Turkish, Russian leaders to launch cross-cultural year in Moscow

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
Published 08.04.2019 00:03

The Turkish president and his Russian counterpart meet today for the opening ceremony of the Turkey-Russia cross-cultural year.

The visit will be the third meeting between the two leaders in the first four months of 2019. In 2018, the two leaders had busy diplomatic traffic with 25 meetings, seven face-to-face, while the others were by phone.

Expressing his happiness over the upcoming event, Russian Ambassador to Ankara Aleksei Yerkhov said: "This special year, of course, offers the two countries the opportunity to get to know each other better and to understand each other, to exhibit their rich culture and to get acquainted with the culture of the neighboring country, to be enriched in spiritual and intellectual terms."

Yerkhov told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the two presidents would take part in the opening ceremony of the third Turkey-Russia cross-cultural year in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.

The ceremony will be followed by a gala of the opera "Troy," he said, adding they are very pleased that the event will take place for the first time in Russia. Erdoğan will also attend the eighth High-Level Cooperation Council meeting between the two countries. The meetings have been held annually since 2010, Yerkhov said.

The two presidents will have an intense agenda, including regional developments, bilateral relations and recent developments concerning Ankara's acquisition of Russian-made S-400 missiles amid mounting pressure from the U.S. to abandon the deal.

On Monday last week, the U.S. halted delivery of equipment related to the F-35 stealth fighter aircraft to Turkey, marking the first concrete step by Washington to block the delivery of the jet to its NATO ally as Turkish officials have refused to back down from the planned purchase of the S-400 system. Erdoğan and Putin will also discuss the latest situation with regard to massive joint projects, including the TurkStream natural gas pipeline project and the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant.

Relations

between the two countries deteriorated when a Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkey in November 2015 for violating its border with Syria. Russia imposed a range of economic sanctions as a response, including an end to visa-free travel.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to lift visa requirements for Turkish service passport holders and truck drivers traveling to Russia. According to the decree, a visa-free regime would be introduced for Turkish citizens with special passports who are on short-term business trips, including diplomatic missions and consular affairs, as well as professional drivers engaged in international road haulage. The visa-free regime would provide a critical opportunity for Turkish exporters to accelerate and capture new export opportunities and new export connections in Russia.

As Turkey enjoys millions of Russian tourist arrivals, Ankara argued that visa liberalization would significantly boost the number of Turkish tourists in Russia.

Meanwhile, Russia was the top country with 5.96 million visitors last year: some 15.1 percent of all foreign visitors to Turkey. Turkey welcomed 39.5 million foreign visitors in 2018, a 21.84 percent increase year-on-year, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

On the other hand, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu later last month said Turkey and Russia are holding talks to allow Russian citizens to travel to Turkey without a passport.

After a quick recovery in bilateral relations, the two countries rapidly increased military and economic cooperation.

The bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Russia was $25.7 billion last year. In the first three months of this year, Turkey's exports to Russia rose 6.5 percent to $868 million, while imports from Russia dropped 9 percent to hit $5.4 billion, a previous statement from the Trade Ministry said. To date, Turkish construction companies have realized 1,961 projects worth $73.1 billion in Russia, the statemen

t added.

President Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Putin on several occasions have said the two countries aim to reach $100 billion in bilateral trade volume in the upcoming period.

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