10.06.05. Russian ambassador says cooperation intact despite fruit fly trouble Turkish Daily News

ElifUnal Arslan

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

Russia's decision to halt its import of Turkish produce is solely a technical problem stemming from the presence of Mediterranean fruit fly larvae on Turkish fruit and vegetables and the trouble is too small to upset the spirit of enhanced Turkish-Russian cooperation, said the Russian ambassador to Turkey. 

Turkish-Russian bilateral relations gained momentum after Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Turkey in December, when both sides pledged to expand cooperation in the political and economic fields. 

However, Moscow, at the end of May, informed Ankara that it has halted its imports after spotting larvae of the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitiscapitata) on fruit and vegetables exported from Turkey.

“It is only natural that we are having an increased number of technical problems caused by (our) intensified cooperation,” Ambassador Petr Stegniy told the Turkish Daily News in an exclusive interview.

Describing the problem as “a purely a technical matter,” the ambassador said the nature of the Russian decision was a temporary suspension. “The state committee for the control of imported agricultural goods took a decision to temporarily suspend the import of Turkish agricultural products until the necessary measures required by European standards … are taken by the Turkish side.”

According to the ambassador, the spirit of cooperation between the two countries remained intact despite what he said was “those discrepancies.” When asked about the other discrepancies, he, without going into specifics, mentioned another agricultural pest that affects flowers along with ongoing talks between the two countries' transportation ministries to resolve the problems of Turkish truck drivers carrying goods to Russia. 

“Those problems are not political, but technical. The political impetus given to the relations are felt on both sides. Every Russian minister possesses all the information concerning the agreements reached during the meetings at the high and presidential levels. ... This creates a cooperative atmosphere.”

On the Mediterranean fruit fly, a Turkish delegation from the Ministry of Agriculture visited Moscow last week to meet with their Russian counterparts. “Their discussion was very positive, and a team of Russian experts will come to Turkey for detailed talks about the Mediterranean fruit fly and some other technical problems we are having,” said the ambassador.

The annual trade volume between the two countries stands at $10.9 billion, with an extra $3 billion in unregistered shuttle trade, he said. Turkey currently exports $220-230 million of its total exports of fresh fruit, amounting to $850 million, to Russia.

“I feel that there is great attention to this problem due to the importance of the issue for the Turkish economy and Turkish foreign trade,” he said, adding that both Turkish and Russian officials have moved quickly to resolve the problem as soon as possible because they had the political will to do so.