Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan have a lot in common. They are what old-style newspapers liked to call “strongmen”. Neither is overly fond of dissent and they both upset Western leaders on a regular basis.
The rub is that until now they have not been getting along very well.
Putin imposed trade sanctions on Turkey after the latter downed a Russian jet near the Syrian border in November. Since then, the number of Russian tourists to Turkey – a large economic driver – has fallen by 87 per cent.
Erdogan, in the meantime, has seen off a coup and carried out major purges that have left him in danger of being isolated from the West.
The two men are trying to build bridges today in St Petersburg, Putin’s home town where a treaty was signed in 1834 between the Ottomans and Russians that eased tensions and reparations stemming from the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-29.
President Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey was entering a “very different period” in relations with Russia, and that solidarity between the two countries would help the resolution of regional problems.
Speaking in St Petersburg ahead of meeting with Vladimir Putin, Erdogan thanked his Russian counterpart for his telephone call after a failed military coup on July 15, saying it “brought our people great happiness”.
Erdogan’s trip to Russia comes as Turkey’s relations with Europe and the United States are strained by what Ankara sees as Western concern over the abortive coup, in which more than 240 people were killed.