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Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were meeting in the southern Russian resort town of Sochi on Friday for a second face-to-face conversation in less than three weeks amid a complex backdrop converging and competing interests.

Leaders’ aides described the Sochi talks as a continuation of their talks in Iran on July 19 – some of which included Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader – covering issues such as drones, cereals, energy and Syria.

Mr. Erdogan has become an important mediator between Ukraine and Russia, which is seeking ways out of the economic and political isolation imposed by the West during its invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, a NATO member and long-frustrated EU candidate, proved instrumental in brokering a deal between the two warring nations to urgently restart Ukrainian grain shipments through the Black Sea.

In brief remarks to the cameras before the leaders’ discussion began, Mr Putin thanked Mr Erdogan for Turkey’s role in mediating a Ukrainian grain export deal that also allowed shipments of Russian foods and fertilizers. The focus was on economic issues, with Putin expressing hope that the talks will bring stronger trade and economic ties.

On Syria, Putin said the two would discuss “security issues in the region, primarily the Syrian crisis”, choosing to focus on efforts to normalize the situation there rather than focusing on their sharp divisions. Turkey has long threatened an incursion against Kurdish groups along the border, but wants to do so without risking an armed clash with Russia of the type that frayed relations in 2015 after the Turks shot dead a Russian fighter.

Mr Erdogan, while touching on many of the same themes, said steps taken on issues such as energy, grain, the Black Sea and transport were examples of the important role that Turkey and Russia are playing. In the region.

Mr. Erdogan is on track to retain the ability to talk to both Russia, NATO’s enemy, and Western members of the alliance. Turkey has maintained its refusal to join Western sanctions against Russia, antagonizing its NATO allies, but Mr Erdogan has also, in a crucial move, lifted his initial objections to Sweden and Turkey joining. Finland to the alliance as a bulwark against Russian aggression.

Russia is a key energy supplier for Turkey, supplying a quarter of the country’s crude imports and almost half of its natural gas purchases last year. Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear company, is building a nuclear power plant in the Mediterranean that is expected to supply 10% of Turkey’s energy needs after its scheduled completion in 2026.

For its part, Turkey is becoming an important transshipment point for goods bound for Russia now that many Western freight companies are no longer handling shipments bound for Russia for fear of defying sanctions, the newspaper reported on Thursday. Turkish Dunya. The country also remains a popular destination for Russian tourists.

However, strong differences remain between the two leaders. Their countries have backed opposing sides in the civil war in Turkey’s neighbor Syria. The Kremlin has spent blood and treasure to support President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey, which has absorbed more than 3.7 million Syrian war refugees, supports an opposing rebel faction and threatens a new military offensive in northern Syria. They have also been involved on opposite sides in the border conflict that erupted violently between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Their arms relations are also complex. In recent years, Turkey has challenged its NATO partners to buy Russian anti-aircraft missiles. And now Russia – starved by war-related Western sanctions for technologies such as guidance systems for missiles and drones – is urgently seeking equipment.

“Military-technical cooperation between the two countries is constantly on the agenda, and the very fact that our interaction is developing in this sensitive area shows that, on the whole, all of our interrelations are at a very high level,” said Dmitri. S. Peskov, Russian presidential press secretary, told reporters on Wednesday, according to the Interfax news agency.

Safak Timour contributed report.

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