MEDVEDEV HAILS STRATEGIC TURKEY TIES

Tehran Times
May 13 2010

ANKARA (AFP) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Wednesday hailed
"strategic" ties with NATO-member Turkey as the two sides prepared to
seal energy deals, including a plan to build Turkey's first nuclear
power plant.

"Our relations have dramatically changed over the past years. Today
they are strategic," Medvedev told a joint press conference with
Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.

"This is a very special day in Turkish-Russian relations," he said
after overseeing the signing of cooperation accords in the fields of
combating drug-trafficking, transport and education.

Gul said the two countries were determined to triple bilateral trade in
five years to 100 billion dollars, a goal Medvedev said was ambitious
but within reach.

The crowning point of Medvedev's visit was to be a memorandum to build
and operate a nuclear power station in Turkey, likely be signed after
the first meeting of a "high-level cooperation council" co-chaired
by the Russian leader and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Russia has long looked to build Turkey's first nuclear power
plant, but a Turkish court last year scrapped a tender won by a
Russian-led consortium to build four reactors with a total capacity
of 4,800-megawatts at Akkuyu, on the Mediterranean coast.

Another highlight was a deal mutually lifting visas.

"This agreement is ready for signing," Medvedev said. "It is a historic
and breakthrough agreement, which will be aimed at making life easier
for millions of people."

Turkey's Mediterranean coast is a popular destination for Russian
tourists.

Russia's gas giant Gazprom and state oil firm Rosneft will also ink
contracts. Kremlin foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko said they
would be among the "most commercially significant" deals to be signed
but no details were immediately given.

Another deal will involve a planned Turkish oil pipeline from the
Black Sea port of Samsun to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean, aimed at
reducing tanker traffic through the congested Bosphorus Strait.

Last year, Turkey secured a Russian pledge to supply oil for the
Samsun-Ceyhan conduit in return for backing its South Stream pipeline
project aimed at protecting Moscow's dominant share in the European
gas market.

Russia wants to build a section of South Stream through Turkey's
Black Sea waters in a new route to Europe bypassing Ukraine.

Turkey, which backs also the European Union's rival Nabucco pipeline,
agreed in August to allow Russian surveys for the project in its
portion of the Black Sea.

Despite sometimes shaky political ties, economic exchanges between
the two countries have boomed since the fall of Communism: in 2009,
their trade volume stood at 22.9 billion dollars, making Russia one
of Turkey's top commercial partners.

Russia's military intervention in Georgia in 2008 briefly strained
relations with Turkey, which has close economic and political ties
with the former Soviet republic, its northeastern neighbor.

Russia is Turkey's main gas supplier, providing about 60 percent of
Turkey's gas imports, and more than a million Russians boost Turkey's
vital tourism sector each year.

Medvedev and Gul said they discussed Iran's nuclear program and
efforts for stability in the Caucasus.

Both leaders stressed the Middle East should be free of nuclear
weapons, while Medvedev pledged support for Turkey and Armenia's
stalled efforts to normalize ties and overcome a history of enmity.

Russia is ready to help resolve a territorial conflict between Armenia
and Azerbaijan that is the main obstacle to peace efforts between
Ankara and Yerevan, Medvedev said.

Photo: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) chats with his Turkish
counterpart Abdullah Gul before a joint news conference at the
Presidential Palace of Cankaya in Ankara May 12, 2010. (Reuters photo)