In remarks to the press yesterday, Turkey’s ambassador to Russia underlined the extent to which rapidly developing bilateral economic relations are counterbalancing geopolitical competition between the two. "We would like Russians to view relations between Russia and Turkey in the light of economic trade relations and tourism rather than through the eyes of those politicians who every day speak out about Chechnya and the straits," said Bilgin Unan. Moscow and Ankara have clashed diplomatically over alleged Turkish support for the Chechen rebels and over Turkey’s decision to regulate shipping — including Russian oil tankers — through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. More broadly, they have also found themselves competing for influence among the independent states along the southern tier of the former Soviet Union.
But according to Unan, Turkish firms have now invested some $6 billion in Russia, and annual trade turnover between the two countries has reached $2 billion. Turkey buys 6 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia annually, and that amount will rise significantly in the coming decade on the basis of a recently signed agreement. Ankara also intends, he said, to increase its purchase of military hardware from Russia, which currently amounts to about $200 million annually. Some 1 million Russians visited Turkey in 1995, and, according to Unan, Ankara has made an official proposal that the two countries abolish their existing visa regime. (12)
New Premier Approved in Crimea.