Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 235

Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin yesterday wound up a two-day visit to Turkey during which the two countries signed more than a dozen bilateral agreements, topped by a major gas deal estimated to be worth more than $13 billion. The visit, which represented the highest level contact between Moscow and Ankara since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, appeared to move the two traditional rivals toward closer cooperation. During the visit, Chernomyrdin held talks with his Turkish counterpart, Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, and also met with Turkish president Suleyman Demirel. Yilmaz, who is to travel to the U.S this week, reportedly accepted an invitation to visit Russia. Chernomyrdin’s visit comes at a critical time for Turkey, which has reacted with bitterness to a decision taken by the European Union over the weekend rejecting Ankara’s bid for membership.

The Russian-Turkish gas deal, aimed at meeting Turkey’s rapidly growing energy needs, calls for the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom to increase supplies to Turkey to some 30 billion cubic meters per year by 2010. Under the deal, the capacity of an existing pipeline through Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria will be increased, and a new pipeline will be laid under the Black Sea. In addition to the gas deal, the two sides signed agreements on mutual legal assistance in civil, trade, and criminal cases, as well as on scientific cooperation, avoidance of dual taxation, protection of investments, and cooperation in the power industry. The two sides reportedly also discussed possible Russian arms exports to Turkey. (Reuter, December 15; Russian agencies, December 15-16)

The agreements, and the rhetoric voiced by both sides of a new era in Russian-Turkish relations, comes despite serious tensions over a host of bilateral issues. Those differences are topped by Turkey’s furious objection to a deal whereby Russia is to supply advanced S-300 air defense missile complexes to Cyprus. Moscow and Ankara have also clashed over ties between Turkey and Chechnya, as well as over a Turkish policy of limiting the passage of oil tankers through the Turkish Straits. Moscow claims that the limitations violate the 1936 Montreaux Convention.

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