MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin has lifted restrictions on travel to Turkey after mending ties with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seven months after Ankara downed a Russian jet, triggering a raft of sanctions.`
Following his first call with Erdogan since the incident, Putin announced on Wednesday that Moscow’s ban on charter flights and package tours to Turkey would be lifted and that government would also look at ending an embargo on a selection of Turkish food products.
"I want to start with the question of tourism... we are lifting the administrative restrictions in this area," Putin told government ministers in televised comments.
"I’m asking that the Russian government begin the process of normalising general trade and economic ties with Turkey," he said.
The move came as Turkey was hit by a triple suicide bombing at Istanbul’s main international airport on Tuesday which left 41 people dead, including 13 foreigners.
The assault, at the start of Turkey’s crucial tourist season, was the latest in a wave of attacks in Istanbul and the capital Ankara blamed either on Islamic State (IS) jihadists or Kurdish rebels.
Apart from banning charter flights and sales of tourist packages to Turkey, Moscow had also suspended visas for Turkish visitors.
The diplomatic breakthrough came in a phone call by Putin to Erdogan after the Turkish strongman on Monday sent a letter to the Kremlin leader that Moscow said contained an apology over the downing of the jet in November.
Erdogan also called Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to thank for his contribution to improving Russia-Turkey relations, the Kazakh presidency said.
The Kremlin said that Putin expressed his "profound condolences" to Erdogan over the bombing and shooting attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.
The Turkish presidency said that Erdogan and Putin stressed "the importance of the normalisation of bilateral relations."
Erdogan is expected to meet with Putin in September on the sidelines of the forthcoming G20 summit in China for their first face-to-face talks since the start of the diplomatic row, a Turkish official said on Wednesday speaking on condition of anonymity. -- AFP