends, as Mr Putin has said, we have an agreement regarding the S-400. The manufacturing company will work on this project, and as for the price, we have reached an agreement. There is no problem with accelerating the deliveries. We have an agreement on this issue as well. It should be said that different opinions regarding defence projects are considered when such decisions are made. I believe that Russian companies are also transparent in this regard. Our agencies and defence companies will conduct and are conducting meetings on these issues. We are definitely monitoring the situation. Thank you very much.