Putin to visit on Dec. 3
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who postponed an official visit to Turkey in mid October, is scheduled to arrive in Turkey on Dec. 3.
Putin, who will be in İstanbul for a one-day visit, will attend the third meeting of the High Level Cooperation Council established between Turkey and Russia, and five agreements in areas including the economy, culture and trade are to be concluded between the two countries during the visit.
Following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to Moscow in July this year, Putin's visit in December is expected to bring bilateral relations to a strategic level, but the main item on the agenda for the visit is expected to be the situation in Syria, over which the two countries hold diametrically opposed views. Sources who requested to remain anonymous told Today's Zaman that the plane crisis, which broke out between Turkey and Russia when Turkey intercepted a Syrian passenger plane en route to Damascus from Moscow on Oct. 11 on suspicion that the plane was carrying munitions for the Syrian army, was not an item on the agenda for the visit.
The Patriot missiles that Turkey has recently requested from NATO to use against potential shells from Syria, over which Russia has criticized Turkey, is another thorny issue between the two countries. When Putin's visit in October was delayed, the postponement was at first perceived as Russia's reaction to Turkey's decision to force the Syrian plane to land in Ankara, but it later turned out that Putin had also put off other visits which were to take place during the same time period to countries such as Pakistan and India.
The two countries are already good partners in trade, and Putin's visit is expected to further enhance relations on the business front. Turkey and Russia have a trade volume of $30 billion, $24 billion of which is Russian exports, mainly gas, to Turkey. According to the data from the Turkish Ministry of Economy, there are nearly 1,400 firms with Russian capital active in Turkey, while more than 2,000 Turkish firms are doing business in Russia. Turkey's total direct investments in Russia amount to $10 billion, which represents Turkey's biggest investments abroad, while Turkish construction firms have so far had a total turnover of $35 billion in projects in Russia. Turkey is also a major destination for Russian tourists, with 3.6 million Russians having visited Turkey in 2011.
In an effort to knit closer ties between the Turkish and Russian peoples, the two countries also established, at the beginning of last year, a Turkey-Russia Social Forum, through which civil society organizations in both countries will get together in joint projects. During Putin's visit, this social forum is also expected to be active.