Jun 23, 2022
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The West wants to leave the Russians without rest in Antalya

The West wants to leave the Russians without rest in Antalya

Photo: AP/TASS

Western countries are trying to disrupt Russian-Turkish air traffic through sanctions, said the director of the fourth European department of the Russian Foreign Ministry Yuri Pilipson in an interview with TASS. Such attempts are especially sensitive amid already numerous travel restrictions and could jeopardize summer vacations for millions of Russians, not to mention other problems.

“We have to take into account that Western sanctions, among other things, are aimed at disrupting Russian-Turkish air traffic. Therefore, the relevant departments of the two countries are working intensively to eliminate any risks and inconvenience that our tourists traveling to Turkey may experience,” Pilipson said.

According to Pilipson, despite the tough external pressure, Turkey continues to cooperate with Russia in bilateral relations, primarily in the field of tourism, which “remains one of the most significant and noticeable areas in bilateral affairs.”

“In general, we are satisfied with Ankara’s promises to create all conditions for Russians in Turkey for a full and safe holiday, we keep the issue under priority control,” the diplomat promised.

Nevertheless, problems in transport communication between Russia and Turkey exist even now.

So, on June 9, the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) stated that due to the lack of flights in Antalya, the tourist flow from Russia will drop by 45% this year compared to the pre-pandemic 2019 and will amount to 2.9-3 million Russians. In the first week of June, according to the organization, 452 flights arrived from Russia to Antalya. But last June, the number of flights, even despite the “covid” restrictions, reached 160 per day.

The fact is that due to sanctions in the aviation industry, the ability of Russian airlines to operate international flights is extremely limited. Turkish carriers, on the other hand, cannot fully provide the required volume, besides, they were agreed on 450 flights per week as a maximum.

At the same time, even the reduced number of Russian tourists is making a significant contribution to Turkey’s GDP. In May, the head of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation Sururi Chorabathir said that the average income per Russian tourist has grown to 840 dollars, and they plan to bring this figure up to a thousand. That is, even from three million Russian tourists, Turkey will receive at least $2.5 billion, and it is clear that the country is not going to lose this income just like that (this is not to mention other articles of economic interaction with Russia and bonuses that Ankara receives after leaving Western companies from the Russian market).

It is no coincidence that from the very beginning of the conflict, the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that the country would not impose restrictions against Russia, despite the sanctions campaign of Western states. Work is also underway to expand the use of cards of the Russian payment system MIR in Turkey.

Dmitry Egorchenkov, Middle East Research Coordinator, RUDN Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasts believes that nothing threatens Russian tourists and that the West will not go beyond threats towards Turkey.

– Turkey is a serious air hub, huge passenger flows pass through it, and it is beneficial for it to maintain this status. And today Turkey also wants to become, if I may say so, the exclusive supplier of air services for Russia. I do not think that the threat of sanctions pressure can force her to abandon this.

The West, of course, will try in every possible way to restrict air traffic between Russia and Turkey, but, it seems to me, it will do what can be called “minor dirty tricks” – various warnings, refusal to issue permits, and so on. As for serious sanctions, I don’t think that the West, especially the Europeans, will agree to them. Any restrictions against Turkish airlines or the Turkish aviation industry will instantly increase the cost of flights in general, and they have already become much more expensive due to the closure of Russian airspace.

Therefore, at the level of the political narrative, calls to refuse cooperation with Russia against Turkey will be heard, but they are unlikely to lead to anything concrete.

“SP”: – Could this be pressure within NATO?

– Pressure on Turkey within NATO is more likely in terms of attempts to force Ankara to refuse cooperation with Russia in the military-technical sphere, but we see that Turkey resists this and insists on its sovereign right to choose arms suppliers on its own.

Head and editor-in-chief of the portal Roman Gusarov also doubts that the West will go into open conflict with Turkey over air travel, but admits that it has leverage and opportunities for sanctions.

– The first instrument of pressure, which applies not only to Turkey, but to all countries of the world, is a ban on the flights of aircraft of Russian airlines of foreign production, which were previously registered in foreign registries, that is, they are on lease. On these planes, we practically cannot fly anywhere, even to Turkey and China, since they are threatened with arrests and sanctions through the airline.

If we talk specifically about Turkey, we can talk about secondary sanctions. The West threatens third countries with restrictions if they, in principle, serve any aircraft of our airlines, even Russian-made ones. From the point of view of international law, this is absolutely illegal. Let the European Union and the United States impose sanctions, this is their internal affair. Turkey is an independent and sovereign country, why do they tell her which airlines she has the right to serve and which not? This is a complete violation of international law, but we see that today it does not work at all. Sanctions can be imposed for any, even far-fetched reason, and against any country.

“SP”: – So, for our tourists there is still a real threat of being left without air communication with Turkey?

– I think that they will not risk imposing sanctions on Turkey. With Ankara, the EU and the US already have difficult relations – it is a NATO member, a candidate for joining the European Union for many decades. The imposition of such sanctions would be almost tantamount to a declaration of war. Turkey always reacts sharply to any attacks in its direction, and air communication with Russia is not the reason for the West to finally quarrel with the Turks.

Political scientist, expert on international conflicts Evgeny Mikhailov believes that Turkey’s response in the event of increased sanctions pressure could be tough.

– The West influenced Azerbaijan by not insuring their planes, which are mostly insured by British companies, after which Baku backed down in certain areas. They can try to do the same with Turkey. But Turkey is a NATO country, and in general it is more powerful, so it will not be easy to deal with it.

The West is still making statements about disrupting air traffic with Russia. But Turkey is vitally interested in the Russian tourist flow. These are billions of dollars, and she will find how to answer Western partners.

“SP”: – What, for example?

– If the West starts to take serious sanctions in this direction, it will mean a complete break in relations. This is not a country that can be pressured. Today, Turkey is taking advantage of what is happening, it does not participate in the sanctions pressure on Russia, it has its own dividends. We have always had a special relationship. Even if our interests strongly intersected, we did not enter into an open confrontation. Now the West is losing from breaking off relations with Russia and sanctions, while Turkey, on the contrary, is gaining a lot.

If the game starts with these transport hubs, Turkey has something to answer. For example, now there is talk of launching the Zangezur corridor in the territories disputed for Armenia and Azerbaijan (a project of a transport corridor about 40 km long through the territory of the Syunik region of Armenia, which is considered as a possible means of transport between the western regions of Azerbaijan and its exclave, the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic , – ed.)

Against the background of the statement of the President of Kazakhstan Tokaev, who said that they are friends with Russia, but will adhere to the sanctions, the prospect of a Zangezur corridor looms, in which Iran, Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan are interested. I think we will find a way out of any situation.

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