Russia and Turkey agreed to expand cooperation in tourism and strengthen cultural ties at the opening of a joint festival in St. Petersburg.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Turkey's Vice Consul General Taner Arıcan noted that Russia sends the most tourists to Turkey every year on country by country basis. Arıcan said last year, six million Russian tourists came to Turkey, with 20 percent from St. Petersburg.
"Turks like and know St. Petersburg as an extremely beautiful city with its centuries-old history. We respect its culture and traditions. Thanks to such events as this festival, we hope to develop our cooperation and get to know each other more closely," he added.
Arıcan said the St. Petersburg Turkey festival included a photo contest on "Petersburg through the eyes of the Turks. Istanbul through the eyes of the Russians," as well as a photo exhibition, a performance of Turkish shadow theater "Karagöz," and a cross-exhibition of Russian and Turkish artists in St. Petersburg and Istanbul. Also, within the framework of the festival, which will run until the end of this year, an information desk on St. Petersburg opened in Ankara. A recent move in order to increase the tourism cooperation between the two countries came from Moscow. On Friday, Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev signed an order, authorizing Russian police to spend their annual leaves in Turkey and Thailand.
Russian police were prohibited to go abroad in 2014, when the Russian Foreign Ministry published a list of 116 countries not recommended for traveling. The police need special authorization to go abroad because of security reasons. Around 3 million policemen are employed with the security forces of Russia and the decision is expected to add another 1 million visitors from the country to Turkey next year, according to tourism experts.
The head of the Turkish Travel Agencies Association, Firuz Bağlıkaya, recalled that the issue of permitting Russian policemen to travel to Turkey was discussed during the 8th Turkey-Russia High-Level Cooperation Council Meeting in Moscow. "One of the most important issues in the Russian market has been resolved," Bağlıkaya said.
According to data from the Culture and Tourism Ministry, a total of 710,293 Russians visited Turkey in the first four months of the year with a nearly 50 percent rise compared to the same period of the previous year. In the January-April period in 2018, a total of 524,369 Russians came to Turkey.
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