Official visit to Turkey

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The Belarusian-Turkish relations are entering a new level, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said during the official visit to Turkey on 16 April.

The Belarusian head of state held talks with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. During the one-on-one meeting and the meeting with the participation of the delegations the sides discuss the development of bilateral relations with a focus on the expansion of the trade and economic interaction.

“People are waiting for a new milestone, as President Erdogan said at the beginning of the one-on-one talks. Our today’s meeting gives a start to a new period in bilateral relations in all the areas. It is important that relevant ministers and the government implement our agreements. I believe that the current level of our partnership enables us to set even more ambitious goals,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President stressed that Turkey is one of the key partners of Belarus in the region and that Belarus attaches great importance to cooperation with the country. He noted that the first official visit of the Turkish President to Minsk in November 2016 opened a new page in the history of Belarusian-Turkish relations. “Back then we gave a notable impetus to political, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation. It was an explosive step that gave serious momentum to our relations,” the head of state said.

The Turkey President reminded that in 2016 the countries set out to achieve a trade turnover of $1 billion. Belarus-Turkey trade was slightly off the target in 2018 – it amounted to $984 million. “We’ve decided to put more efforts into the matter and increase the trade turnover up to $1.5 billion. Turkey and Belarus have such a potential,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan was convinced.

Aleksandr Lukashenko agreed that the current trade level is below the potential of Belarus-Turkey relations. “When we were making the decision on $1 billion trade turnover, we accurately spelled out the figure. I didn’t think we would be able to reach this milestone so fast. Today we talk about $1.5 billion. I’ve promised to the President of Turkey that we will never have any closed topics in our relations including food trade or cooperation concerning the military-industrial complex. In this regard we are resolute to make serious and radical steps,” the Belarusian head of state underlined.

According to him, such a goal for the next five years will be to double the trade [almost $1 billion in 2018]. “We do ask a lot from you,” the President said addressing the ministers. “We are asking for as little as 50% within five years. Give us these 50% and we will be grateful to you for this,” the Belarusian leader added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that during the current talks, the parties “had an open and constructive discussion of all important issues on the bilateral agenda”. The parties welcomed a positive and fruitful dialogue between the two countries. “We have absolutely no differences on the political agenda, including on crucial international issues. Our points of views are absolutely identical,” the President said.

The head of state noted that economy makes the basis of the Belarusian-Turkish cooperation. During the talks the parties identified priority areas in trade and investment, discussed the prospects for implementing joint projects in engineering, agriculture, construction, finance, chemical and light industries.

“It is good that we are gradually switching from simple trade to a more advanced form of economic interaction, namely industrial cooperation. Opening an MTZ tractors assembly facility in Turkey attests to our serious intentions in this regard. Together we will work on similar projects across other types of Belarusian machinery,” the head of state noted.

The first Belarusian tractor was assembled in the industrial zone Kэrэkkale located 80km away from Ankara in April. The tractor was shown to Aleksandr Lukashenko before the start of the talks. The BELARUS tractor assembly plant is scheduled to come on stream in July. Support to the project has been provided by Azerbaijan. “We did it ahead of schedule together with our Turkish friends and representatives of Azerbaijan. This is a very interesting form of cooperation,” the Belarusian head of state said.

Special attention was paid to the measures to stimulate trade and economic cooperation. These include optimization of freight logistic routes, continued work to set up a bank in Belarus with the Turkish capital, setting up joint ventures on the territory of the two countries. “We are waiting for the arrival of your bank in Belarus. We are ready for you to purchase a Belarusian bank or acquire a stake in one of Belarusian banks,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Belarus is also interested in further expanding of contacts in technology, innovation, education and intends to bolster ties in joint scientific research, academic programs, exchange of university students and professors.

Following the talks between the presidents of Belarus and Turkey, the parties signed a package of documents. Among them is the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in education, a memorandum of cooperation between the Justice Ministries, a memorandum of understanding between the State Military-Industrial Committee of Belarus and the Presidency of Defence Industries of Turkey.  

In addition, the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus and the Ministry of Industry and Development of Turkey signed a memorandum on technical and scientific cooperation in Antarctica. The parties also concluded a road map to develop cooperation between the National Academy of Sciences and Research Council of Turkey in 2019-2021 and a protocol of the tenth session of the Belarusian-Turkish Joint Intergovernmental Economic Commission.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, these documents create additional conditions for bolstering mutually beneficial Belarusian-Turkish ties in politics, trade, economy, science and humanitarian affairs.

“Turkey is an absolute priority for us. We appreciate our friendship and intend to advance all-round productive interaction. Dear Recep, we discussed a lot of themes (and we are not making them public) that tested our friendship, reliability, especially those of Belarusians. I do not think that today there are things you can reproach us for. We have always been focused on good relations, respected our agreements and kept our promises whatever it took us. This is how the things will continue to be,” the Belarusian President assured.

Before the talks the Belarusian head of state visited Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, where he laid a wreath at the tombstone of the national leader, founder and first President of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal.