Turkey-Russia talks to focus on energy, Caucasus

* Russian president in first official Turkey visit

* Energy, South Caucasus stability on top of agenda

By Tulay Karadeniz

ANKARA, May 11 (BestGrowthStock) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
arrived in Turkey on Tuesday to broach relations in the volatile
South Caucasus region and seal several energy deals.

On his first official visit to Turkey, Medvedev was due to
attend a dinner with President Abdullah Gul after arriving from
Syria, and meet Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday.

Seeking to balance off its West-facing foreign policy,
Turkey has strengthened relations with Russia and other former
Soviet republics as well as fellow Muslim nations in the Middle
East over past years.

Speaking ahead of Medvedev’s arrival, Russian officials have
said state energy companies Gazprom (GAZP.MM: ) and Rosneft
(ROSN.MM: ) were expected to sign contracts during the visit. No
further details were available.

Russia already provides 60 percent of Turkey’s gas needs
which has raised concerns of Turkey becoming over-dependent on
Russian energy.
Officials said they also hoped to agree on a deal for a
Russian firm to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. Deals
on shipping oil products from the Black Sea and ferry transport
were also expected among some 25 agreements due to be signed.

Major progress on proposed cross-border pipeline projects,
including the Moscow-backed Southstream gas pipeline, were less
likely because of their complexities, Turkish officials said.

Bringing greater stability to the South Caucasus will be
also on the agenda. The mountainous region, that fell firmly
under Moscow’s influence following the collapse of the Ottoman
Empire after the First World War, is riddled with old enmities.

“Russia and Turkey are both very important countries of the
region. Of course we have our differences,” a Turkish official
said, confirming the topic would come up.

Several conflicts erupted in the region following the
collapse of the Soviet Union, including the Nagorno-Karabakh
dispute between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan.

Ethnic Christian Armenians, backed by Armenian forces, in
Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azeri rule and some 30,000
people were killed before a ceasefire was agreed in 1994.

Turkey has sealed its border with Armenia in support of
fellow Muslim Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has been angered by Turkey
now seeking to normalise relations with Armenia, and there have
been fears that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could flare again.

Armenia accuses Ottoman Turks of killing millions of
Armenians in 1915, but late last year Armenia and Turkey agreed
a series of protocols to mend ties.

Last month, Armenia suspended ratification of the protocols
that would have resulted in an opening of its western border
with Turkey, because Erdogan introduced a condition calling on
Armenia to make moves to defuse the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Turkey hopes to enlist Russia’s help to break the deadlock.

“We are traditionally interested in development of mutually
beneficial cooperation both with Armenia and Turkey,” a Russian
official said.

Some Turkish analysts suspect Russia of playing a spoiling
game in the South Caucasus to stop Armenia and Azerbaijan
establishing economic links that could loosen ties to Moscow.

Progress on visa free travel was also expected during the
visit. Last year, Russians were the second largest number of
foreign tourists to Turkey.

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(Reporting by Denis Dyomkin in Moscow; Writing by Simon
Cameron-Moore; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

Turkey-Russia talks to focus on energy, Caucasus