Putin and Erdogan find more room to cooperate at a meeting in Sochi, Russia.

Putin and Erdogan find more room to cooperate at a meeting in Sochi, Russia.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, held marathon talks on a range of complementary and clashing interests on Friday, pledging to strengthen economic ties at a time when Turkey is emerging as a main trade bridge for Moscow to the rest of the world.

In a joint communiqué issued after four hours of talks in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, the leaders stressed the importance of grain exports through the Black Sea. Turkey proved instrumental in mediating a recent, hard-won deal enabling Ukraine to resume its grain exports this week for the first time since Russia invaded in late February. The deal was accompanied by Western assurances that Russia’s agricultural exports were not subject to sanctions.

The monthslong absence of Ukrainian grain on world markets sent prices soaring and threatened to spread famine in Africa and the Middle East.

The two also agreed to continue cooperating on energy, which Russia supplies in volume to Turkey. Mr. Putin praised the TurkStream pipeline as a main conduit for Russian gas that is still flowing to Europe. Russian officials said that Turkey had also agreed to settle some of its substantial annual energy bill in rubles — something many Western countries have refused to do because it would blunt their stiff sanctions, some of which are aimed at weakening Russia’s currency.

Russia, constantly probing for ways to evade those sanctions, sees cooperation with Turkey as a key to easing its economic and political isolation.

The talks, coming less than three weeks after the leaders met in Iran, solidified Turkey’s role as an important mediator between Ukraine and Russia, as well as between Russia and NATO, of which Turkey is a member. But it did not resolve some of the friction points between them, including security in the Middle East, or the possibility of Mr. Putin using relations with Turkey to try to find or create chinks in Western unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Erdogan is treading a fine line to retain the ability to talk to both Russia, NATO’s foe, and to Western members of the alliance. Turkey has held to its refusal to join Western sanctions against Russia, irking its NATO allies, but Mr. Erdogan also, in a crucial move, eased his initial objections to Sweden’s and Finland’s joining the alliance as a bulwark against Russian aggression.

In helping Russia to export gas and grain, analysts said, Turkey is providing a useful outlet for goods that Western capitals want to see traded. And the trade with Russia is helping address Turkey’s own substantial economic woes. However, Ankara has shied away from providing the Kremlin so much help that it provokes Western capitals.

For his part, Mr. Putin’s meetings with Turkey is telling the West “that he intends to keep up with the economic relations that provide a breathing channel to Russia vis-à-vis the sanctions,” said Ahmet Kasım Han, a professor of international relations and economy at Istanbul Aydin University in Turkey.

Mr. Putin has tried to exploit differences between Turkey and its NATO allies in years past, by selling Turkey advanced anti-aircraft systems.

“Putin is still working from the same playbook,” said Mr. Han. “He is trying to keep Turkey a little apart from its Western partners.”

The joint communiqué said the two sides had agreed on working together in Syria and Libya, conflict areas where they have backed opposing sides. However, it did not specify how, and there was no indication that Mr. Putin, who has backed the Syrian government through its long civil war, had given a green light for Mr. Erdogan to attack Kurdish groups that Turkey considers terrorists, based just across its southern border with Syria.

Although Dmitri S. Peskov, Russia’s presidential press secretary, had suggested before the meeting that it would include military-technical cooperation, there was no mention of that in the communiqué. Low-cost Turkish drones sold to Ukraine have been used to devastating affect against Russian forces.

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Last Update: Sat, 06 Aug 22 04:51:45