Russia’s newly appointed ambassador to Ankara Alexei Yerkhov said that Turkey is an important partner of Russia in solving the Syrian crisis and increasing the trade volume between two countries to $100 billion is a “possible goal.”
Earlier in May, the Russian State Duma’s International Relations Committee pledged support for the appointment of Yerkhov, the former consul general in Istanbul, as the new Russian ambassador to Turkey.
In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed him as Russia’s ambassador to Turkey.
The veteran Russian diplomat, who will arrive in Turkey by the end of this week, spoke to Turkish media outlets regarding his new duty and recent issues between the two countries.
Indicating that many of Ankara and Moscow’s interest were overlapping, Yerkhov said that Russia’s cooperation with Turkey has reached the highest level “in all aspects and degrees.”
“Ankara has always holds a special place in Moscow’s foreign policy,” he said, adding that he will work hard to improve the bilateral relations of the two countries during his time as ambassador.
Yerkhov indicated that all states have their own priorities while developing their internal and foreign policies and said that it is normal to have different opinions in Syria.
However, he stressed, talks for a solution to the Syrian crisis will continue in Astana and negotiations for de-escalation zones, cease-fire agreements and other major issues are also ongoing.
“Turkey and Russia do not have completely dissimilar interests in Syria,” he said.
The new ambassador said that the goal of increasing trade volume between the two countries to $100 billion, which was set by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, is a “tough but an achievable” goal.
“This is an assertive task, not simple. However, it is possible,” he said.
Yerkhov also said that 3 million Russians, all of whom are expected to vacation in Turkey until the end of the year, are also a strong indicator of the level of bilateral relations.
He emphasized that he will also follow the legal process of the assassination of previous Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov, adding that Turkish and Russian officials are in close contact regarding the issue.
Karlov was killed last December following an attack by a gunman at the opening of an art exhibition in the Turkish capital. Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, 22, an off-duty policeman, shot the ambassador nine times in the back while he was delivering a speech.
The assassination came amid efforts to rejuvenate Turkish-Russian relations after the 2015 jet crisis and establishing a nationwide cease-fire in Syria.
The ambassador also said that he works hard to learn Turkish and that he will “overcome it sooner or later.”
“This is a challenging issue. I began to try to overcome it when I traveled to Istanbul for the first time for my duty, despite having failed. So, this is my second attempt. Verbs are very hard to learn in Turkish. Now, I am working on it again. I will achieve it sooner or later,” he said.