Lavrov: "Russia welcomes Turkey's efforts to peace and stability to the caucasus"
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov yesterday came to Istanbul to pay a one-day visit to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan on the recent crisis between Russia and Georgia and Turkey's proposed Caucasus cooperation and stability platform. Afterwards, Lavrov told a joint press conference that his country appreciates Turkey's efforts to solve the crisis in the region, and added that Russia supports Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's proposal for a Caucasus platform. Characterizing relations between the two countries as friendly, Lavrov stressed the significant growth in bilateral trade in recent years, saying that Turkey is now Russia's top trading partner. He also said that they had agreed to work to maintain peace, security and tranquility in the region. Lavrov said that they had also agreed to further develop cooperation in the Black Sea. Russia wants to continue its economic, political, commercial and cultural ties with Turkey, he said. For his part, Babacan said that Turkey would continue its efforts to solve the issue in the region through dialogue and peaceful means. Babacan reiterated that Turkey places great importance on Georgia's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Stating that both Russia and Turkey see Erdogan's proposed platform as an initiative to build confidence among countries of the region and restore peace and stability, Babacan said that they had agreed to continue talks to develop and realize the initiative. "We also had a frank and constructive discussion of the problems caused by Turkish products being held up at Russian customs gates longer than usual," Babacan added, saying he believed these problems could soon be overcome with the help of a flexible, cooperative approach from Russia.