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Putin Holds Talks with Turkish Leaders


Russian President Vladimir Putin began talks with Turkish leaders, Monday. Mr. Putin's visit, the first by any Russian leader in 32 years, is aimed at boosting trade and political cooperation between the former regional foes.

Mr. Putin is expected to sign six agreements, in the fields of defense, energy and trade that would help boost already booming economic ties between Turkey and Russia.

Two-way trade between the two countries, which stands at an annual $6 billion, is set to increase to $10 billion over the coming years.

During his talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Mr. Putin is expected to raise a number of thorny issues. Among them is the status of the Bosporus Straits that bisect Turkey's largest city, Istanbul. The straits are the sole outlet for tankers carrying oil from Russia's Black Sea terminals to international markets. Russia accuses Turkey of restricting traffic through the shipping lane. Russia also accuses Turkey of allowing Chechen separatists to smuggle weapons through Turkish territory. Turkey denies the claims.

Despite such differences, analysts say the two regional rivals have been drawing closer, in recent years, and not only because of shared economic interests. Turkey and Russia were opposed to the American-led invasion of Iraq and express concerns about possible US intervention in Iran, issues that will be discussed by President Putin and his Turkish hosts in Ankara.

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