FILE PHOTO: Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan meet in Sochi

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan meet in Sochi

Reuters:  Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Turkey on Feb. 12 to meet counterpart Tayyip Erdogan, a Turkish official told Reuters on Wednesday, in what will be the Russian leader's first trip to a NATO ally since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Putin's scope to travel abroad has been limited since March last year when the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against him for the alleged deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia, a war crime. Russia denied the charge and called the move outrageous, but said it was legally void in any case because Russia is not a member of the ICC.

Turkey is also not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, so Putin can travel to Turkey without fear of being arrested under the warrant.

Turkey, which shares a maritime border with both Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has sought to maintain good ties with both nations since Moscow's full-scale invasion. It has provided military support to Kyiv and voiced support for its territorial integrity, but also opposes sanctions on Russia.

Ankara has sought to convince Russia to return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to provide protected exports from Ukrainian ports, after Moscow withdrew last July following a year of implementation.

Erdogan has said alternatives to the deal could not provide a lasting solution. While Kyiv has said talks were underway for a revival of the deal, Moscow has said it was not interested in reinstating it.

Earlier on Wednesday, Turkey and Ukraine signed an accord to allow Turkish construction firms to take part in reconstructing Ukrainian infrastructure damaged by the war with Russia.

Turkey has close economic ties with Russia, particularly in tourism, gas supplies, grain and other agricultural trade, that make Western countries uneasy. However, the two have also been at loggerheads over conflicts in Syria and Libya, where they back opposing sides, as well as over tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the South Caucasus.

Separately, Erdogan will travel to Egypt on Feb. 14, the Turkish official said, after the two countries upgraded their diplomatic relations by appointing ambassadors last year following a decade of tension.

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