World Bulletin / News Desk
The blossoming trade relationship will be the focus of a one-day trip to Turkey by Russian President Vladimir Putin, though differences between the two countries over the conflict in Syria will likely be aired.
Putin's visit to Istanbul on Monday is his first trip in two months. The unusual break in his travel schedule fed speculation that the 60-year-old Russian leader is suffering from serious back trouble or another illness. His spokesman has attributed Putin's discomfort to a pulled muscle, and the president has appeared more mobile in recent days.
During the talks, Turkey is likely to argue for tougher action against Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Kremlin has shown no inclination of relinquishing its support for its last Middle East ally, whom it has shielded from international sanctions and continued to provide with weapons during an escalating civil war.
Russia and Turkey were recently at loggerheads over Syria.
In October, Russia reacted angrily to Turkey's decision to force a Syria-bound passenger plane flying from Moscow to land in Turkey because Turkish officials said there was military equipment on board. Moscow said the plane was "legally" carrying radar parts for Syria.
Yuri Ushakov, Putin's foreign affairs adviser, has said the incident may come up during Putin's talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, he signaled that Russia was not going to press its argument, saying the cargo, which has remained in Turkish hands, belongs to Syria.
And while Russia has voiced concern about the planned deployment of NATO's Patriot air-defense missiles on Turkey's border with Syria, it has carefully balanced its statements on the subject and avoided any sharp criticism of Turkey itself.
Ushakov said a candid exchange of views with Turkey will help "if not narrow the gap, at least understand each other's moves better."
Despite their apparent disagreements over Syria, Russia and Turkey have robust economic ties, which will be the main focus of Monday's talks.
Turkey is a top consumer of Russian natural gas, while Russia is a major market for Turkish construction companies. Ushakov said trade between the two countries, which totaled $32 billion last year, is expected to grow to $100 billion in the coming years.
Among other projects, Russia is building Turkey's first nuclear power plant. Turkey is also a top travel destination for Russians, with more than 3.5 million Russian tourists visiting last year.Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Aralık 2012, 09:49