ISTANBUL — Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country is working with Turkey to resolve the ongoing crisis in Syria - an issue on which the two countries sharply disagree. He made the comment at a news conference in Istanbul during a one-day visit.
The crisis in Syria featured prominently in a day of talks between Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Differences over Syria have recently strained relations, with Erdogan strongly critical of Moscow's support of President Bashar al-Assad's government. But following the two leaders' meeting, Putin sought to distance himself from Damascus.
Putin said Russia is not protecting the government in Syria and that it is not an advocate of Damascus.
The two leaders confirmed that they held lengthy talks about Syria, including discussing a proposal by Erdogan, however no details were given about the proposal.
Putin said he will continue cooperating with Turkey and the international community to resolve the crisis.
The Russian president stressed there is common ground on Syria but there still is work to be done. He said the two countries' positions on what needs to be achieved are in complete accordance, but they have not reached agreement on the methods.
Ahead of Putin's visit, Erdogan suggested that Moscow could play a key role in ending the Syrian crisis. Putin reiterated his opposition to Ankara's request for NATO to deploy its Patriot anti-missile system to protect the country from any Syrian attack, saying it would further destabilize the region. But, he stressed he understood Turkey's concerns.
Observers noted that the two leaders were anxious to send a message that differences over Syria will not undermine deepening relations that are underpinned by a rapidly growing trade relationship. During the Russian president's visit, a number of trade and diplomatic agreements were signed, and a commitment was made to triple the current $30 billion in trade to $100 billion.