Comment by the Information and Press Department on the sixth meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Group
On March 14, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will pay a working visit to Russia to attend the sixth meeting of the Joint Strategic Planning Group (JSPG) co-chaired by the foreign ministers of both countries. The Group is part of the High-Level Cooperation Council (HLCC) headed by the presidents of Russia and Turkey. The fifth HLCC meeting (the first after the six-month crisis in bilateral relations) was held on December 1, 2016, in Alanya, Turkey.
The Russian-Turkish political dialogue is distinguished by a high intensity of contacts at all levels, influenced primarily by the regular and trusting contacts between the presidents of Russia and Turkey. Between 2017-2018, Vladimir Putin had eight personal meetings with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as well as nearly twenty telephone conversations. Close working contacts have been established and maintained between both countries’ heads of government, ministers, company heads, and experts. Cooperation is being stepped up within other HLCC components: Combined Intergovernmental Commission for Trade and Economic Cooperation and the Russian-Turkish Public Forum (RTPF).
Russian-Turkish foreign policy interaction is also characterised by high dynamism. In 2017, there were four meetings between Sergey Lavrov and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Bonn on February 16; at the ASEAN summit in Manila on August 6; during the Russian President’s visit to Ankara on September 28; and at the trilateral meeting on Syria of the foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Antalya on November 19).
Throughout 2017, the Russian and Turkish foreign ministries held regular political consultations on a wide range of international and regional matters: the situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa; consular issues; cultural and humanitarian cooperation; cooperation in the fight against terrorism and organised crime; Pacific, Eastern, South-Eastern and Eurasian issues; Cyprus settlement; and foreign policy planning. Cooperation between the foreign ministries, along with interaction between representatives of both countries’ defence ministries and secret services, played a significant role in effectively maintaining the ceasefire in Syria and creating the necessary conditions for a political settlement in that country.
The participants at the JSPG meeting are planning to discuss a wide range of current bilateral, regional and international problems. They intend to compare notes on the situation in the Middle East and Northern Africa, the Transcaucasia, Central Asia, Ukraine and the Black Sea region. They will also discuss how to boost the effectiveness of their cooperation at international organisations.
The participants will focus on how to stabilise the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic and launch the process of a political settlement via continued inclusive national dialogue based on the generally accepted principles of international law. Russia proceeds from the assumption that Russia and Turkey share a special responsibility for ensuring and preserving peace, security and stability in that country and the region as a whole.
The ministers will also review preparations for the planned regular HLCC meeting due to be held shortly as well as the agenda of the upcoming Russian-Turkish-Iranian contacts on Syria in the Astana format.
The participants will devote much attention to discussing the ways of consolidating positive tendencies in trade and economic ties. We are pleased to note that Russian-Turkish trade grew by 37.2% to $21.6 billion in 2017 over 2016. Energy cooperation, a key factor in bilateral ties, will come in for special consideration. It is intended to discuss ways of facilitating the implementation of strategic bilateral energy projects (such as the Akkuyu nuclear power plant and the Turkish Stream gas pipeline).
The parties will discuss joint steps to remove the remaining barriers to bilateral trade and expand the range of agricultural products supplied by Russia and Turkey to each other’s national markets. Russia’s priority in this regard is to secure its domestic producers and investors’ legitimate interests, primarily in what concerns the Russian industrial and agricultural exports to Turkey.
With the lifting of restraints, the Russian tourist flow to Turkey has grown considerably. According to available data, a record 4.6 million Russians visited Turkey in 2017, which is more than in the boom year 2014, when the number of tourists amounted to 4.5 million. The results of the last tourist season will be reviewed in the context of what is needed to be done to ensure safety of Russian tourists.
Given the need to provide for national security, it is planned to discuss prospects for simplifying reciprocal travel. We confirm our readiness to liberalise the visa regime for certain categories of people. But Russia hopes for greater efficiency of cooperation between the relevant agencies of both countries in fighting international terrorism and organised crime.
The parties will review the implementation of the signed supply contract for S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missile systems and other current and prospective military-technical cooperation projects.
The cultural and humanitarian relations are a significant factor in boosting mutual trust between the two peoples, without which it is hard to expand and strengthen contacts in other spheres. Those taking part in the meeting will exchange opinions on practical steps to intensify bilateral cultural and humanitarian cooperation, including by encouraging operations of the Russian-Turkish Public Forum established to promote public and humanitarian ties and by monitoring preparations for the cross Year of Culture and Tourism to be marked by Russia and Turkey in 2019.
Russia is confident that the upcoming ministerial meeting due to be held within the JSPG framework will make a real contribution to the restoration and further development of neighbourly relations between Russia and Turkey.