Erdogan Travels to Russia, Georgia for Talks

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will pay a visit to Russia and Georgia for talks over the conflict between the two countries, a statement from his press office said on Wednesday.

It said that he will meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow later Wednesday and with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi on Thursday.

"We believe the prime minister’s trips to Moscow and Tbilisi will contribute to securing a climate of sustainable peace and stability in the region," the statement said.

Following the onset of fighting between Russia and Tbilisi, Turkey as a NATO member bordering Georgia’s southwest called for the establishment of a forum to boost cooperation in the Caucasus, involving regional countries and Russia. Turkey has developed close ties with Georgia since its neighbor gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and supports its bid to join NATO.

The two countries are linked by a major oil pipeline that carries Azeri oil from the Caspian Sea fields via Georgia to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, where tankers transport the crude to Western markets.

The conflict between Russia and its former Soviet neighbor began late last week when Georgia attacked South Ossetia, a pro-Russian province that threw off Georgian rule in the 1990s.

The West views Georgia as a valuable, if volatile, ally because of its strategic location on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline carrying oil from the Caspian to Europe.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have been at a low ebb because of Saakashvili’s pro-western policies and his drive to take his country into the NATO alliance, a move Moscow considers a threat to its national security.

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