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Turkey pins great attention to boosting economic ties with Kuwait: Erdogan

‘Airport project emphasizes the advanced level reached by Turkish companies’

ANKARA: This March 2017 file photo shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcoming His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah during his most recent visit to Turkey. —KUNA

KUWAIT: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that his country attaches great importance to the development of its economic and trade relations with Kuwait, one of the most stable, secure and prosperous countries in the region.

Erdogan said in an exclusive interview ahead of his official visit to Kuwait today that Turkey and Kuwait share common interests and relations between them are rapidly developing compared to political relations.
He said that his presence at the ceremony of launching the new Kuwait International Airport project, which will be completed by Limak Holding Company, one of the first Turkish companies, is a great honor for him in terms of emphasizing the advanced level reached by Turkish companies worldwide.

The Turkish President expressed his hope for greater participation of the Turkish companies in the completion of the infrastructure projects that Kuwait aspires to achieve as part of its development plan for 2035. He expressed his thanks and gratitude to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and the Kuwaiti government for the tremendous support to Turkish companies.

He pointed out that the two countries have great potential to develop their relations in investment, trade, defense industries, tourism and other fields.  He expressed his hope for an increase of mutual investment, expressing readiness of his country to exchange its experiences with Kuwait in the field of defense industries.

In this regard, Erdogan said that the meeting of the Joint Committee on Cooperation to be held at the level of heads of government in the coming months will address these issues in detail, stressing the need to hold meetings of the Joint Economic Committee and the Business Forum every now and then in order to improve the economic and trade relations between the two countries to the required level.

He pointed out that the volume of trade exchange between the two countries in the first quarter of this year reached $152 million, recording an increase of 17 percent compared to the same period of 2016. He added that the volume of trade exchange between Ankara and Kuwait amounted to $1.287 billion last year, as the volume of Turkish exports to Kuwait reached $431 million while the value of imports reached $856 million, saying he looks forward for more efforts to increase bilateral trade while taking into account the potential of the two countries.

Kuwaiti tourists
Erdogan expressed his happiness for the influx of Kuwaiti tourists to Turkey, noting that his country hosted about 180,000 Kuwaiti visitors last year and 30,000 in the first quarter of 2017. The Turkish president said that the agreement on cooperation in the field of tourism signed by the two countries during the visit of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to Ankara last March would give a new impetus to this area.

He pointed out that the State of Kuwait ranked first in the field of real estate investment in the Gulf countries, as Kuwaitis own more than 6,000 properties in Turkey so far, expressing his belief that investment in this sector will see more increase in the coming period.

As for the volume of direct investment that Kuwait has been making since 2002 in Turkey, which has become an investment attraction, Erdogan said that it amounted to about $1.7 billion, as well as the activity of 280 Kuwaiti companies in Turkey now.

The Turkish president confirmed that his country was able to bring foreign direct investment worth $176.6 billion between 2003 to 2016, thanks to the favorable investment climate of which $12.3 billion achieved last year, calling on Kuwaitis to increase investment in Turkey.

In contrast, Erdogan pointed to the presence of seven Turkish companies with Turkish capital operating in Kuwait, pointing out that the Turkish construction companies have achieved in Kuwait through 30 projects huge achievements totaling about $6.5 billion.

He expressed his belief that the Turkish companies will contribute to the development of Kuwait even further in the coming periods, while meeting the confidence entrusted to, stressing the interest of Turkish businessmen in the Gulf region in general and Kuwait in particular.

GCC relations
On his country’s relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the Turkish president stressed that one of the priorities of Turkish foreign policy is to strengthen and deepen its relations with the member states of the GCC in all economic, trade, tourism, military and defense industries in line with the excellent political relations between the two parties, in bilateral or multilateral events.

He pointed out that the relations between Ankara and the Gulf countries are based on a cohesive platform, thanks to the cooperation mechanisms established with the governments of the countries at the bilateral level, thus, prompting the development of new cooperation projects, expressing hope for establishing such mechanisms with all Gulf countries and diversifying relations with them.

In this context, Erdogan pointed to the existence of a high-level strategic dialogue mechanism between Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council, saying “we are establishing the ground of our relations with the GCC countries in an integrated manner”.

The Turkish president said that a decision was taken to resume negotiations between Turkey and the GCC on the free trade agreement at the last meeting held in Riyadh on October 13, expressing the hope that the outcome of these negotiations will be positive for both Turkey and the Gulf countries.

Exchanged visits
Erdogan’s visit to the country comes less than two months after His Highness the Amir paid a visit to Turkey, thus signaling extent of the bilateral relations’ development over the past years. In May last year, His Highness the Amir headed the Kuwaiti delegation at the global summit for humanitarian action hosted by Istanbul. Meanwhile, Erdogan came to Kuwait in April 2015, only months after assuming power. The bilateral relations date to many decades ago and turned official in 1969, when the two countries signed an accord for establishing diplomatic relations, followed with opening the two states’ embassies in 1970.

The relationship turned warmer and closer in the 1990s when Ankara firmly stood on Kuwait’s side in face of the Iraqi aggression. Following the 1991 liberation, the late Amir paid an official visit to Ankara expressing gratitude for the honorable stance.

In 1997, Kuwait hosted the late Turkish president Suleyman Demirel who held talks with the late Amir Sheikh Jaber on the ties and issues of common interest.  Kuwait for its part backed the Turkish legitimacy when it was targeted with a futile bid to oust it in July 2016, when His Highness the Amir cabled the Turkish president congratulating him on success of the legitimacy and democracy.  Economic relations have been improving too. An official visit by His Highness the Amir to Turkey March 2017 was crowned with a number of accords for cooperation in tourism and military sectors.

The first official visit to Turkey by His Highness the Amir in 2008 was marked with inking seven agreements for cooperation in economic, scientific and technical affairs.  Another visit to Ankara in 2013 ended with signing eight deals in the sectors of aviation, education, health and defense industries.

The former Turkish president Abdullah Gul came to Kuwait in 2014, where the two sides inked agreements for military training and maritime transports.  Officials from the two countries over the past years signed several treaties for cooperation in expertise exchange, training, military education and joint military drills.

The Kuwaiti-Turkish commission held its first session in 2013 tackling cooperation in the political, economic, technical and cultural fields. As to investments, the Kuwaiti businesses in Turkey were estimated at $5 billion in 2015. The trade exchanges used to be in the range of $600 million but they climbed to $2 billion over the past few years. Some 70,000 Kuwaiti tourists go to Turkey every year. – KUNA

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