Economy Minister Mustafa Elitaş said that the crisis with Russia following the downing of a Russian jet had led Russia to adopt an "extremely aggressive" approach against Turkey, adding that this induced Turkey to search for new markets during his visit to Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan, seeking to increase Turkish commercial ties with Central Asia.
Speaking at a business forum organized by Turkey's Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) to support the development process in Turkmenistan, Elitaş encouraged Turkish businessmen to contribute to the process, adding that current investments from Turkey in Turkmenistan exceed $300 million.
Referring to the Caspian region as a corridor as well as support for Turkish logistics, Elitaş emphasized the importance of the region saying, "We need a road to unite the Turkic world in terms of logistics. This road is the Caspian road." He added that it is important to decrease logistical dependency on third countries, in order to carry goods both faster and cheaper. Reiterating the need for Ro-Ro vessels to become operational in the Caspian region, Elitaş said Turkey considers the Caspian Corridor Project "very important in terms of reviving the economy of the region."
Responding to a question about the impact of Russian sanctions on Turkey's foreign trade, Elitaş said Turkey had increased its export volume as much as possible. He added that at this point, Turkey needs to expand the scope of trade. Elitaş argued that Turkey should switch its production from low-tech goods to high-tech ones, saying "The Russian crisis actually pushed us to develop a different point of view. Russia is not an important component in our exports. The worth of our exports in 2015 is $3.5 billion. This corresponds to about 2-2.5 percent. Of course neighboring countries are important... [the sanctions imposed by Russia] resulted in satisfying the need of searching for new markets."
Reiterating the necessity of finding new markets for Turkish exports, Elitaş expressed that the input cost, which is reduced through tumbling oil prices, contributes to the decline in total worth of exports, despite the increase in terms of quantity. Elitaş stressed their target for exports for 2016 is set at $155.5 billion.
Turkish exports to Russia shrank 85 percent in January, due to sanctions imposed on Turkey by Moscow. While Turkish exports to Russia were valued at $313.3 million in January 2015, they decreased to $110 million last month.
On Nov. 24, Turkey downed a Russian warplane for violating Turkish airspace along the Syrian border, and political tensions were followed by economic sanctions. The Russian government banned Turkish produce and industrial goods from entering Russia, and began refusing work permits to Turkish workers in Russia.