Latin American diplomacy on Turkey's agenda in upcoming period

ÖZGENUR SEVINÇ
ANKARA
Published 10.04.2019 00:12

The upcoming high-level meetings from Latin American states are expected to give new momentum to Turkey's ties with the countries in the region. "Turkey considers all Latin American countries significant partners and aims to continue mutual visits and dialogue as well as strengthening the legal infrastructure of the ties with various treaties," a diplomatic source told Daily Sabah.

He also underlined that, therefore, the visit of Bolivian President Evo Morales Tuesday, which was the first meeting at this level, is significant.

"It is a beginning of a new term as two countries which politically, socially and economically do not know each other seek answers to the question of how to take relations to a higher level," associate professor Mehmet Özkan told Daily Sabah, commenting on the visit of Morales. He added that similar to Venezuela, Bolivia has started to feel alone in the continent and is looking for new alliances.

Previously in January, Vice President Fuat Oktay and Morales met in the Venezuelan capital Caracas where they acknowledged that significant progress had been made in their countries' relations after Turkey opened an embassy in Bolivia last year. Furthermore, Bolivia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), is expected to open an embassy in Turkey as well. The visit of the Bolivian president is the continuation of a recent substantial increase in Turkey's diplomatic dialogue with countries in Latin America. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Surinam and Venezuela in 2018. Last December, Erdoğan held meetings with the presidents of Argentine and Chile in Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

The high-level dialogue with the countries in the region will also continue in the upcoming period. In May, the foreign minister of Paraguay is expected to visit Turkey. Çavuşoğlu will also attend the Central American Integration System (SICA) in Guatemala on May 21 where he is expected to hold various talks.

The meeting of SICA, which includes Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, was hosted by Turkey in 2017. The group was established in 1991 to promote regional peace, democracy and economic development. The number of Turkey's diplomatic representatives in the region has also doubled since 2009. With the opening of embassies in La Paz, Bolivia; Port of Spain, Trinidad-Tobago; and Asuncion, Paraguay the number of Turkey's embassies in the region has reached 16.

Armağan İnci Ersoy became Turkey's first envoy posted to Asuncion, Paraguay's capital. Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) previously, Ersoy expressed her enthusiasm to be the one to initiate many areas of cooperation "from political dialogue to economic cooperation."

Turkey is also set to start diplomatic representation in Montevideo, Uruguay. Furthermore, countries including the Dominican Republic and Bolivia are also expected to open diplomatic missions in Turkey.

Highlighting that Turkey's relations with Latin American countries have been expanding, Özkan said that more steps such as constituting mutual agendas are necessary for deepening these ties. In relation to the recent developments in Latin America, Özkan said, "Turkey can still be a mediator in the Venezuelan crisis; it can share its experience in the refugee crisis."

National flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) flies to six cities in the region, with flights to Mexico City starting soon. The $1.5 billion trade volume of 2003 with the continent surged to $11.8 billion in 2018. Apart from increasing figures in bilateral trade, there have been remarkable increases in the number of tourists coming to Turkey from Latin America thanks to the popularity of Turkish TV series in the region.

The number of tourists coming from South America, especially from Argentina and Brazil, with high spending, soared by 70 percent to 165,000 in the first eight months of 2018. Turkey's "Action Plan for Latin America and the Caribbean" was put into effect in 1998. The plan was reviewed in 2006 and the same year was declared as the "Year of Latin America and the Caribbean" in Turkey. The plan is considered a road map regarding the policy of opening to the region.

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