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Turkey to 'seek normal ties with Russia under new government'

Turkey's new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim reads his government's program at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, May 24, 2016. ©Reuters

Turkey will continue to work for mending the sour relations with Russia through dialogue, according to a new government program.

The program was read out by Turkey’s new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim at the parliament in Ankara on Tuesday after he unveiled his new cabinet line-up.

Turkey’s 65th government's agenda, which is expected to be put to a vote of confidence on May 29, also said that Ankara would work on boosting cooperation with neighboring Iran.

"We will increase the number of our friends; we will decrease the number of our enemies," Yildirim said.

Moscow-Ankara ties strained last November after Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24M Fencer aircraft with two pilots aboard, claiming the fighter jet had repeatedly violated the Turkish airspace.

A combination picture taken from video shows a plane crashing in flames in a mountainous area in northern Syria after it was shot down by Turkish fighter jets near the Turkish-Syrian border on November 24, 2015. ©Reuters

Moscow, however, dismissed Ankara’s claims, saying that the plane was brought down in Syrian airspace, where Russia has been conducting combat sorties against Takfiri terrorists since late September 2015 upon a request by the Damascus government.

Following the incident, Russia imposed a raft of sanctions on Ankara, including import restriction on Turkish foods, a ban on tourist travel to Turkey, an embargo on hiring Turkish citizens in Russia and a ban on Turkish organizations' activities in Russia.

Yildirim replaced Ahmet Davutoglu, who recently stepped down as the head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and therefore as premier.

The resignation exposed a rift between Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the latter’s attempts to expand his power.

Turkey’s political reshuffle comes at a time that Turkey is facing a delicate moment in its relations with the European Union over a contentious refugee deal.

Under the deal agreed in March, the EU will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from the country and in return will reward Ankara with money, visa exemption and progress in its EU membership negotiations.

Turkey is required to meet 72 conditions in order to gain visa liberalization for its nationals in Europe’s passport-free Schengen area. 

Speaking at a UN humanitarian summit in Istanbul on Tuesday, Erdogan said that his country will not take further steps on implementing the refugee deal unless progress is made on visa exemption for Turkish citizens.

He also noted that funds promised by the 28-nation bloc under the terms of the agreement had not yet been released.

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