Turkic countries should create a visa-free travel zone to enhance connections and trade, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Tuesday following the signing of an agreement to lift visa restrictions between Turkey and Kyrgyzstan.
“Turkish citizens will be able to visit Kyrgyzstan with their passports without a need for visas and vice versa. The trucks of our countries will be able to travel [across borders] more easily from now on,” Erdoğan told reporters late Tuesday at a press conference with visiting Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambaev.
The other Central Asian republics need to follow Kyrgyzstan’s lead in helping to create a Schengen-style visa-free travel zone in the region, Erdoğan said. He noted that while Turkey does not demand visas from Uzbek or Kazakh citizens, both Tashkent and Astana require Turks to obtain a visa when traveling to those countries.
“We hope we can get over the problem [with the other Central Asian countries] after we take this step with Kyrgyzstan,” Erdoğan said.
Lifting visas with neighboring countries and others in the region constitutes an important element of Turkish foreign policy as embraced by the current government. Last year’s abolition of visa restrictions with Syria provided a boon for local Turkish economies close to the border, but the current unrest could now prompt a wave of Syrians to flee to Turkey.