Sat, Sep 08, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Turkish politicians call for direct air links with Taiwan

TURKISH DELIGHT:Turkish politicians have expressed optimism and enthusiasm for direct flights and a possible visa-free program between Taiwan and Turkey

Staff writer, with CNA

Senior Turkish politicians have thrown their backing behind the opening of direct air links and the signing of a visa-waiver agreement between Turkey and Taiwan to boost tourism between the two countries.

Calling direct flights of great importance to the promotion of tourism, Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ertugrul Gunay said he would “very much” like to have direct flights between Turkey and Taiwan.

“We would like to see much more Taiwanese visitors in Turkey as tourists,” the minister said in a recent interview with the Central News Agency.

Haluk Ipek, secretary-general of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said earlier this week that he was optimistic over the opening of direct air links between Turkey and Taiwan because Turkey has been seeking to expand direct flights to new markets. People traveling between the two countries currently have to transit through third territories, most often through Hong Kong or Bangkok. Taiwan has broached the issue of direct flights with Turkey’s government, but Ipek said he would help push the issue forward with the ministry and Turkish Airlines.

Ipek is one of the founding members of the AKP, which has won three consecutive elections over the past 10 years, and he is considered to be the right-hand man of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Another issue of interest to Taiwan has been securing visa-free privileges for its citizens when traveling to other countries. When asked if he would assist in pushing for a visa-free program between Taiwan and Turkey, Gunay said that in his position he would like to see visa-free privileges for every country to boost tourism but stressed he “is not the only one who has a say in this respect.”

It is also the decision of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications, Gunay said.

Ipek said he would bring up Taiwan’s hope for visa-free privileges with Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the prime minister’s office and hoped there would be progress on the issue in the future. Around 17,000 travelers from Taiwan visited Turkey last year. Taiwanese officials believe the number would increase if Taiwan is granted visa-free status with Turkey. So far, 128 countries or regions have granted Taiwanese passport holders visa-free entry or landing visa privileges.

The two ruling party politicians also said they hoped for further ties in the economic and cultural realms.

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