Russia Update: Russia To Suspend Visa-Free Regime With Turkey As Erdogan Warns Putin Not To ‘Play With Fire’

November 27, 2015
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, at a meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem ,today. Photo:

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

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Russia To Suspend Visa-Free Regime With Turkey As Erdogan Warns Putin Not To ‘Play With Fire’

Russia will suspend the current visa-free travel regime with Turkey from January 1, 2016, the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said this afternoon.

Interfax reports that Lavrov told reporters at a press conference in Moscow, following a meeting with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem, that the move was due to the “very real threat” of terrorism.

The state-owned TASS news agency reports that Lavrov said that there is a growing terrorist threat from Turkey:

“There is a well-run traffic of gunmen via Turkey in various directions,” he said, adding that Turkey has been reluctant to tell Russia about the cooperation in this issue.

According to Lavrov, more than 200 Russian citizens have been deported from Turkey this year after being caught engaging in criminal activity.

“Despite the existing, relevant agreements, in only seven of the more than two hundred cases was the Russian side informed in advance of such deportations. In the majority of cases, these people were deported, passing over the Russian Federation, to other countries, including states which are unfriendly to Russian policy.”

At the start of his meeting with Muallem, Lavrov said that “we believe the Turkish leaders have crossed the line of the acceptable.”

“They risk bringing Turkey into a most complicated situation — both from the point of view of long-term national interests and from the point of view of the situation in the region.” 

Meanwhile, as Reuters reports, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Russia not to “play with fire.”

“We very sincerely recommend to Russia not to play with fire,” Erdogan told supporters during a speech in Bayburt, in northeast Turkey. “We really attach a lot of importance to our relations with Russia… We don’t want these relations to suffer harm in any way.”

Erdogan said he may speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a climate summit in Paris next week, a discussion that would be welcomed by the United States and EU, both of which fear the spat has distracted from the battle against Islamic State militants in Syria.

Erdogan defined “playing with fire” as supporting the Assad regime, striking opposition groups under the pretext of fighting ISIS, Interfax reports.

Furthermore, Erdogan warned, he also regarded Russia’s “use of the incident” – the downing of the Russian bomber on November 24 – “as an excuse for tormenting our citizens, who were in Russia on a visit to a trade fair,” as “playing with fire.

Erdogan was referring to the arrest and deportation of 39 Turkish businessmen, who were brought before court yesterday morning. 

— Pierre Vaux