Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to start the process of normalizing trade ties with Turkey, seven months after Ankara-Moscow relations went into a downward spiral following Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian jet last year.
“I ask that the Russian government begins the process of normalizing general trade and economic ties with Turkey,” Putin said at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, following a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Putin said that Russia has also decided to lift travel restrictions against Turkey in the tourism sector.
“I want to start with the question of tourism… We are lifting the administrative restrictions in this area,” the Russian president said.
Moscow-Ankara relations became strained last November after Turkey shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 aircraft with two pilots aboard, claiming the fighter jet had repeatedly violated Turkish airspace.
Ankara argued that the Russian plane strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings. Russia, however, insisted the aircraft did not cross the border and accused Ankara of “planned provocation.”
Moscow said the plane was brought down in Syrian airspace, where Russia has been conducting combat sorties against Takfiri terrorists since late September 2015 upon a request by the Damascus government.
Of the two pilots aboard the warplane, one was rescued with the help of the Syrian army, but the other was killed by militants fighting the Syrian government.
Following the incident, Russia imposed a raft of sanctions against Ankara, including import restriction on Turkish foods, a ban on tourist travel to Turkey, an embargo on hiring Turkish citizens in Russia, and a ban on Turkish organizations’ activities in Russia.
Moscow also suspended all military deals with Ankara.
On Monday, the Kremlin said that the Turkish president apologized to Putin over Ankara’s shooting down of the Russian jet.
Turkey, however, said later it had only expressed regret to Russia, denying reports of an apology, and retracting a compensation pledge.
The Wednesday phone call between the Russian and the Turkish leader came after Putin expressed sympathy for the victims of the Tuesday night gun and bomb attacks at Istanbul’s Ataturk international airport, which claimed the lives of 41 people and injured 239 others.
Meanwhile, a Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the Turkish leader is expected to meet with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of the forthcoming G20 summit in China in September.
The meeting between the two presidents would be their first face-to-face talks for months, following the diplomatic row.