ANKARA, March 10 (Xinhua) -- The settlement of the Syrian crisis is expected to top the agenda of the the sixth High-Level Cooperation Council meeting on Friday in Moscow where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet in a bid to enhance bilateral ties, said Syrian expert.
"Syria case, from time to time, has moved ahead in the bilateral relations between Turkey and Russia since the two countries have stepped up rapprochement efforts since August 2016," Aydin Sezer, head of the Turkey and Russia Center of Studies, an Ankara-based think tank, told Xinhua ahead of the meeting.
Russia and Turkey prioritized cooperation in fight against Islamic State (IS) in Syria, after strains were eased as the two sides began a reconciliation process in 2016 following Turkey's apology for downing a Russian jet on the Syrian-Turkish border in November, 2015.
The normalization process was tested over the assassination of Russian Ambassador to Ankara Andrey Karlov in an armed attack last December. But Putin called the assassination a "provocation" to undermine relations between Turkey and Russia as well as the efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis.
Syria issue is likely to get the forefront in the Moscow meeting and cast shadow on issues such as Turkey's demand of absolute trade normalization since Moscow imposed sanctions after downing of the jet, said Sezer, adding that he is not optimistic that Russia will meet Turkey' s expectations entirely.
SYRIA TO TOP AGENDA
During his meeting with Putin, Erdogan plans to discuss the issues of Iraq and Syria and the outcomes of the recent Antalya meeting of the top generals of the United States, Turkey and Russia, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told reporters on Thursday.
The Turkish forces in Syria, backed by the rebel Free Syrian Army militants, have been fighting for months to drive out the IS from al-Bab, a town about 30 km from the Turkish border, a move also aiming to block Syrian Kurds from connecting their cantons.
Turkey has repeatedly vowed to prevent the Kurdistan Workers' Party(PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Turkey, or its Syrian affiliates the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People's Protection Units (YPG), from establishing a corridor of terror on Turkey's doorstep. Yet, both Russia and the United States have separately been collaborated with Syrian Kurds despite Ankara's frustration.
Turkey said its next target after al-Bab will be Manbij to push the YPG forces to the east of the Euphrates River, but Russia forced the Syrian Kurds to hand over the control of the region to the Syrian government.
AGREEMENTS TO BE REACHED
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev Thursday told his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim by phone that Moscow had removed the import ban on some Turkish agricultural products.
Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci Thursday told reporters that Turkey and Russia could sign an swap agreement during the visit for use of local currencies in bilateral trade.
Moreover, a cooperation agreement in the field of mining, and a memorandum on the creation of a joint investment fund between the Russian Direct Investment Fund and Turkish Investment Fund are among the documents that will be signed during the upcoming meeting.
Sezer said energy issues will not be a hot topic in the High-Level Cooperation Council meeting despite Kremlin's statement that Turkish Stream and Akkuyu nuclear power plants would be on the agenda of talks. Russia pursues the realization of two energy projects and Ankara has recently taken necessary procedural steps, said the expert.
A gas price dispute between Turkey's pipeline operator Botas and Russia's state gas producer Gazprom made Botas launch international arbitration proceedings against Gazprom in 2015. Turkey is likely to urge Russia to cut gas prices, said the expert.
TURKEY PROPOSES VISA-FREE TRAVEL
Sezer said Turkey is asking Russia to relaunch visa-free travel, primarily for businessmen and official delegations, but Moscow has some security concerns. Moscow earlier reduced the work permit to recruit Turkish workers in Russian companies and banned imports of some agricultural products from Turkey.
Turkey has proposed to Russia that its nationals be allowed to travel to Turkey without passports and only with their identity cards, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday.
The minister said Turkey expects Russia to ease visa procedures for Turkish business people and truck drivers.