Talks on for passport-free travel for Russians

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
Published 26.03.2019 00:09

Turkey and Russia are holding talks to allow Russian citizens to travel to Turkey without a passport, the Turkish foreign minister said Monday.

"We've started meetings in order to pave the way for Russian citizens to come to our country [only] with their ID cards, without a passport," Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told Anadolu Agency (AA).

"Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is coming to Antalya on March 28 and we will discuss this in detail. Later, we will meet in Moscow on April 8," he added.

Last month, Russia's 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.

Relations between the two countries had previously 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.

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

The trade volume between the two countries reached about $25.39 billion in 2018, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat). Turkey's exports to the country increased by 24.4 percent to around $3.4 billion. Turkey was Russia's was the top export market with around $21.99 billion, a 12.7 percent increase year-on-year.

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

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, 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.

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