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Russia not yet ready to abandon entry visas for Turkish nationals — ambassador

Nevertheless, Moscow is ready to discuss "possible steps to meet the Turkish partners halfway in a number of areas"

MOSCOW, February 9. /TASS/. Moscow is not yet ready to completely abandon entry visas for Turkish citizens, Russian Ambassador to Turkey Alexei Yerokhov told TASS on Friday.

"The Turkish side is currently practicing unilateral visa liberation measures to encourage Russian tourists and I think they should say thanks to the Turkish authorities for that. However, the Russian side - and there are strong reasons for that - is not yet ready to resume the agreement [on reciprocal trips of 2010] to the full," the Russian diplomat said, adding that Moscow is nevertheless ready to discuss "possible steps to meet the Turkish partners halfway in a number of areas," such as liberalization of visa formalities for holders of service passports.

"Work continues," he said. "Consular and visa issues are central to the Russian-Turkish contacts at all levels."

The two countries signed an agreement cancelling visas for up to 30-day trips in 2010.

Russia suspended visa-free travel with Turkey from January 1, 2016 in line with the presidential decree of November 28, 2015 on measures to ensure Russia’s national security and protection of its citizens from criminal actions and on the use of special economic measures against Turkey. The move followed the November 24, 2015 incident when Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 bomber at the border with Syria.

Turkey obliged Russian holders of service passports to obtain entry visas from April 15, 2016. Holders of diplomatic and regular international passports could enter the country visa-free. Russia mirrored the move. From June 1, 2016, the Turkish side expanded visa requirement to professional drivers and accompanying persons of Russian citizenship engaged in cargo a passenger businesses. The Turkish side said the move had been taken in response to Russia’s toughening border control over Turkish goods.

In October 2016, the Turkish side raised the issue of canceling visa restrictions but Russia suspended talks on that matter for an indefinite period after the murder of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov on December 19, 2016. On April 24, 2017, Turkey extended visa-free stay for Russian citizens from 60 to 90 days.