May 12 2010

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and his Turkish counterpart
Abdullah Gul chat before a news conference in Ankara, Turkey,
Wednesday. AP photo.

Visa-free travel between Russia and Turkey was just one of several
agreements signed by the two countries Wednesday during a presidential
visit from President Dmitry Medvedev to Ankara.

Praising "strategic ties" with NATO-member Turkey, Medvedev called
the visa agreement "historic" and said it would ease the lives of
millions of people in both countries.

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

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

The Russian leader said the relationship between his country and Turkey
would be an example to all of Europe, adding that there were further
significant opportunities to boost cooperation between the two nations.

Medvedev's visit to Turkey took place on the 90th anniversary of the
establishment of diplomatic ties between Turkey and Russia.

Gul, meanwhile, said relations between the two nations were "strong"
and growing.

Expressing Turkey's determination to move forward with Turkish-Russian
relations, Gul said the visa deal would benefit not only transporters
but also tourists.

"Relations between Turkey and Russia are developing in all fields.

During our meetings today, we had a chance to go over bilateral
relations," he said. "We were pleased to note common visions on
regional and international issues. We have agreed to work together
to solve regional problems by dialogue."

Support for Armenia thaw

In the press conference, Medvedev also extended support to the
normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, which hit a snag after
Yerevan's decision to freeze the ratification of diplomatic protocols
with Ankara.

Medvedev said Russia, a strong supporter and ally of Armenia, was
monitoring developments carefully and hoped the process that had
gained momentum with the protocols signed between Turkey and Armenia
would continue.

The normalization would contribute to regional stability, improve
economic relations and raise living standards, the Russian president
said. "We support this process, we will make use of our resources,
but the concerned parties will make the [final] decision."

On the territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Turkey's
staunch ally and friend, Medvedev said the row over Nagorno-Karabakh
was a challenging issue but not the sole issue in the Caucasus.

He said promising steps had recently been taken for the settlement
of the Karabakh dispute, adding that there had been a number of
developments - albeit no compromise on all matters.

On bilateral relations, Medvedev said he had discussed the
contributions of Turkey and Russia to regional and global stability
with Gul, referring to the two countries' responsibilities in the
Black Sea basin.

Middle East peace

While urging the United States to actively work to achieve peace in the
Middle East with the support of other nations, Medvedev highlighted
the ongoing human tragedy in the besieged Palestinian territory of
the Gaza Strip.

He said Turkey and Russia had similar views on solutions of the Middle
East and they could make the process more active.

Russia's stance on Iran was certain and close to that of Turkey,
Medvedev said, adding that the Islamic Republic must "adopt a
constructive approach in some way" regarding its nuclear program.

"The Middle East must be a region cleared of nuclear weapons," Medvedev
said. "The use of nuclear weapons in the region would be a disaster."

His comment appeared to indicate Moscow's willingness to become an
active Middle East mediator. Washington recently launched U.S.-mediated
peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but signs of trouble
have already emerged.

For his part, Gul said the Middle East problem concerned the entire
world, not only the Palestinians, Israelis or Arabs. "Therefore, this
problem has to be solved. We appreciate the initiatives of the Middle
East Quartet and George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy for the Middle East,
but we do not think they are sufficient."

Medvedev said no one should be excluded from the Middle East peace
process, a clear reference to Khaled Mashaal, the exiled leader of
the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has beeb shunned as a
terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union. Medvedev
met Mashaal in Damascus on Tuesday.

Hamas rules in the Gaza Strip, one of the territories that could one
day form part of a Palestinian state.


Compiled from AA, AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.