Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saturday that he welcomes sanctioned Russian oligarchs in his country as tourists and investors, as long as any business dealings remain within the areas of international law.
Turkey was in the spotlight this week as its coastal waters saw the arrival of multi-million dollar luxury yachts, It reportedly belongs to the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich – Literally getting around Western sanctions.
Solaris, a luxury yacht associated with sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, is moored at a marina in Bodrum in southwest Turkey on March 21, 2022.
Iha | via Reuters
With each one estimated to be worth $600 million or more, Abramovich has been seen stationing $1.2 billion in a country outside the European Union as he seeks to move his assets out of reach of the US, UK and EU governments targeting Russia’s wealthy elite. Turkey said it was a legitimate move – as long as the yachts remained outside the territorial waters of the sanctioning countries, which extend 12 nautical miles from the coast.
Speaking to CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Doha Forum, Qatar, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said any activity should be legal.
“We implement the sanctions approved by the United Nations, so if any Russian citizen wants to visit Turkey, they can of course visit Turkey. Now the Russians come to visit Turkey, this is not a problem,” he said.
When pressed on whether this includes investment and business, Cavusoglu replied, “So if you mean that these oligarchs can do any business in Turkey, of course if it is legal and does not contradict international law, I will consider it.” He said.
“If it is against international law, that’s another story,” he added.
Turkey has been highly critical of Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine, but opposes the sanctions imposed by its NATO allies in principle. Given its diplomatic and economic ties with Russia, particularly regarding imports of Russian gas, and its sometimes volatile relationship with Western partners, that is unlikely to change any time soon.
Turkey has positioned itself as a neutral and valuable mediator in talks between Russia and Ukraine, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte recently praising the country for “doing everything it can”. This has made it a preferred destination for Russians looking to preserve their wealth and make investments in an increasingly unfavorable global market.
Cavusoglu was present when he met the Foreign Ministers of Russia and Ukraine, Sergey Lavrov and Dmytro Kuleba, in the Turkish resort of Antalya earlier in March. Those discussions failed to produce any clear results.
Cavusoglu also recently traveled to Russia and Ukraine for talks with both Lavrov and Kuleba, telling reporters that there was a “convergence in the positions of the two sides on important issues.”
Turkey has built close ties with Russia over the years in areas such as defense, energy and trade, and it also depends on tourism from the country. But Ankara also sold drones to Kyiv, which angered Moscow.
Russian missile defense systems
— CNBC’s Karen Gilchrist contributed to this article.
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