Russia Suspends Visa-Free Travel with Turkey

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Another sign of growing tensions between Russia and Turkey was Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s announcement on Friday that visa-free travel between the two countries would end on January 1.

“The visa exemption agreement was signed between the two countries in May 2010 during a visit to Ankara by the then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,” recalls Today’s Zaman. “That agreement was ratified by Parliament on June 21, 2010, and published in the Official Gazette on July 27, 2010. The readmission agreement, which is a prerequisite for visa-free travel between the two countries, was signed in Moscow on Jan. 18, 2011.”

CNN reports Lavrov made this announcement after “complaining to reporters that Turkey was not cooperating in efforts to keep fighters and would-be fighters, including Russian citizens, from traveling through Turkey – presumably to and from Syria.”

The easy movement of ISIS recruits across the border into Syria has been a long-standing matter of controversy between Turkey and the international community.

Lavrov cited 17 specific incidences of Russia sending Turkey information about Russian citizens involved with terrorism, with no response from the Turkish government. He also complained that Turkey has been deporting Russians to unfriendly countries without giving Moscow proper notice.

Lavrov also expressed support for a proposal from French president Francois Hollande to shut down the Turkey-Syria border entirely, a move Lavrov said would “solve the problem of terrorism on Syrian territory.”

This was probably meant not only as an effort to interfere with ISIS recruiting, but also as a veiled reference to the problem of Turkey making money off Islamic State oil, an accusation the Russians have been lobbing at Turkey with increasing vigor.