Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are keen to demonstrate their political friendship is back on track. But behind the smiles and shared jokes during their October 10 meeting in Istanbul, the rivalries that caused relations to nosedive remain.
Putin used Istanbul’s hosting of the World Energy Congress as the venue for his first visit to Turkey since Turkish jets shot down a Russian bomber operating from Syria last November. Prior to the shootdown incident, the two countries had managed to compartmentalize their support of rival sides in the Syrian civil war, and had managed to expand economic and political relations.
After a four-hour meeting in Istanbul’s ornate Yıldız Palace, the two leaders announced that they were ready to put the shootdown behind them, and try again. “Today has been a full day with President Putin of discussing Russia-Turkish relations,” Erdoğan declared, speaking at a joint news conference. “I have full confidence that the normalization of Turkish-Russian ties will continue at a fast pace.”
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.