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Russia, Turkey look to strengthen relationship beyond Syria

Contrary to expectations, in Moscow Syria was a marginal story while Putin and Erdogan focused on further boosting bilateral ties.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 8 April 2019. Maxim Shipenkov/Pool via REUTERS - RC1D77CA39C0

MOSCOW — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Moscow on Monday to meet with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, arriving just days after a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If there’s one Middle Eastern leader who meets with Putin more frequently than Netanyahu, it’s the Turkish president. In 2018 alone Erdogan had 13 meetings and eight phone conversations with his Russian counterpart. Netanyahu, meanwhile, had his 13th encounter with Putin since December 2015 Thursday. Last week's visit was Netanyahu’s second trip to Russia this year, whereas for Erdogan this visit was already his third.

The timing and use of the visits are also remarkable. While the Israeli prime minister paid a snap visit before the critical domestic parliamentary election to address the most urgent matters, the Turkish leader went after no less critical local elections on a long-scheduled trip to plan a variety of strategic initiatives. As Netanyahu seeks Putin’s personal boost for the Israeli political campaign, Erdogan eyes ways to ensure that Ankara's relationship with Moscow enables Turkey to grow the regional muscle it has long desired while working not to let ongoing crises with the West to undermine his standing at home.

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