- Associated Press - Monday, April 8, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday hosted his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for talks expected to focus on the situation in Syria and their nations’ booming economic ties.

Greeting Erdogan at the start of their talks in the Kremlin, Putin said they will discuss the completion of a pipeline that will carry Russian gas to Turkey, the planned construction of a major electric plant and other economic projects.

Russia and Turkey have closely coordinated moves on Syria, where they struck a deal in September to create a security zone in the northern province of Idlib. The agreement averted the Syrian army offensive that sparked fears of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Russia and Iran have thrown their support behind Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Turkey has backed his foes during the eight-year war. Despite that, the three countries have teamed up to broker a peace deal for Syria, united by their shared desire to undercut U.S. clout in the region.

Russia and Turkey have opposed the U.S. military presence in Syria and welcomed U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of a planned pullout of American troops.

In his remarks at the start of the meeting, Putin also referred to the arms trade as a key area of cooperation.

Turkey has struck a deal to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense missile, the first such contract for a NATO member, and ignored U.S. demands to abandon the agreement.

Erdogan said Friday that deliveries of the S-400s will begin in July. He noted that Washington had offered Ankara the U.S.-made Patriot air defense system, but that the U.S. offer is not as favorable as Russia‘s.

The U.S. and other NATO allies have said the S-400s aren’t compatible with the alliance’s weapons systems. Washington has voiced concern that their use by Turkey could compromise security of the state-of-the-art U.S. F-35 fighter jets Turkey stands to receive.

Last week, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence warned Turkey that it was risking its NATO membership and its participation in the F-35 program by failing to cancel the missile contract with Russia.

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This story corrects the spelling of the Syrian province of Idlib.

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