Japan and Turkey, two countries with deep historical ties, are determined to further their cooperation in business ties, urbanization programs, disaster risk reduction and regional development programs, officials at the 60th-anniversary celebration of Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA) in Turkey said Tuesday.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which started operations in Turkey in 1959, has contributed to a large number of projects in the country, helping it to improve while also strengthening bilateral ties in terms of finance and business.
"Today Turkey works with nearly 200 Japanese companies. ODA has provided official aid on many projects, including the second Bosphorus Bridge and the Marmaray," JICA Vice President Takao Toda said, adding that the two countries have also assisted each other during natural disasters.
Japanese Ambassador to Ankara Akio Miyajima said ODA's total contribution in the last 60 years was around $6.80 billion. He added that nearly 1,600 voluntary and senior experts have participated in various projects in Turkey.
Underlining that true fellowship shows itself during hard times, Gaziantep Metropolitan Mayor Fatma Şahin said "In a time when many EU officials come and pretend to care, I, as the chair the Union of Municipalities of Turkey (TBB), have witnessed how Japan has supported in creating high-technology cities and we will continue our cooperation with the Japanese government."
Understanding the burden on Turkey regarding a large number of Syrian refugees, Japan has also granted Turkey a loan of $407 million in 2015 in cooperation with JICA and the İller Bank, which aimed to support municipalities hosting refugees and helped to improve water supplies, sewerage and solid waste management.
"JICA loans, within the framework of sustainable economic development in our country, contribute significantly to needs arising in transportation, environment and natural disasters," Bülent Aksu, vice minister at the Treasury and Finance Ministry said, adding that the two countries had never had a political problem.
He said the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) also carries out activities throughout the world regarding development and hoped Turkey and Japan will enhance their cooperation.
"We work with the Japanese Embassy towards furthering the current aids and expect the Japanese government to increasingly proceed development aid in the upcoming period," Aksu said.
JICA's Toda further pointed out the historical ties of cooperation between the countries by mentioning the Ertuğrul Incident of 1890 when a Turkish navy sank off the coast of Japan and locals rushed to help the Turks, the rescue from Teheran of 1985 when 200 Japanese citizens got stuck in the Iran-Iraq war and Turkey rescued them by airplane, and the Marmara and Eastern Japan Earthquakes of 1999 and 2011 respectively, when both countries again showed their support for each other with the Turkish rescue team coming first to help Japan and staying the longest.
"Education and capacity enhancement programs towards JICA's information and experience sharing, contribute to significant achievements in our country such as disaster recovery. With the diversification in a way that covers priority sectors and development areas in the 11th development plan which came into effect this year in July, we believe that our cooperation with Japan will be enhanced," said the vice president of Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), İsmail Palakoğlu.
Adding that Turkey is one of the leading donor countries in the world regarding development assistance, Palakoğlu said: "In 2018, Turkey's official development aid reached $8.6 billion. The proportion of the fund allocation to Turkey, which accounted for 0.95% of the gross national product (GNP) in 2017, rose to 1.1% in 2018. With this performance, Turkey ranks first among the seven countries that target and reach 0.7% of aid to GNP ratio, which is one of the 17 sustainable development goals."
Major projects with the cooperation of JICA include the Bosporus Rail Tube Crossing Project (Marmaray), the Ankara Water Supply, the Second Bosporus Bridge, assistance in the Syrian refugee crisis, capacity development, improving power supplies for hydroelectric power plants, school-based disaster reduction and the earthquake disaster prevention research center, some of which are completed and others proceed.
Among the participants of the event were also the Chairman of the Turkish Japanese Foundation Nejat Bora Sayan, Vice Minister of the Defense Ministry Alpaslan Kavaklıoğlu, Director General of Sectors and Public Investment of the Strategy and Budget Presidency Emin Sadık Aydın and the Country Director of U.N. Women Asya Varbanova.