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Turkey seeks to normalize relations with Russia

The Turkish president has expressed regret for the downing of a Russian warplane in 2015. But Putin's spokesman warned it would take "more than one step" to mend ties between the countries.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Tuesday said the process to normalize relations between Moscow and Ankara has started, adding that improving ties with countries on the Black Sea and Mediterranean was crucial to Turkey.

The premier's comments come a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his regret over the downing of a Russian jet last year for an apparent incursion into Turkish airspace in November.

Russia denies its warplanes drifted into Turkish airspace during its aerial campaign in Syria, with Russian President Vladimir Putin describing the incident as a "treacherous stab in the back."

Moscow responded by banning Turkish food exports, and introducing restrictions against Turkish construction companies.

"I would like to send my condolences to the family of the Russian pilot who lost his life and express one more time that I share their pain; may they excuse us," Erdogan said in a statement.

"I believe that we will leave behind this current situation, which is to the detriment of both countries, and rapidly normalize our relations," Erdogan added in a speech later on in the day.

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'More than one step'

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov described Erdogan's apology as "a very important step," adding, however, that it would take time to mend ties.

But Ankara will need to "take more than one step to meet each other," Peskov said.

"One shouldn't think that everything will be mended overnight. We will keep up our work in that direction," he added.

The move comes as Turkey seeks to re-exert its influence in the region by bolstering ties with its neighbors.

On Tuesday, Turkey

signed an agreement to normalize relations with Israel

after naval commandos killed 10 Turkish activists on a Gaza-bound flotilla.

ls/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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