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Russia and Iran hope to seal deal on visa-free package tours

November 28, 2016, 13:33 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Visa liberalization will add momentum to Russian-Iranian relations, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said

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MOSCOW, November 28 /TASS/. Russia and Iran hope to sign an inter-governmental agreement on cancelling visas for tourists who book package tours through travel agencies, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Monday.

According to her, visa liberalization for Russian and Iranian tourists was one of the topics, which dominated Russian-Iranian consultations on consular matters held by the heads of appropriate Foreign Ministry departments on November 21-22.

"Their outcome raises hopes that a Russian-Iranian inter-governmental agreement on cancelling visas for travelers who purchase packaged tours may be signed soon," Zakharova said.

"During the consultations, the parties reviewed the draft’s text clause-by-clause. We are planning to work over the document jointly with Russian agencies in the next two or three months before the government issues a directive on this matter," the Russian diplomat explained.

The sides agreed to examine the possibility of using a mechanism of direct invitations for arranging package tours for Russian and Iranian businessmen. It gives legal entities, companies and the heads of enterprises the right to invite foreign business partners independently.

"We are planning to make the said agreement a supplement to the existing Russian-Iranian inter-governmental agreement on simplifying reciprocal travel for certain categories of Russian and Iranian citizens," Zakharova explained.

"We believe that these steps will add momentum to Russian-Iranian relations and will, first and foremost, create favorable conditions for enhancing business cooperation and tourism, and expanding reciprocal understanding of the centuries-old cultural traditions of Russia and Iran.

A Russian-Iranian inter-governmental agreement on simplifying reciprocal travel for certain categories of Russian and Iranian citizens, effective as of February 6, has already enabled the two counties to double the number of issued visas.

"80,000 visas were issued in the first 10 months of 2016 compared to 40,000 issued throughout the entire 2015," Yevgeny Ivanov, the Russian Foreign Ministry Consular Department director, said in an interview with Iran’s Tasnim News Agency last week. According to him, the consular services in both countries were supplementing and improving the existing agreements. The participants in the fifth session of the Iranian-Russian Commission for Consular Cooperation initialed a new agreement on tourist travel. Ivanov hoped that the document would be officially signed approximately in four months.

"Russia and Iran have a great potential in tourism, which we can help tap. The agreement on tourist travel provides for a visa-free sojourn for tourist groups numbering from 5 to 50 people in the course of 15 days," the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Consular Department said.

"Our strategic goal is to establish a visa-free system, which is currently applied only to diplomatic passport holders. We are planning to extend its coverage to aircraft crews and tourist groups numbering from 5 to 50 people in future. We are also taking measures to simplify the visa system for other categories of citizens, including entrepreneurs. The possibility of issuing multiple-entry visas to heavy truck drivers is also being discussed," Ivanov stressed.

He told the Iranian news agency that Iranian football fans with tickets for the 2018 World Cup would have the right to stay in Russia without visas for the two months that the tournament takes place.

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