Anti-Turkey ‘smears’ by Iran harming bilateral ties: Ambassador

Turkish Ambassador to Iran Riza Hakan Tekin has warned that Iranian “smear campaigns” against Turkey were harming bilateral relations.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Tekin said tourism provided a means for people to meet, appreciate each other’s culture and enhance economic and cultural cooperation.

This weekend, Iran’s Foreign Ministry urged Iranians to avoid making unnecessary trips to Turkey during the upcoming Nowruz (Iranian New Year) holiday.

The warning came after Rahmani Muvahid, vice-president for tourism at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Authority, said Iranians were “not safe” in Turkey and should therefore spend their vacations in other countries.

Tekin, for his part, said the choice of vacation venue should be left up to vacationers to decide.

“Where to take vacation is a right that should be left up to the people, not decided by officials,” Tekin said, going on to note that the Iranian warning “has disturbed the Iranian public”.

Tekin said the development of tourism relations should be the primary goal of officials, citing two issues in particular that should be focused on.

“Firstly, Iranian officials want to balance the tourist numbers,” he said. “We would be pleased if our citizens visited Iran, but this responsibility falls on the Iranian side.”

Addressing Iranian tourism officials, he added: “Do your promotion and improve your tourism infrastructure.”

The Turkish envoy went on to say that tourism agencies should also be allowed to organize scheduled flights and additional charter flights to Turkey.

“This issue has become a matter of considerable concern to us because of the attitudes shown by the Iranian authorities in recent years,” he said.

“It is wrong to prevent citizens from going to other countries unless there are extraordinary circumstances there,” Tekin asserted. “There is no point in adopting such an attitude; this is not a friendly approach.”

Noting that Tehran had issued a travel advisory against Turkey following last year’s failed coup attempt, Tekin said it had taken one month for the impact of the advisory to subside.

“We don’t expect the Iranian authorities to encourage their citizens to visit Turkey,” he said. “Our only expectation in this regard is that no preventive measures be taken against our country and no defamatory statements be made.”

“We hope the Iranian authorities will realize the fact that every tourist who travels between our countries helps build a bridge of friendship and strengthens the link between our brotherly peoples,” Tekin concluded.