Trucks carrying Turkish goods face ‘Egypt test’ at Russian border

“Turkish trucks have continually faced difficulties at the Russian border. After this latest development, Russia immediately closed their customs gates,” International Transporters Association (UND) Executive Board President Fatih Sener said on Thursday. The difficulties faced by the Turkish trucks came as a surprise to Sener, who said he did not expect Russia to take such action even after the plane fiasco, which has deeply wounded the relationship between Ankara and Moscow and resulted in speculation of a potential crisis. “Last year Egypt banned the passage of Turkish trucks through Egypt due to the deterioration in the countries’ political relationship. This is normal in the Middle East; however, Russia is a major member of the World Trade Organization [WTO] and should not act like Egypt. We are hoping that these practices at the Russian borders will end soon,” Sener said.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, explained on Thursday that customs officials along the border were scrutinizing Turkish goods for “a variety of reasons” including a possible terrorist threat. “This is only natural in the light of Turkey’s unpredictable actions,” Peskov said. In Georgia, customs officials reported that trucks with Turkish number plates driving via Georgia to Russia cannot get through. A statement issued by the Georgian Finance Ministry’s excise service said some trucks that are unable to enter Russia are driving back to Azerbaijan and Turkey, while hundreds are deciding to wait in the neutral zone between Russia and Georgia. Last year, Russia imposed a ban on food imports from the US and EU nations in retaliation for their sanctions over Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

“I think there were instructions [from above]. Of course they are coming up with excuses, that they have an inventory, but there is a problem at the border,” İstanbul Chamber of Industry Vice Chairman Adnan Dalgakıran said.

Such policies will not only harm Turkish truckers and exporters but also Russian businesses, said Dalgakıran, also a machinery exporter who operates a firm in Russia. Machinery exporters to Russia were already undergoing a deep recession because the country’s economic downturn resulted in a drop in exports from the $700 million mark down to $300 million. “Another problem like this could bring the sector to its knees. In Russia machinists are the ones experiencing the most loss as a result,” Dalgakıran said. “Such a practice is implemented at Turkish customs gates. However, this is done in accordance to a certain risk factor and only happens with 2 percent of vehicles. Sometimes when a vehicle appears to be suspicious, all of its products are examined one by one,” Sener said.

The far-reaching economic ties between Russia and Turkey created instant fears of economic difficulties for Turkish exporters and producers following the downing of the Russian jet, which Turkey claimed violated its airspace on Tuesday. Russia is the largest purchaser of Turkish fruit and vegetables, imports billions of dollars of goods from Turkey annually and exports a much higher amount. Turkey, lacking its own energy resources, also depends upon Russia for over half of its natural gas supply.


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