Putin says 'painstaking work' needed to rebuild Russia-Turkey trade

Saint Petersburg (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that restoring trade ties with Turkey will take time and work, after his first meeting with counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan since Ankara shot down a Russian warplane last November.

Putin insisted that he wanted to see relations with "our Turkish friends" return to previous levels but stressed that it would take time for Moscow to roll back a series of economic sanctions against Ankara.

"Ahead of us lies painstaking work to resuscitate trade and economic cooperation. This process has already started but it will take some time," Putin told a press conference in Saint Petersburg.

"We lived through a very complicated moment in the relations between our states and we very much want, and I feel our Turkish friends want, to overcome the difficulties," Putin said.

Erdogan's visit to Putin's hometown of Saint Petersburg was his first foreign trip since the failed coup against him last month that sparked a purge of opponents and cast a shadow over Turkey's relations with the West.

For his part Erdogan said that he hoped Russia-Turkish ties would become "more robust" and stressed how important it was that Putin offered his support after the coup.

"We will bring our relations back to the old level and even beyond. Both sides are determined and have the necessary will," he said.

The Turkish leader also called for the TurkStream gas pipeline, a joint project with Russia, to be "done as soon as possible."

Putin said work on the first pipeline carrying Russian gas to the Turkish market would be started "in the nearest future."

The shooting down of a Russian fighter jet by a Turkish F-16 plane over the Syrian border last autumn saw a furious Putin slap economic sanctions on Turkey and launch a blistering war of words with Erdogan that seemed to irrevocably damage burgeoning ties.

But in late June, Putin surprisingly accepted a letter expressing regret over the incident from Erdogan as an apology and quickly rolled back a ban on the sale of package holidays to Turkey and signalled Moscow would end measures against Turkish food imports and construction firms.

The two leaders also said they would discuss one major issue dividing them -- the war in Syria -- after the news conference.

Russia is flying a bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad while Turkey says that the Syrian leader must leave power.

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