China has included Turkey on a list of tourist destinations that the Beijing government recommends to its populous nation, a Turkish foreign ministry statement said on Thursday, September 6.
The decision was conveyed to Ankara earlier in the day during a meeting between visiting Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Yang Wenchang and Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem. China's move came shortly after Turkey lifted its objection to the passage of a decommissioned, Chinese-owned aircraft carrier through its congested waterways — an issue that had soured relations in recent months.
Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean coasts are a popular holiday destination for Europeans and Ankara has campaigned intensively in recent months to get a place on Beijing's list of favored vacation sites.
The head of Turkey's travel agency association, TURSAB, hailed the decision. "We plan to attract 500,000 Chinese to Turkey next year and two million by 2005," Basaran Ulusoy told Anatolia news agency.
"The Chinese are the group that spend the most money — 500,000 people means nearly $500 million of capital inflow," he added. About 21,500 Chinese tourists visited Turkey in 2000, according to TURSAB.
Thursday's announcement following a decision by Ankara in late August to allow the Chinese-owned aircraft carrier, Varyag, to pass through the Bosphorous and Dardanelles straits under tight safety conditions.
The unarmed ship has long been anchored in the Black Sea due to Turkey's refusal to grant it passage due to fears the vessel, which lacks a rudder and an engine, could block traffic in the narrow waterways in case of an accident.
A Macau-based company bought the 306-meter (1,000 foot) vessel from Ukraine and was planning to convert it into a floating hotel and casino. During their meeting on Thursday, Cem and Yang also agreed to speed up work to strengthen bilateral political and economic cooperation, and particularly to boost Turkish exports to China, the foreign ministry statement said. — (AFP, Ankara)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)