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Turkey and Russia agree deal to build gas pipeline

The leaders of Turkey and Russia have overseen the signing of a deal to build a gas pipeline - a project that was suspended amid tensions between the two countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan watched as their countries' energy ministers sealed the Turkish Stream project that would bring gas from Russia to Turkey.

It would then be distributed to European Union nations.

The agreement came on the sidelines of the World Energy Congress being held in Istanbul.

In other steps aimed at restoring ties, Mr Putin announced that Russia had agreed to cut natural gas export prices to Turkey and resume importing fruit, vegetables and other agricultural goods from the country.

Russia is building Turkey's first nuclear power plant, and Mr Erdogan said the sides had agreed to accelerate the project.

"I am convinced that the process of normalisation of our ties will continue rapidly," Mr Erdogan told reporters during a joint news conference.

Mr Putin had first suggested the Turkish Stream project to carry gas beneath the Black Sea into Turkey in 2014, when a pipeline project to Bulgaria fell through amid EU countries' opposition.

It was Mr Erdogan and Mr Putin's third meeting since June, when the Turkish leader apologised to Russia for shooting down a Russian plane at the Syrian border.

The incident had seriously damaged ties, with Russia responding by deploying long-range air defence missiles at its air base in Syria, and imposing an array of economic sanctions on Turkey.

Serious differences remain on Syria. While Moscow has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the nation's civil war and further bolstered that support by launching an air campaign last September, Turkey has pushed for Mr Assad's removal and helped his foes.

Mr Putin said Turkey and Russia were in agreement over the need to deliver aid to Aleppo in Syria but were at odds over the "security" of the delivery routes.

Mr Erdogan said he and the Russian leader had discussed Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces' efforts to recapture areas near the Turkish border from the Islamic State group, and said they had assessed possible cooperation with Russia.

"On Aleppo, we discussed what kind of a strategy can be applied on humanitarian aid so that the people there can quickly attain peace and calm," Mr Erdogan said.

Earlier, in his speech to the congress, Mr Putin voiced support to Mr Erdogan over the country's July 15 failed coup, saying he was happy that the country had "retained control" after the attempt.

"We are very glad that Turkey is recovering and wish it success," Mr Putin said.



From Belfast Telegraph