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Russia, Turkey agree to reinvigorate relations

June 29, 2016

Both countries' presidents have decided to meet in person after Turkey downed a Russian warplane near its border with Syria. The Russian president announced the removal of travel restrictions to Turkey.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A.Nikolsky

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday agreed to meet in person during their first phone call since Turkey downed a Russian warplane in November over an apparent incursion into Turkish airspace along the Syrian border.

"Reiterating their commitment to reinvigorate bilateral relations and fight terrorism together, the two leaders agreed to remain in contact and meet in person," the office of the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

The meeting will take place at the G-20 summit in China in September. Erdogan and Putin also agreed their foreign ministers would meet this week at a regional summit in Sochi to discuss Syria and regional issues.

The call comes after Erdogan earlier this week submitted a letter to Putin expressing regret over the incident, which the Russian president had described as a "treacherous stab in the back."

Turkish authorities also said they would prosecute a Turkish citizen who is alleged to have killed the Russian pilot after he ejected from the warplane.

Russia had demanded an apology for the jet downing incident.

Moscow responded to the downing of its jet by preventing tourist travel to Turkey, banning Turkish food exports and introducing restrictions against Turkish construction companies.

Putin on Wednesday announced the removal of travel restrictions to Turkey, according to a statement from the Kremlin.

"I ask that the Russian government begins the process of normalizing general trade and economic ties with Turkey," the Russian president said at a cabinet meeting after the phone call.

The Russian travel restrictions alongside a series of terrorist attacks in Turkey over the past year have hit the country's tourism industry, which accounts for nearly 6 percent of economic output.

Arrivals from Russia have dropped nearly 90 percent this year, which alongside a drop of nearly a third of German tourists, have left the Mediterranean resorts empty.

Turkey: the Russian embargo starts to hurt


Earlier this week, Erdogan expressed his "condolences to the family of the Russian pilot who lost his life" after the jet was downed in November.

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

The Kremlin on Tuesday dampened the prospects of a swift reconciliation process, with Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying it would take time to mend ties.

Putin also offered the Turkish president his condolences in the wake of a deadly attack at Istanbul's international airport.

Erdogan's letter to Putin came as Turkey finished several years of negotiations to normalize relations with Israel, which were cut after ten Turkish citizens were killed in a 2010 Israeli commando raid on a Turkish aid ship trying to reach Gaza.

The outreach to Russia and Israel are part of a possible shift in Turkish foreign policy, as the country finds itself isolated internationally and regionally while facing multiple security threats emanating from Syria.

Turkey has been one of the main countries backing rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran, but the vacuum in Syria has also enabled Kurdish groups tied to its own rebel Kurds to carve out a nascent autonomous region along the Turkish border.

ls/cw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)