Newspaper article International New York Times

Russia and Turkey Vow to Repair Frayed Ties ; Former Antagonists Meet for a Friendly Talk, Setting off Alarms in the West

Newspaper article International New York Times

Russia and Turkey Vow to Repair Frayed Ties ; Former Antagonists Meet for a Friendly Talk, Setting off Alarms in the West

Article excerpt

The symbolism of a meeting in St. Petersburg between the Russian and Turkish presidents was probably enough to raise alarms in Western capitals.

Against a backdrop of rising tensions between Turkey and the West, Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey have pledged to repair relations after nine months of open antagonism.

Although their meeting in St. Petersburg on Tuesday produced little beyond vows of friendship and cooperation, the symbolism of the two former antagonists coming together for a friendly talk was enough to raise alarms in Western capitals. Besides being a member of the NATO alliance, Turkey is vital to Europe's efforts to stanch the flow of migrants from Syria and Afghanistan.

Washington and Ankara, long at odds over American support of the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, have had a series of problems lately. Anti- Americanism has been on the rise in Turkey, amid accusations that the United States played a role in the failed coup in Turkey and widespread resentment of the White House's criticism of the resulting crackdown.

Turkish officials have been further infuriated by President Obama's reluctance to hand over Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania whom Mr. Erdogan has accused of leading the coup attempt.

For Mr. Putin, who has made little secret of his ambitions to weaken NATO and crack European unity, the opportunity to forge a new, closer relationship with a humbled Mr. Erdogan was probably deeply satisfying, and a vindication of his decision to intervene militarily in Syria.

No one predicted a radical shift in relations, at least not immediately. Russia and Turkey have been on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict, and the two leaders had been at each other's throats since November, when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that it said had violated its airspace on the Syrian border.

Efforts to restore ties accelerated after the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey, after which Mr. Putin was the first leader to call to offer support. "It was very important from a mental perspective, this kind of psychological support," Mr. Erdogan said at the news conference. …

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