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Putin begins official visit to Turkey as bilateral ties seem to deepen

Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun a visit to Turkey as Ankara and Moscow seek to finalize a high-profile weapons deal and discuss developments in Syria, in a sign of a turnaround for the two nations.

Turkey’s state television broadcast a live coverage of Putin’s arrival in Ankara on Thursday as the Russian leader stepped off his plane and shook hands with a line of Turkish and Russian officials.

The visit marks a huge boost in efforts to restore and even deepen ties between Turkey and Russia, the two countries that have been at odds over the crisis in Syria and even came to blows two years ago when the Turkish army shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border.

During Putin’s visit, the Turkish side is expected to finalize a deal on the purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, much to the dismay of NATO, which says Turkey’s decision as a member of the military alliance to use Russian technology would cause problems for the rest of the organization.

A handout picture released by the Turkish Presidential Press Office and taken on September 28, 2017, shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking ahead of a meeting at Presidential Complex in Ankara. (Photo by AFP)

Turkey and Russia also expected to reach agreements on how to expedite efforts to demilitarize the situation in Syria, a country in the south of Turkey which has been grappling with foreign-backed militancy for the past six years.

Turkey and Russia support opposing sides of the conflict in Syria, but both have been parties to a trilateral agreement with Iran to set up de-escalation zones in the Arab country to help reduce the fighting.

Putin’s visit comes as Turkey is still not sure of Russia’s position on the issue of a referendum in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq. Russia has neither supported nor condemned the referendum, which was held on September 25, although the Kremlin issued a statement after the vote and said it was in favor of a united Iraq.

Turkey has fiercely opposed the region’s plans for independence as Ankara has deep-rooted problems with its Kurdish militants along its borders with Iraq and Syria.

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