Greek islands launch special visa program for Turkish tourists in diplomatic effort to calm regional situation

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Officials Greek Rhode Island opened a new vacation visa terminal for Turkish tourists on Monday, part of a diplomatic effort to ease long-standing tensions between the two countries.

Restricted visit visa will be allowed turk It is possible to visit 10 Greek islands for up to a week without applying for full entry into the EU’s passport-free travel area, known as the Schengen Area.

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NATO members Greece and Turkey launched several initiatives last year to try to sidestep decades-old disputes – mainly over maritime boundaries and Aegean Sea mineral rights – to focus on trade.

Tourists enjoy the beach and sea in Lindos, Aegean island of Rhodes, in southeastern Greece, Thursday, July 27, 2023. Officials in the Greek island of Rhodes opened a new holiday visa terminal for Turkish tourists on Monday, April 1. 2024 as part of diplomatic efforts to ease long-running tensions between the two countries. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan In December, he visited Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis and signed a series of bilateral cooperation agreements in Athens. Mitsotakis will visit Türkiye next month. “Express-track visas can be issued not only during the summer, but also throughout the year. The measure is aimed at promoting tourism in the region and during less busy times of the year, and will therefore help the local economy.” Mitsotakis on Sunday wrote in a weekly online post.

Greek officials said the new visas, which cost 60 euros and include passport control and fingerprint records, are issued at participating Greek ports and tourists will not be allowed to travel to other EU member states.

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Vassilis Vayiannakis, head of the Rhodes Port Fund, told The Associated Press: “The new system is ready and there is great demand from Turkish tourists. But no scheduled ships arrived today. We will Arriving later this week.”

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The islands in the holiday visa program are all located off the Turkish coastline and also include Lesbos, Lemnos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, Symi Island and Castellorizo, the smaller island will be added in June.

Turkey has long sought to offer its citizens looser travel rules for visits to the EU in exchange for cooperation with EU member states, including on efforts to curb illegal immigration. Tourism is an important industry in the Greek economy. The country welcomed 32.7 million tourists last year, raising 20.5 billion euros, according to central bank data.

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By Ali Raza

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