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Iran’s Minister of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts, Ali Asghar Mounesan had an official visit to Moscow on Sunday – yesterday – to sign a visa waiver for groups between Iran and Russia.

Iran’s Minister of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts, Ali Asghar Mounesan, and head of The Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (Rostourism) Zarina Doguzov in their meeting called for the implementation of the tourism agreements between the two countries and removing possible obstacles for expanding bilateral tourism ties in both countries.

Mounesan in this meeting said that there should be broad cooperation between all sectors, including political, cultural, and economic areas, of both countries to make the expansion of tourism ties happen.

Head of The Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (Rostourism), for her part in the meeting, said that because of good relations between the two countries and the excellent tourism potentials, expanding tourism ties between the two countries is vital.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Oct 16, 2020, that visa waiver for Iranian tourist groups will take effect in the near future.

Maria Zakharova said that Iran and Russia have signed an agreement on visa waiver for tourist groups on March 27, 2017.

“Visa waiver for tourist groups will take effect after Russian tourist agency determine an Iranian partner to regulate carrying out the agreement,” she said, noting that the agreement was signed by the Iranian and Russian foreign ministers during the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Moscow on March 27, 2017.

She said that as per the agreement, tourist groups, including five to 50 people, are allowed to visit Russia for 15 days.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin inked a visa-free agreement for tourist groups.

Last February, Iran’s tourism ministry announced that it would follow up the agreement at the [27th edition] Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition (MITT), which was held from March 17 to 19.

Based on the 2017 agreement, tour groups of five to 50 people heading to [easternmost parts of] Russia from Iran or vice versa are granted a visa-free stay of up to 15 days.

Maya Lomidze, executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, had told Sputnik that the visa agreement may significantly surge the tourist flows between the two countries, just like it happened when a similar deal was signed between Russia and China. The flow of Iranian tourists to Russia increased by 50-70 percent following the operation of direct flights that connect Iran to St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Sochi, she said.

Head of the Iranian Tour Operators Association Ibrahim Pourfaraj said last year that a majority of potential Russian travelers are unaware of vast tourist attractions that exist in every corner of Iran.

“The fact is that Iran’s political and economic relations with Russia are considered as good, but this has nothing to do with attracting tourists because the Russian tourists need to make up their minds to come to Iran for tourism,” he said.