Turkish Trucks Stuck for Weeks At Border Posts for Inspections

Dozens of Turkish trucks have been stranded at Russia's borders for weeks after Russia stepped up inspections after the discovery of illegal drugs on a shipment, a Turkish official said Wednesday.

Trucks are being held up at customs posts for up to four weeks at border crossings in Novorossiisk, Sochi and Taganrog, on Ukraine's border with Russia, said Ahmet Calikoglu, a commercial attache at the Turkish consulate in Novorossiisk.

About 100 trucks are now waiting in Novorossiisk, Calikoglu said.

Turkey has protested to Russia, its biggest trading partner.

"According to responses we get from Russian officials, there has been narcotics smuggling. There was an incident one or two months ago," Calikoglu said by telephone.

The trucks are mostly carrying consumer goods such as clothing, food and construction materials, he said.

Some market insiders linked the delays to political tensions with Russia. Stuart Hackett, a trader at Ekspres Invest in Istanbul, suggested that Moscow was punishing Turkey for bypassing Russia through BP's Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

"Turkey wants to continue trade with Russia, and that's being pressured," he said.

Russia is the biggest market outside the European Union for Turkish goods, with $4.9 billion of exports last year, according to data from the Turkish Assembly of Exporters.

The Turkish Trade Ministry said the truck delays could cost Turkey as much as $3 billion in export revenues, Bloomberg reported.

Calikoglu said he saw no political link with the increased inspections and expected matters to improve by next month.

"In 10 days it will be better," he said. "There is nothing official, but the head of the Turkish Assembly of Exporters said so."