Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced Monday that it is working to establish visa-free travel agreements with a handful of Gulf countries and Syria this week.
A year since its invasion of Ukraine and facing growing international scrutiny, Russia said it was preparing intergovernmental agreements on visa-free travel with 11 countries on Sunday, which include the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. owned by the Russian News Agency TASS.
The Bahamas, Barbados, Haiti, Zambia, Malaysia, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago are the other countries mentioned as part of ongoing agreements, all of which are in various stages of ratification.
Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Ivanov said on Monday that Russia is preparing agreements to simplify the exchange of visas with six other countries, including Syria, TASS reported.
“In addition to India, we are also working on draft intergovernmental agreements that mean mutual simplification of the visa regime with Angola, Vietnam, Indonesia, Syria and the Philippines,” Yevgeny said.
“However, it is important to understand that the process of negotiating such international treaties is a “two-way street” and the pace at which they are signed depends equally on us and on our partners,” the senior diplomat noted.
In some Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, Russian passport holders can get a one-month visa upon entry and free of charge as long as there is no Israeli visa or stamp in their passport, according to the Lebanese Embassy in Moscow.
However, Lebanese passport holders are not extended the same tourist access to Russia and must present documentation, including full payment for hotel accommodation, among other proof ahead of time, the Russian Embassy in Lebanon says on its website.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a reciprocal visa-free travel agreement with Russia as of February 17, 2019, according to the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The bilateral agreement allows holders of valid passports who do not intend to work or study in the UAE or Russia the right to stay in either country for a period of 90 days without a visa.
One result of such policies has been a high flow of Russian investment into the Gulf region, in markets including finance and real estate.
Rents hit historic highs in Dubai this year, and Russia’s war in Ukraine is the driving force driving it, contributing to the country’s recent economic gains during a global downturn, the Associated Press reported in February.
Ryan Bohl, a senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at the Risk Assistance Network + Exchange, told Al-Monitor last month that Gulf countries – mainly the United Arab Emirates and Qatar – have been the main recipients of Russian investments in real estate together with Turkey.
Also in February, the United Arab Emirates authorized a license for Russia’s MTS Bank, which is not subject to Western sanctions and serves as an example of how the country has become a financial haven for Moscow, the Financial Times reported, raising concern among Western countries that apply these restrictions.
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