Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Chavusoglu has announced Thursday that from now on, the citizens of Turkey and Azerbaijan can travel between the two countries with only an identity card.
“All obstacles are removed, and our brotherhood is getting stronger. Good luck to our citizens and Azerbaijani brothers!” Chavusoglu wrote Thursday on his Twitter page.
The announcement comes after Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev approved in mid-February amendments to the existing agreement on mutual visa exemption agreed between Ankara and Baku in 2020.
Before amendments, the agreement allowed the holders of Azerbaijani and Turkish passports to travel and stay in these countries for 90 days without a visa. Under the recent changes made to the protocol, the passport was replaced with the biometric identity card. At the same time, those wishing to stay in the territory of one country for more than 90 days must apply for a residence permit with a passport valid for at least 60 days longer than the required period.
In late 2019, the government of Azerbaijan canceled the visa regime for the citizens of Turkey for travel to Azerbaijan for up to 30 days. Turkish passport holders had to apply for a visa before traveling to Azerbaijan before this happened. Officials in Ankara unilaterally adopted the same privilege for Azerbaijani citizens in 2007.
Meanwhile, Turkey is the first country to allow Azerbaijani citizens to use biometric identity cards for trips. Previously, Ankara signed the same deals with Georgia and Ukraine.
Officials in both Turkey and Azerbaijan believe that the recent changes will pave the way for developing tourism between the two countries, as well as help increase mutual trade and investments.
Visitors from Turkey shared the third largest portion of the overall tourist influx to Azerbaijan last year, ranking third after Russia and Georgia. The number of tourists coming from Turkey, however, decreased by almost 78 percent in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic that hit the global tourism industry. According to Azerbaijan’s State Statistics Committee, around 160,000 travelers from Turkey arrived in Azerbaijan last year compared to about 725,000 in 2019. The number of visitors from Azerbaijan to Turkey also decreased last year, reaching about 191,000. This figure amounted to nearly one million travelers in 2019, according to data compiled by Turkey’s Touristic Hotels & Investors Association.
Azerbaijan and Turkey also intend to increase the volume of mutual trade to $15 billion by 2025. In 2020, Azerbaijan’s foreign trade turnover with Turkey amounted to $4.2 billion, decreasing by 7.7 percent compared to 2019.
At the same time, Azerbaijan has so far invested about $19 billion in Turkey. In turn, Turkey has invested about $13 billion in Azerbaijan. As of today, there are 4,200 companies with Turkish capital operating in Azerbaijan, according to Azerbaijan’s Economy Ministry. With an aim to boost this direction, Azerbaijan and Turkey are now working to establish a joint investment fund.