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Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 21:45

Turkey starts normalization of relations with Russia

By Agencies

Turkey starts normalization of relations with Russia
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim gestures as he delivers a speech during a press conference after a Turkish-Israeli meeting, at the Cankaya Palace in Ankara, on June 27, 2016. ( ADEM ALTAN / AFP)

ANKARA — Normalization of relations between Turkey and Russia has started, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday, adding that an improvement in ties with all Black Sea and Mediterranean countries was an important goal.

Yildirim made the comments to members of his ruling AK Party in parliament. He was speaking a day after Turkey announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel and expressed regret to Russia over the downing of a warplane last year, seeking to mend strained alliances.

But Ykldirim said Turkey will not pay compensation to Russia over the downing of a fighter jet last year and has only expressed regret over the incident.

The Kremlin said on Monday that Erdogan had apologised to Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a letter. Erdogan's spokesman confirmed the letter to Putin but did not refer explicitly to an apology, saying the Turkish president had expressed regret and asked the family of the pilot to "excuse us."

Yildirim also told reporters in parliament that legal proceedings were underway against an individual allegedly responsible for the killing of the Russian pilot.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to have a telephone conversation Wednesday with his Turkish counterpart.

"We will need to take more than one step in each other's direction, one shouldn't think that everything can be normalized in a few days, but work on this will continue," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

"In particular, tomorrow, a phone call between President Putin and President Erdogan will be held at Russia's initiative," Peskov said.

Also on Tuesday, Turkey signed a broad deal to restore ties with Israel after a six-year rupture, a Turkish foreign ministry official said, formalising an agreement announced a day earlier by the prime ministers of the two countries.

The deal with Israel after years of negotiation was a rare rapprochement in the divided Middle East, driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals as well as mutual fears over growing security risks.

Relations between Israel and what was once its principle Muslim ally crumbled after Israeli marines stormed an activist ship in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and killed 10 Turks on board.

Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu signed the accord for the Turkish side in Ankara.

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