ANKARA (Reuters) – Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey urged Ukrainian travel agencies on Thursday not to work with an association of Turkish agencies over what he called its ‘two-faced’ stance amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
NATO member Turkey, which shares a maritime border with Russia and Ukraine and has good ties with both, has criticised Moscow’s invasion but so far avoided the harsher rhetoric of other alliance members and opposes their use of sanctions.
Moscow calls the assault a “special operation.”
Ukrainians and Russians are among Turkey’s top visitors. In 2021, more than 2 million Ukrainian tourists arrived in Turkey, according to data from the tourism ministry, while another 4.7 million tourists came from Russia.
Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar said the head of the Turkey Travel Agencies Association (TURSAB) had met separately with him and the Russian ambassador to Ankara on Thursday, slamming what he said amounted to an equating of Ukraine and Russia.
“The TURSAB chairman’s meeting with us in the morning and later with the Russian Ambassador is a sign of the two-faced approach. Putting an equal sign between the aggressor Russia and Ukraine, which is defending itself, is tantamount to being an accomplice to the crime,” Bodnar said on Twitter.
“We urge Ukrainian travel agencies not to work with TURSAB.”
TURSAB Chairman Firuz Baglikaya said he had discussed travel agencies’ work with the Russian ambassador and told him that the “language of tourism is peace”, calling for an immediate halt to fighting. He added he offered Bodnar TURSAB’s help in delivering Turkish humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
In a statement responding to Bodnar late on Thursday, TURSAB said Baglikaya discussed with Russia’s envoy problems in tourism due to the ongoing war and the safe return of Russian tourists.
It also countered Bodnar’s account of the talks, saying the envoy had met Baglikaya after the Russian ambassador. It added that Baglikaya conveyed to both ambassadors his wish for an end to the conflict.
“Just like we have continuous friendly ties with the Russian people, our friendship with Ukraine and Ukrainian people will also never change,” TURSAB said, adding it opposed the war.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Jonathan Oatis)