Sat, Jul 23, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Turkey is safe, representative says

E-VISA:Turkish Office Representative Ismet Erikan said he would consider visa-free travel for Taiwanese to Turkey and that the current online system takes only two minutes

By Stacy Hsu and Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporters

Turkish Office Representative Ismet Erikan speaks at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Turkish Office Representative Ismet Erikan yesterday said that Turkey is a safe travel destination, despite an attempted military coup on Friday last week, adding that the impact on the economy has been minimal.

“Turkey is totally safe, as safe as any other country in the West, no more, no less. Istanbul is as safe as Paris and London,” Erikan told a news conference in Taipei yesterday morning.

Erikan was responding to media questions on whether now is a suitable time to visit Turkey following the recent coup attempt, which prompted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to raise its travel advisory for Turkey on Saturday last week to “red,” the highest in the ministry’s four-color alert system.

The “red” alert was downgraded on Wednesday to “orange,” which advises visitors to be highly cautious and avoid unnecessary travel.

Erikan said he understands the ministry’s concerns and why it decided to increase the travel alert, but that he was optimistic that the travel advisory would be further downgraded soon.

More than 1,000 Taiwanese tourists were in Turkey during the coup, Erikan said, but only a small number of them returned to Taiwan because of the event. All the others continued their trips.

The Turkish representative also dismissed a reported link between the coup attempt and EVA Air’s decision on Thursday to suspend flights between Taipei and Istanbul until next summer.

“This is the company’s decision… It has nothing to do with recent developments in Turkey, but rather a financial issue and decision of the company,” Erikan said.

Asked whether the Turkish government would consider waiving visas for visitors from Taiwan to boost tourism, Erikan said that while he is open to discussion about such a proposal, the current e-visa system has proven effective in attracting Taiwanese visitors because it takes less than two minutes to apply for a visa online.

Meanwhile, the Turkish representative also predicted that Taiwan’s investments in Turkey would increase to US$1 billion in less than two years.

“The [failed coup’s] effect on the economy is very limited and very minor, which shows that the Turkish economy is strong enough to weather this shock,” Erikan said.

The representative’s remarks came after Standard & Poor’s on Wednesday cut Turkey’s credit rating to “BB,” two notches below investment grade, with a negative outlook, over concerns that political uncertainty could trigger an exodus of foreign capital.

Moody’s on Monday put Turkey’s credit rating on a review for downgrade as it needs time to assess the medium-term impact of the failed coup, it said.

Turkey’s GDP is expected to grow 3.8 percent annually this year, slightly lower than last year’s 4 percent expansion, the IMF forecast in April.

Taiwanese companies have been leveraging Turkey’s geographic position to sell their products to European countries, Erikan said.

“I have seen very strong indicators and interests from Taiwanese businessmen conducting more businesses and making investments in Turkey,” Erikan said, declining to disclose company names.

Taiwanese companies — including Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, Wistron Corp and Teco Electric & Machinery Co — have invested about US$100 million in Turkey, according to the trade office’s tallies.

“It [Taiwanese investments] will go up to US$1 billion very soon,” Erikan said.

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