Five Turkish banks are expected to accept the Russian payment system Mir, to entice Russian tourists to return to Turkey. The Russian and Turkish presidents have strengthened their business ties, after meeting last week.
A system that makes Westerners fear a circumvention of economic sanctions.
Three weeks after a meeting in Iran with Putin, Erdogan is consolidating his ties with Moscow a little more. The Turkish leader met his Russian counterpart in Sochi, Russia last week. It emerged, according to a joint declaration, the desire of the two countries to strengthen their trade and energy ties, Turkish media reported.
And the effects of this meeting were not long in coming. Five Turkish banks are expected to start using the Russian payment system Mir, set up in 2014 in Russia to circumvent sanctions after the annexation of Crimea. An opening that allows Russians present in Turkey to spend their rubles online or by bank card, while Mastercard, Visa and American Express have suspended their payment transactions with their Russian customers since the invasion of Ukraine. Turkey has also agreed to pay for some Russian natural gas in rubles.
This partnership around the Mir system, which is only adopted in a dozen countries close to Russia, clearly aims to reboost tourism in Turkey, damaged by two years of Covid and whose figures have plummeted, against a backdrop of record inflation. Especially since Russian tourists represent a significant share of Turkish revenue. Turkey was indeed the first holiday destination for Russians in 2019, recalls the economic newspaper Asian Nikkei, with more than 7 million Russian tourists in 2019 (20% of tourists in Turkey), earning 5 billion dollars in annual income.
Westerners fear that this agreement will be used by Moscow to circumvent the sanctions in progress against Moscow, further underlines the Financial Times. And if Turkey, a member of NATO, recently imposed itself as a negotiator in the Ukrainian conflict over the question of cereals, this does not prevent Westerners from issuing warnings. In June, US Assistant Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, visiting Ankara, met with Turkish officials and bankers, warning them not to be used as a channel for Russian money, at the risk of sanctions.