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    RUSSIAN AND TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTERS TO MEET IN MOSCOW

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    MOSCOW, February 23, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The Russian and Turkish Foreign Ministers will discuss in Moscow issues concerning the Eurasian policy, said director of the Third European Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Alekseyev.

    The Turkish Foreign Minister will visit Moscow from February 23 to 26.

    "Russia and Turkey are Eurasian countries, therefore we will be discussing a broad range of issues connected with our interests both in Europe and in Asia," explained Alekseyev. According to him, at these negotiations the sides will discuss the problems of the European security, the situation in Iraq and in the Middle East.

    As to Iraq, said Alekseyev, the interests of Russia and Turkey coincide there in many respects. "Both Turkish and Russian sides proceed from the necessity of taking efforts within the framework of the United Nations on the basis of a political settlement," said the diplomat. The same can be said about the situation in the Middle East, pointed out Alekseyev.

    As is expected, the Cyprus settlement and the situation in the Black Sea straits will also be important themes at the negotiations.

    Apart from that, the sides will also discuss the coming expansion of the European Union. "The ministers will exchange views on the situation in the European Union and how Russia and Turkey see their future relations with the EU," explained the diplomat.

    As to the coming expansion of the European Union, Moscow believes that it is a natural process and supports it, having in mind not only the entry of the present candidates but also of those countries that can join the EU in the future. Alexander Alekseyev explained that the question of Turkey joining the European Union is not on the agenda so far.

    At this meeting in Moscow the question of the situation in the Caucasus can also be raised. Alekseyev pointed out that Russia and Turkey were interested in the stability in that region. "In this sphere our aims also coincide," he said.

    Cooperation of Russia and Turkey in the energy sphere will be one of the key issues at the negotiations, Alekseyev said.

    In particular, the sides will discuss the grand gas project, the Blue Stream. In the course of 2003, intensive negotiations were going on concerning this project between the Russian Gazprom company and the Turkish firm Botas. "They discussed taxes and other problems. All of them have been solved," said Alekseyev.

    "This project is of a strategic importance. Turkey's requirements in gas will grow, and therefore the project has been developed in such a way as to meet not only today's but also future realities," explained the diplomat. "This project is an example of what can be done in bilateral relations, when there is a political will," said Alexander Alekseyev.

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