Turkey and Russian leaders meet in St Petersberg

Turkey and Russian leaders meet in St Petersberg
After months of diplomatic tensions, Russia's President Vladimir Putin hosted his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as the two embattled leaders look to fix ties following Western criticisms.
2 min read
09 August, 2016
Putin hosted the Turkish president after months of tensions [Getty]

A highly anticipated meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip took place in St Petersburg on Tuesday, as tense relations between the two countries begin to thaw.

It is the first time to two authoritarian leaders have met since Turkey shot down a Russian war plane which entered its airspace from Syria last November.

The downing of the jet and killing of two aircrew sparked a diplomatic crisis, which is only now beginning to mend.

"Your visit today, despite a very difficult situation regarding domestic politics, indicates that we all want to restart dialogue and restore relations between Russia and Turkey," Putin told Erdogan.

The Russian president was referring to July's attempted military coup against Erdogan, which was successfully put down but led to a wave of arrests and sackings of suspected government opponents. 

This was Erdogan's first foreign trip since the event, and the purge of alleged followers of US-based cleric Fathullah Gulen has led to frictions with the West, wary of the president's strong-handed response to the coup.

Ankara also suspects a Western connection in the coup plot.

I know that I was one of the first who called you to express support regarding the crisis.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin

Meanwhile, Russia has been isolated by Europe and the US following Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine, and suppression of anti-government activists.

"I know that I was one of the first who called you to express support regarding the crisis," Putin said. "I want to say once again that this is our principled position, we are against any unconstitutional actions."

Erdogan said the Turkish people were "happy" Putin had voiced support for the government following the putsch attempt.

"[The two countries will] enter into a very different phase with the steps we will take and have taken."

The shooting down of the Russian plane saw Moscow slap economic sanctions on Turkey, already suffering from a downturn in tourism following ruthless militant attacks on holidaymakers in Istanbul.

A war of words between the two leaders saw tensions deepen further.

In June, relations improved when Erdogan sent a letter expressing his regret about the downing of the Russian jet, with Putin responding by rolling back some of the sanctions on Turkey. 

Agencies contributed to this story.