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Turkey is looking at alternatives to Russian Mir card system

Erdogan says Turkey has been forced to evaluate its stance on Russian payment system following US sanctions
A Russian ruble coin and the Russian Mir payment system logo on a bank card in Moscow (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey is looking at possible alternatives to the Russian payment system Mir following US sanctions, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a group of journalists in New York on Thursday.

The US Treasury Department last week sanctioned top Mir executives and warned third-party facilitators that they also might be subjected to sanctions over concerns relating to illicit trade and funds.

Isbank and Denizbank, two of the five Turkish banks that process Mir, this week suspended the administering of payments over the system following the decision.

Erdogan said the US decision on the Mir system was out of the ordinary.

“My ministers are holding talks on the alternatives, we are looking into the alternatives,” he said. 

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The president also said he would hold a top-level economic meeting on Friday to discuss the issue and make a final decision on Mir. The meeting is also expected to focus on bilateral Turkish-Russian economic engagement and investments as well as other domestic financial issues.

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After Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, the US and several European countries placed severe sanctions on Moscow and excluded Russia from the Swift global payments system.

Mir is the Russian equivalent of Visa or Mastercard, and is accepted in South Korea, Cuba, some former Soviet states, and soon Iran.

The head of Russia's National Card Payments System said earlier on Thursday that Mir bank cards continued to work in Turkey, despite the two banks suspending them. 

Turkey continues to walk a fine line over the war in Ukraine.

Even though Ankara closed the Bosphorus strait to the Black Sea and declared the Russian assault an “illegal and unjust war”, it still enjoys good ties with Moscow and has not joined the US, UK, and EU in imposing sanctions.

Last week, some hotels in Turkey stopped accepting Russian credit cards using the Mir payment system over concerns they could be exposed to US sanctions as a result. 

Several sources in the tourism industry confirmed to Middle East Eye that some hotel chains stopped using the Mir system independently, but most hotels were still processing the payments.

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