Middle East

Turkey's Erdogan to visit Russia amid Syria controversy

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting at his party headquarters in Ankara on July 11, 2012. ( AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN)

ISTANBUL: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan leaves for Russia next Wednesday to discuss the developments in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his office announced Thursday.

"Significant regional and international developments led by Syria are on the table to be discussed thoroughly," during Erdogan's visit, the written statement said.

The talks are a new link in the chain of effective dialogue at the highest level between Turkey and Russia, the statement added.

Ankara and Moscow remain at odds regarding the armed conflict between President Bashar Assad's regime and the opposition that has claimed 17,000 lives since mid-March last year according to rights monitors.

Erdogan's one-day visit comes after Ankara clashed with Damascus over the downing of a Turkish warplane on June 22 by Syrian fire over the Mediterranean and the death of its two crew.

Turkey viewed the incident as a hostile act and has taken steps to fortify its border with Syria, while Russian media outlets, citing unnamed Russian officials, placed the blame on the "provocative" Turkish fighter.

Erdogan, a one-time ally of Damascus, has called Assad "a bloody dictator" and called on him to step down, as Moscow continues to stand by the Syrian regime.

Turkey shelters more than 37,000 refugees on its side of the border with Syria, where rebel forces made up of Syrian army defectors are also based.





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