Erdogan says Putin's visit to Turkey relects improved relations

Associated Press Worldstream
August 30, 2004 Monday 4:17 PM Eastern Time

MOSCOW -- Russia and Turkey will sign a joint declaration on "deepening
friendship and multifaceted partnership" during President Vladimir
Putin's visit to Turkey this week, the Interfax new agency quoted
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying Monday.

Putin's two-day trip, which starts Friday, will be the first official
visit by a Russian leader since the Soviet collapse.

"This visit clearly demonstrates the high level of mutual dialogue
and trust between Turkey and Russia and will give an impulse to the
further strengthening of our relations," Interfax quoted Erdogan as
saying in an interview.

Erdogan said topics for discussion would include what he said were
improved political relations and economic cooperation, including in
energy, as well as the situation in Cyprus, Iraq, the Middle East
and the Caucasus Mountains - where Turkey is allied with Azerbaijan
while Russia is more friendly with its foe Armenia.

Turkey wants to see the conflict in Chechnya - also in the Caucasus -
resolved in a peaceful way that respects Russia's constitution and
its territorial integrity as well human rights, the Russian agency
quoted Erdogan as saying. Russia has called on Turkey to crack down
on charities it claims have provided support to Chechen rebels.

Russia exports large quantities of its oil westward from the Black
Sea through Turkey's busy Bosporus straits, a situation that Erdogan
said was dangerous.

Erdogan said that that the number of Russian tankers moving through
Turkey from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean "has exceeded all
possible limits, from the point of view of the environment and
security," Interfax reported. He called on Russian oil companies to
use pipelines instead.

Erdogan said that Russia's natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, has expressed
interest in building underground gas storage facilities in Turkey and
in transporting gas to other countries via Turkey, Interfax reported.

According to Erdogan, the volume of trade between Russia and Turkey
reached nearly US$7 billion last year. He said he hopes it can exceed
US$10 billion in the coming years.