Russian arms wide open after Turkish apology for shooting plane down

The once-strong ties between Turkey and Russia seemed set to be restored Monday after Turkey issued condolences regarding the death of a Russian pilot who died when his plane was shot down near the Turkish-Syrian border last year by Turkish forces.

The announcement was met with particular enthusiasm by Russian business interests, which have felt the strain of the severed relationship.

Russia had initially demanded a formal apology related to the incident. Instead, it got condolences to the family of the dead pilot, but that seems to be enough to set the relationship on the right track after months of strain.

Russian state natural gas export monopoly Gazprom and the Russian Union of Travel Industry welcomed Turkey's move, calling it a major step in reviving the countries' frayed relations.

Gazprom reaffirmed that it is open for negotiations to construct the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, according to comments that spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov made to state news agency TASS.

The Russian Union of Travel Industry was ecstatic about the potential for Russian travel sanctions against Turkey to be lifted.

"We even screamed with joy," spokeswoman Irina Tyurina told radio station Govorit Moskva (Moscow Speaks), adding that Russian tour agencies have been drastically suffering from the loss of business.

"No other destinations may compete with Turkey in the price-quality ratio and in the level of service. We hope now for a decision on opening Turkey," Tyurina said.

The head of the international affairs committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, Konstantin Kosachyov, also praised the apology as an important step in rebuilding ties.

Kosachyov expressed relief that Russia did not seek military means to end the dispute, according to state news agency TASS.

"Beaches in Turkey without Russians and construction sites in Russia without Turkish workers produced a far stronger impression than any military or political threats," Kosachyov said.

Ankara and Moscow earlier in the day announced that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized for his country's armed forces shooting down a Russian warplane at the Syrian border in November.

Turkish forces shot down the plane, which was supporting Russian efforts in Syria, alleging that it violated Turkish airspace. Russia has denied that allegation and demanded an apology. The incident severely frayed the countries' previously robust relations.

Erdogan made the apology in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement.

Erdogan said he "would like to inform the family of the deceased Russian pilot that I share their pain and to offer my condolences to them. May they excuse us," according to the statement.

The Kremlin confirmed that Putin received the apology.

"Erdogan expresses deep regret for what happened and emphasizes readiness to do everything possible to restore the traditionally friendly relations between Turkey and Russia, as well as work together on crisis events in the region and the fight against terrorism," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments reported by Interfax.

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.

Turkish forces shot down the Russian warplane about two months after Russia began its military campaign in Syria.

Last update: Mon, 27/06/2016 - 23:20

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