Turkey’s Erdogan and Peru’s Humala sign bilateral accords

TURKISH President Tayyip Erdogan and Peruvian President Ollanta Humala signed bilateral accords on Tuesday (February 2) to increase bilateral economic and social cooperation.

Accompanied by Peruvian Foreign Minister Ana Maria Sanchez and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the two presidents held a private meeting at the Salon de Embajadores (Ambassadors’ Hall) in the presidential palace.

The foreign ministers signed bilateral agreements for cooperation among the two countries’ Chambers of Commerce and official news agencies. The agreements also allowed for increased technical cooperation.

Turkey has been slowly strengthening its relationship with Latin America since the late 1990s, when one of his predecessors, Suleyman Demirel, became the first Turkish president to make an official visit to the region.

This is the first visit by a Turkish head of state to Peru since 1952, when the two countries established diplomatic ties.

Erdogan’s South American visit aims to boost trade ties as Turkey seeks to diversify away from its traditional export markets in the troubled economics of Europe and the Middle East.

“We’ve spoken about international and regional topics. As you know, the region where Turkey is located is going through a difficult time. The Syrian crisis has been the biggest human tragedy after the second World War. Four Hundred Thousand people have died due to acts by regimes of other groups,” said Erdogan.

The search for new markets has become more important as conflict ravages neighbouring Iraq and Syria, long two of its major trading partners. A diplomatic row with Moscow, which slapped economic sanctions on Turkey after Ankara downed a Russian warplane last year, has exacerbated its woes.

During his visit, Erdogan underlined how Turkey was experiencing the humanitarian crisis stemming from regional conflicts firsthand and is hosting over 2 million Syrian refugees.

“Turkey has received 2,700,000 Syrians and there are also 150,000 Iraqis who have arrived in Turkey. I am sure that our Peruvian friends will also support the fight against these problems,” he added.

Last November, Turkey struck a deal with the EU pledging to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe in return for 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion dollars) in financial aid and renewed talks on joining the 28-nation bloc.

Humala and Erdogan discussed increased business cooperation and the negotiation process of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Humala said he was encouraged by the talks and believes the FTA could be finalized by the end of 2016.

“The economies of Turkey and Peru are complementary economies and we’re advancing in the realization of a free trade agreement, and your presence has been able to advance it in a more dynamic way, closing chapters, and we hope that as this year goes on, we can definitively close, conclude, this free trade agreement that could benefit both peoples,” he said.

The visit was the second leg of Erdogan’s three-country Latin American tour. Erdogan’s visit kicked off in Chile and will continue on to neighbouring Ecuador.

Trade with Latin America was nearly $10 billion dollars in 2014, according to official figures, up from around $1 billion dollars in 2000, but still just a sliver of Turkey’s overall commerce.

Erdogan, prime minister for more than a decade before winning the first direct election for head of state in 2014, has championed a vision of a “New Turkey” with a bigger diplomatic and trade presence on the world stage. (Reuters)