'Turkey is your home': Turkish Tourism Minister invites Russians

Published 30.11.2015 02:29
Cappadocia in central Turkey
Cappadocia in central Turkey

A Turkish minister has invited Russian citizens to visit his country despite the worsening relations between the two countries.

Relations between Ankara and Moscow have worsened after Turkey downed a Russian jet for violating its airspace near the border with Syria on Nov.24.

"The tourism sector should be considered separately from politics," Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Mahir Ünal told reporters Sunday in Kahramanmaras, in southern Turkey.

"As Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister, I want to say to the Russian Federation citizens that Turkey is your home," Ünal said. "You can spend your holidays safely in Turkey, as it has happened before."

Media reports say that about 3 million Russian tourists had visited Turkey last year.

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order imposing economic sanctions against Turkey. The sanctions include the unilateral suspension of the visa-free regime for Turkish nationals traveling to Russia as of Jan. 1, 2016. Russian travel agencies are also to suspend the sale to Russian citizens of products that consider visiting Turkey.

On Nov. 24, two Turkish F-16 fighter jets on an aerial patrol intercepted an unidentified warplane within rules of engagement when it intruded into Turkish airspace on the Turkey-Syria border.

The intruding aircraft was warned about the violation 10 times within five minutes before it was shot down.

The Russian Defense Ministry later announced that its Russian SU-24 bomber jet had been shot down. It crashed in the Syrian region of Bayirbucak close to Yayladagi district of Turkey's southern Hatay province.

NATO confirmed the accuracy of information shared by Turkey about the violation.

It was not the first time Russian fighter jets had violated Turkish airspace. In early October, Russian warplanes breached Turkish airspace. Russian officials apologized and pledged that no such incident would be repeated. Turkey had also renewed its warning on engagement rules, including a military response against violations of Turkish airspace.

Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish Cultural Friendship Festival

Despite the worsening relations between respective countries, the sixth edition of the Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish Cultural Friendship Festival was held Sunday in Antalya, Turkey's southern coastal city.

Turkish and Russian children held gymnastics and dance performances. Russian citizens living in Antalya were also able to take Turkish-speaking lessons in a shopping mall.

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