Turkey wants to broaden its political and trade relationships with Latin America and the Caribbean, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at a keynote lecture given today at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in which he asked for international collaboration to cope with the crisis of Syrian refugees and the challenges to peace in the Middle East.
The Turkish Head of State arrived in Chile on Sunday, January 31 in the framework of a trip to the region that will extend until February 4, and which will include visits to Peru and Ecuador. He was received on Monday, February 1 by ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena. The Chilean Minister of Foreign Relations, Heraldo Muñoz, also participated in the meeting.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was accompanied by Turkey’s First Lady, Ermine Erdoğan, and by a delegation of ministers and members of the Parliament of his country, among them the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and the Turkish Ambassador to Chile, Naciye Gökçen Kaya.
During her presentation, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary said that the message of the Turkish President towards Latin America and the Caribbean, offered at the headquarters of this center of thought, shows that country’s willingness to strengthen the understanding with this region.
Alicia Bárcena said that Turkey is a founding member of the United Nations and, in the region, is an Observer Country of the Organization of American States (OAS), of the Pacific Alliance and of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS). In addition, it maintains contacts with the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) and with the Caribbean Community (Caricom), and forms part of the bloc called MICTA, along with Mexico, Indonesia, the Korean Republic and Australia.
Regarding their trade relationship, exchanges between Turkey and Latin America have multiplied tenfold, rising to almost 10 billion dollars in 2014 from around 1 billion dollars in the year 2000, Alicia Bárcena said. The Executive Secretary also highlighted the current growth of the Turkish economy, with an expansion above the world average.
ECLAC’s most senior representative also appreciated that next May Turkey is preparing to hold the first World Humanitarian Summit, with the aim of improving response capabilities and global commitment in this area.
During his keynote lecture, the Turkish President stressed that in the last decade his country has applied an opening strategy towards Latin America and the Caribbean, where it currently has 13 diplomatic missions compared to the six missions it had in 2009. Moreover, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) have opened offices in Mexico and Colombia to strengthen South-South ties. Within this rapprochement strategy, the President expressed Turkey’s interest in becoming a member State of ECLAC.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that his country is interested in subscribing free trade agreements (FTA) with Latin American and Caribbean countries with the aim of strengthening trade exchanges. Chile was the first country in the region to sign an agreement of this type with Turkey in 2009.
The President also indicated that his country currently takes in more than two million refugees that have fled the war in Syria and asked for the international community’s cooperation to confront this humanitarian crisis.
On his part, Chilean Minister of Foreign Relations, Heraldo Muñoz, also appreciated Turkey’s role as a recipient country of Syrian refugees and said that Chile has offered to receive displaced families by this conflict.
Born in Istanbul in 1954, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was Mayor of his home city from 1994 to 1998, and was Turkey’s Prime Minister from 2003 to 2014, when he was elected President.