|Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was welcomed on Tuesday by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili at Batumi Airport.|
The beginning of the new travel regime coincided with a visit by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Georgia. He had talks with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in Batumi and the two later attended a ceremony for the opening of the modernized customs gate at the Sarp border crossing.
By implementing a passport-free travel regime at the Sarpi border gate -- through which approximately 2 million people pass each year -- the traffic at the gate will also be eased. It is the main gate between the two neighbors and accounts for almost 90 percent of road transport between the two countries. Turkey and Georgia lifted visa requirements for their nationals in 2009.
On Tuesday, the two countries also witnessed the first direct flight between Ankara and Batumi. An Anadolu Jet plane took off at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning from Ankara Esenboğa Airport and landed in Batumi at 11:40 a.m. Anadolu Jet is a subsidiary of Turkey's national carrier, Turkish Airlines (THY), and primarily offers domestic flights at more economical prices than THY.
THY executives and journalists were on the first Anadolu Jet direct flight from Ankara to Batumi. The passengers were welcomed by Levan Varshalomidze, chairman of the Autonomous Republic of Ajara in southwestern Georgia, and Levent Burak, Turkey's ambassador in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
Speaking before their meeting, Erdoğan and Saakashvili both welcomed the introduction of direct flights and said they would further strengthen tourism between the two countries.