ANKARA, December 6. /TASS/. Russia’s decision to suspend visa free travel with Turkey from January 1, 2016 is a mistake, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with TASS on Sunday.
"Turkey is a safe country for all," he said.
"Thanks to lavish investment in the travel sector, perfect facilities, high-quality services oriented to satisfy people’s demands as much as possible and the hospitality of society, Turkey receives more than 40 million foreign tourists a year. About three million Russians have visited our country this year," he said.
"Obviously, the reason you have cited is just a pretext," the Turkish top diplomat said, when asked about Ankara’s reaction to Russia’s decision to suspend visa free travel over "the current terrorist threat in Turkey."
In November, he said, Turkey had hosted a Group of Twenty summit and not a single security-related incident had been reported at that time.
"As a lawmaker from Antalya, I would like to say the following: tourism is not just economic activity for us. It implies prospects for broad inter-society rapprochement, which has a very positive significance. Starting from tourism, this rapprochement involves Russians settling in Antalya, mixed marriages and children born into such marriages. Restrictions in cooperation in the sphere of tourism will have adverse impacts on this perspective thanks to which our countries are getting closer to each other," Cavusoglu said.
The crisis in relations between Moscow and Ankara followed the November 24 incident when a Turkish fighter jet gunned down a Russian Su-24 bomber returning from an anti-terrorist mission in Syria.
Following the incident, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Turkey’s attack on the Russian warplane would have "very serious consequences" for the bilateral relations. On November 28, the Russian president signed a decree on measure to ensure Russia’s national security and protect Russian nationals from criminal and other illegal actions and on the use of special economic measures in respect of Turkey.
Thus, the decree imposed visa travel from January 1, 2016, banned charter flights between Russia and Turkey and bound Russian travel operators not to sell travel packages to Turkey. Visa restrictions however will not be applicable to Turkish citizens who have temporary sojourn permits or leaves to remain in Russia and those commissioned to work at diplomatic missions.
Later, Vice President of the Russian Association of Travel Operators Dmitry Gorin said the visa price from Turkish citizens would be at least 60 euro. Turkey, in his words, did not plan to impose response visa restrictions for Russian citizens.