MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov, killed Monday (Dec 19) in a gun attack, was a veteran career diplomat who helped weather rocky ties between Moscow and Ankara.
Karlov, 62, was appointed Russia's envoy in the Turkish capital in 2013 at a time when Moscow and Ankara were pushing to boost trade ties despite deep differences over the conflict in Syria.
The two sides fell out dramatically in November 2015 when a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian warplane along the Syrian border in an attack Moscow described as a "stab in the back".
But after some seven months leaders Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan began mending their differences and recently pushed negotiations over the fighting in Syria's Aleppo.
Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described Karlov's killing as a "tragic day in the history of our country and our diplomatic service".
"He did everything to help overcome the crisis in Russian-Turkish relations which was sparked a year ago by those tragic events," Zakharova said.
She added that Karlov had "in recent years focused a huge amount of his efforts on contributing to finding a resolution in Syria and stability in the region." Karlov's killer - identified as a Turkish policeman - was filmed crying out "Aleppo" and "Allahu Akbar" after gunning down the ambassador at the opening of an art gallery in Ankara, in what Moscow termed a "terrorist act".
Russia is currently flying a bombing campaign in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has supported those trying to topple him.
The foreign and defence ministers from Russia, Turkey and Iran are set to hold talks on Syria on Tuesday in Moscow.
Prior to serving in Ankara, the bespectacled Karlov spent a large chunk of his career - which stretched back to the Soviet period - working on the volatile Korean Peninsula.
The married father-of-one - who spoke Korean and English - served in the Russian embassies in both North and South Korea, before later returning to Pyongyang as Moscow's ambassador to the isolated Stalinist state from 2001-2006.
Russia is one of the few countries to have relatively warm relations with North Korea.