Turkey's Erdogan expresses regret over downing of Russian jet: spokesman

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks at the closing news conference during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret about Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane and asked the family of the pilot to “excuse us”, Erdogan’s spokesman said on Monday.

“The president also called on his Russian counterpart to restore the traditional friendly relations between Turkey and Russia, work together to address regional crises and jointly combat terrorism,” Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement.

“We are pleased to announce that Turkey and Russia have agreed to take necessary steps without delay to improve bilateral relations,” the statement said.

Reporting by Dasha Afanasieva and Ayla Jean Yackley; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by David Dolan