Putin, Erdogan hold first phone conversation since Turkey downed Russian jet in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have held their first phone call since Ankara downed one of Moscow's jets in Syria last year.

The two leaders spoke as they sought to mend ties over the November incident that saw Moscow slap sanctions on Ankara, and reportedly agreed on the phone to meet in person.

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

In a televised cabinet meeting following the phone call, Mr Putin ordered his Government to begin the process of lifting sanctions against Turkey.

"I ask that the Russian Government begins the process of normalising general trade and economic ties with Turkey," he said.

Mr Putin also reportedly condemned the "heinous" attack at Istanbul's Ataturk airport that killed at least 41 people and offered condolences to the Turkish people, the statement said.

The breakthrough phone call came after the Turkish strongman on Monday sent a letter to Mr Putin that Moscow said contained an apology.

The downing of the plane in November shattered ties between the two nations and saw Moscow slap an embargo on Turkish food products and ban charter flights and the sale of package tours to the country.

It also sparked a bitter war of words between the two strongman leaders with Mr Putin calling it a "stab in the back" and demanding an apology from Mr Erdogan.

Ankara has said Mr Erdogan expressed his "regret" over the incident in the letter to Mr Putin and asked the family of the pilot who died to "excuse us" — but he has not explicitly confirmed he apologised for shooting down the plane.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday described the letter as an "important step" but warned that "there is no need to think that in several days it will be possible to normalise everything."

Turkey has argued that the Russian plane strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings, but Russia insisted it did not cross the border and accused Turkey of a "planned provocation."

The countries are on opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, with Ankara backing rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad while Moscow is one of his last remaining allies.





ABC Australia