MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Turkey next Monday, his first foreign trip since October, to discuss relations and the situation in the Middle East, the Kremlin said.
Wednesday's announcement is the first official confirmation of the date for the long-awaited Putin visit following a delay amid tensions over the Syria conflict and speculation the Russian president was not well enough to travel.
The globe-trotting Russian strongman made no trips outside Moscow this month and his last official foreign visit was to Tajikistan on October 5.
Some news reports have said Putin had to postpone his travels due to a back injury; however his spokesman Dmitry Peskov vehemently denied he was having health problems.
Peskov admitted last month however that the trip to Turkey was initially planned for an earlier date.
Putin's talks with Turkish leaders including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will focus on diplomatic relations and trade, as well as international issues, including the situation in the Middle East, the Kremlin said in a statement.
Over the past decade Putin and Erdogan have established a personal rapport and brought the two countries closer but relations have been tarnished lately because of their radically different positions over Syria and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Moscow was furious last month when Turkey forced a Moscow-Damascus plane to land in Ankara and accused Russia of smuggling weapons into Syria.
Russia has said it was transporting legal radar equipment.
Last week the Russian foreign ministry warned NATO member Turkey against deploying Patriot missiles on its border with Syria, saying it will provoke a serious conflict in the region and draw in the transatlantic alliance.
Turkey said Russia had "absolutely no reason" to worry about the missiles.
© AFP 2013