Turkey, Azerbaijan deepen ties with new trade deal and passport-free travel

Relations between Turkey and neighbouring Azerbaijan continue to strengthen and deepen. Passport-free travel between the two countries commenced on Thursday, 1 April.

The following day, Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan and Azerbaijan’s Economy Minister Mikayil Jabbarov (both pictured above) signed an electronic business agreement in Baku, pledging to bring “trade relations to a new level.”

Jabbarov described the new Memorandum of Understanding on e-commerce as “stimulating the trade of goods and services through the use of new technologies as well as to development [sic] of digitalisation in our countries.”

Present at her meeting with Jabbarov were Azerbaijan’s Communications Minister Resat Nebiyev and Sefer Mehdiyev, the chairman of the State Customs Committee.

Pekcan was also received by President Ilham Aliyev. She also met with Azerbaijan’s Prime Minister Ali Asadov, and Sahibe Gafarova, the Chair of the National Assembly of Azerbaijan.

During her visit to Baku, the Turkish Trade Minister remarked that the meetings were an “investment in future relations”, where both sides had “evaluated the steps” needed to “carry Turkey-Azerbaijan economic and trade relations to a higher dimension.”

Building on the preferential trade agreement, which came into force on 1 March 2021 and only applies to a limited number of products, Minister Pekcan said the aim was to move towards a free trade agreement.

“We must mutually remove trade barriers to reach the $15 billion trade volume, as targeted by our presidents, and pave the way for trade in local currencies,” Pekcan said.

Turkey’s bilateral investments would include infrastructure projects in the recently liberated Karabakh region, the minister added.

Members of theTurkish delegation who accompanied Minister Pekcan to Azerbaijan included Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, president of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), the Contractors Union of Turkey (TMB) head Erdal Eren, Bendevi Palandöken, chair of the Turkish Confederation of Merchants and Craftspersons (TESK), and Ismail Gülle, who is head of the Exporters’ Assembly of Turkey (TIM).

Travel between Turkey and Azerbaijan is also expected to grow after a new rule allowing passport-free travel for up to 90 days came into force. As of Thursday, citizens of both countries can travel across the border with just an identity card.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed the new arrangements in a tweet with the hashtag “one nation, two states”:

“As of today [Thursday], traveling with Azerbaijan is now possible with just an identity card. All obstacles are removed, our brotherhood is getting stronger.”

It means that Turkish and Azerbaijani nationals can travel by simply showing a new biometric identity (ID) card at the border.

Similar to the arrangement between Turkey and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, Turkish and Azerbaijani citizens will fill in an ‘exit-entry’ form before they depart, which must be shown together with their ID card when entering and exiting the two countries.

The new travel rule does not extend to Turkish and Azerbaijani citizens travelling to or from third countries, where the use of passports is still mandatory. Also, those wishing to stay beyond 90 days must use their passports to apply for an extension or residency permit.

Coronavirus measures, including mandatory quarantine, still applies.