ANKARA, Turkey, July 13 (UPI) -- Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who assumed his position in May, on Wednesday said he wants to develop "good relations" with Iraq and Syria for the success of counter-terrorism efforts.
Turkey has long advocated for the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime to promote a stable Syria and regional peace. Yildirim's comments advocating improved relations does not change that policy, according to Turkish officials.
Since May, Turkey has worked to "increase its friends and decrease its enemies," Yildirim said during a televised address on Wednesday. Turkey in June announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel after a six-year hiatus and apologized for shooting down a Russian plane on the shared border between Syria and Turkey in November 2015.
"It is our greatest and irrevocable goal: developing good relations with Syria and Iraq, and all our neighbors that surround the Mediterranean and the Black Sea," Yildirim said. "We will expand the circle of friendship. We have already started doing it. We have normalized relations with Russia and Israel. I'm sure we will normalize relations with Syria as well. For the fight against terrorism to succeed, stability needs to return to Syria and Iraq."
In the past year, Turkey has been struck by devastating militant attacks from both the Islamic State and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, rebel group. On June 28, more than 40 people were killed when gunmen wearing suicide bombs attacked Istanbul's Atatürk Airport. The Islamic State has not taken responsibility for the attack but Turkish authorities believe the militant Islamist organization is to blame.
"We expect the other powers in the region to put aside competition and no longer ignore the humanity that is being destroyed," Yildirim said.