Turkey eyes stronger ties with Central America

Published 21.04.2017 01:42

Turkey promised to cement ties with Central America on Thursday at an Istanbul meeting of foreign ministers from the region.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Ankara would seek stronger cooperation with members of the Central American Integration System (SICA) through "all the means of our foreign policy."

He also announced a $500,000 contribution to the group and pledged to boost trade, which stood at around $326 million last year, between Turkey and SICA's eight member states.

In recent years, Turkey has sought to explore new overseas markets and this has been marked by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visits to Africa and Latin America. In January last year, he led a large business delegation to Chile, Peru and Ecuador.

Werner Isaac Vargas Torres, SICA executive director, stressed the importance of Turkey's links to member states. "We need to have important political dialogue and cooperation among us," Torres told the summit. Turkey is one of dozens of SICA observer states and Torres praised its contribution, especially in fighting the Zika virus.

SICA - which includes Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama - held its first Turkey forum in February 2015. The group was established in 1991 to promote regional peace, democracy and economic development.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez Sanz yesterday welcomed the new friendly relations between his country and Turkey.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Turkey-Central American Integration System (SICA) 2nd Foreign Ministers Forum in Istanbul, Sanz said Turkey and SICA countries are drawing closer to each other. "Turkey was a distant country in the past, now it is a friend that is increasingly drawing nearer. Turkey is important for Costa Rica and the whole region," Sanz said.

Sanz added that relations between Turkey and SICA countries have improved considerably. He said the Costa Rican ambassador in Turkey began his duty in 2014 and last May gave a letter of confidence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stressing that these acts showed how bilateral relations had improved in the few past years. Sanz added that both countries are working together to take on issues such as the struggle against climate change and sustainable development.

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