Putin in Turkey to discuss next steps on Syria, S-400s & nuclear power
President Putin chose Turkey as his first foreign visit after reelection to talk to the other two guarantors of a ceasefire in Syria: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The three nations have managed to establish de-escalation zones and humanitarian pauses that have gradually wound down hostilities and allowed thousands of civilians to escape combat zones, such as the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, where Russia played a major role.
The alliance seems to be working out so far, despite each side having its own interests in the region. In January this year, the three nations brokered the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Russia’s Sochi, aiming to bolster the peace process agreed on at the 2012 Geneva talks. The gathering, endorsed by the UN as “an important contribution to a revived intra-Syrian talks process” but boycotted by some of the anti-Assad opposition groups, resulted in the agreement to create a 150-strong Constitutional Committee, which will work out a new constitution for Syria.
Before the three-way talks commence in Ankara, Putin will talk business with Erdogan one-on-one. His visit kicks off at a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of Turkey's first nuclear power plant at Akkuyu. Russia is standing "at the onset of the creation of the nuclear industry in Turkey," said Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov.
The power plant's first reactor is expected to begin working in 2023. Russia will remain the plant's owner, effectively selling power to Turkey.
Another major deal between Moscow and Ankara is the sale of Russian-made S-400 surface-to-air missile complexes. Turkey, a NATO member, has been forging ahead with the purchase despite protests from some of its allies, including the US. It is now asking Russia to expedite deliveries – a call that Moscow is working hard to meet by supplying the S-400s before 2020, according to Ushakov.