Russia to remove tourism sanctions against Turkey

Russia plans to remove sanctions preventing tourists from travelling to Turkey, President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart in a telephone call on Wednesday.

"The Russian leader announced that he has ordered the government to enter into talks with the respective Turkish authorities to restore mutually advantageous bilateral relations in economic, trade and other spheres," the Kremlin said in a statement.

Russia also plans to "remove restrictions on Russian tourists visiting Turkey" with the view that the Turkish authorities will "take additional measures to ensure the safety of Russian citizens on Turkish territory," the statement said.

The leaders also agreed to meet in person, according to another statement released by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office. The meeting will apparently be the first since the Turkish military shot down a Russian warplane at the Syrian border in November.

Media reports speculated that the leaders could meet during the G20 summit in China in September, but Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency that the meeting's time and place have yet to be arranged.

The plane's downing severely frayed the countries' previously robust relations, as Russia retaliated with a ban on selling Turkish package holidays and other sanctions against Turkey.

Relations began to improve this week when Erdogan sent Putin a message apologizing to the family of the deceased pilot and expressing his readiness to rebuild the countries' ties.

Russian tourism to Turkey last month was down more than 90 per cent year on year, according to figures by Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Overall tourism in Turkey was down about 35 per cent last month compared with the same period last year, the ministry said.

During Wednesday's phone call, Putin condemned a terrorist bombing of an airport in Istanbul earlier this week and offered his condolences to the people of Turkey, according to the statement by Erdogan's office.

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

Russia and Turkey have been at odds about the Syrian civil war, in which they are supporting opposing sides.

Russia has been waging a bombing campaign to support the Syrian government in an effort to restore some stability to the country.

Meanwhile, Turkey supports certain rebel groups seeking to overthrow the Syrian government, which has been accused of crimes against humanity, including killing civilians.

In late November, a Turkish fighter jet shot down the Russian warplane, alleging that it violated Turkish airspace. Russia has denied that the plane entered Turkish airspace.

After the plane was shot down, Turkey-backed forces reportedly killed the pilot and attacked a rescue helicopter, killing another Russian serviceman.

The incident occurred about two months after Russia began its military campaign in Syria. Shortly after the incident, Putin reportedly snubbed Erdogan at a climate change summit in Paris.

Last update: Wed, 29/06/2016 - 14:54

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