12 Ocak 2011 Çarşamba

Turkey cements ties with Gulf countries

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s business trip to Kuwait may mark a new era in trade and political relations between the two countries, as businessmen began talks Tuesday on mutual investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Prime Minister Erdoğan, State Minister Zafer Çağlayan and an accompanying Turkish delegation of 358 businessmen arrived in Kuwait on Monday on two passenger planes.

Thousands of bilateral talks will take place at 246 meeting tables during the visit, which also covers Qatar, Çağlayan said before he left Turkey.

Kuwait’s 2010-2014 investment plans cover 1,100 projects worth $130 billion, the daily Hürriyet quoted the minister as saying. Turkey’s exports to Kuwait increased to $412 million last year from $214 million in 2009 while imports rose to $192 million in the first 11 months of the year from $184 million a year earlier, he said.
Iron and steel, construction materials, home decor, machinery and automotive supplies led Turkey’s exports to Kuwait.

Cooperation in the defense industry was also developing, Çağlayan said.

The $77 billion “Silk City” project, also known as the Medinat Al Hareer, headlines the Turkish investors’ Kuwaiti agenda. The mega construction project offers great opportunities to Turkish contractors, raw material sellers and consultants, according to the daily Hürriyet.

Erdoğan called on Arab nations Tuesday to boost cooperation with Ankara and to brush aside disputes that weakened ties in the past, the AFP reported.

"Arabs are our brothers," Erdoğan said in a passionate speech at the opening of a two-day conference on Arab-Turkish relations in Kuwait City. "We must stand together. ... By joining forces, we can overcome all our problems. We can resolve the problem of Palestine and the problems of Iraq and Afghanistan," said Erdoğan. "Let's unite together. ... We can achieve a lot. We do not need a third party to reform and improve our ties. We in Turkey open all our hearts to you."

Erdoğan said Turkey has come under strong criticism because of its new policy of exposing atrocities in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. "Because we speak about Kabul, Baghdad, Gaza and Palestine, we have been strongly criticized. Those critics say we have no place in the European Union."
He called on Arab countries to forget the differences and disputes of the past, as "these were based on lies." Erdoğan also blasted those who link Islam to terror, saying this was an insult to Muslims.

On Monday, Kuwait and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding on industrial cooperation.
Economic and political ties between the two countries have grown in recent years, with the Kuwait Investment Authority, or KIA, raising its investments in Turkey to $1.7 billion.

Ankara has been vying to boost its economic and political ties with the energy-rich Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, which groups Kuwait with Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In September 2008, Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding with GCC states aimed at forging a strategic partnership in all fields. And at a meeting held in Kuwait City last October, the two countries established working teams to boost cooperation in the economic, cultural and political sectors.

The meeting heard that trade between the GCC and Turkey shot up from $1.5 billion in 1999 to $17.5 billion in 2008. In 2008, GCC exports to Turkey rose fivefold over 2007's figure, while the group's imports from Ankara increased a massive 15 times.

Asked how Turkey’s developing economic activity in the Middle East would affect Iran-Turkey ties, Turkey being visible not only politically but also economically, Tayyar Arı, international relations professor at Uludağ University, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, “The Turkish policies create a balance in the region where Iran is gaining power as the United States’ effect is loosening up.”

There is a “hidden competition” between Turkey and Iran in the region, Arı said. “It is quite normal that Iran dislikes Turkey’s [improving] relations. It would’ve expressed this dislike a few years ago, but Turkey gained a strategic importance for Iran as it supported the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy policies,” he said.

“Turkey, on the other side, thinks it may sustain peace and good trade relationships in the region due to multi-partied cooperation.”

Turkey’s latest moves would not affect its ties with Iran, because they were economic, not military, Hasan Köni of Yeditepe University told the Daily News. “These relations will satisfy both Iran and European countries,” he said.

Next stop: Qatar
The Turkish delegation’s gulf visit also covers Qatar, another economic center in the region. Qatar is to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, Minister Çağlayan noted, saying that the event, along with the rise in gas and natural gas prices, has accelerated construction projects in the country. “Some 200 projects set for the next five years will total nearly $150 billion,” he said.

Kuwait's construction projects
- A $14 billion railroad and underground project set to be tendered in 2011.
- Kharian project of 36,000 residences costing $6.3 billion.
- Superstructure works of the Sabah Al-Ahmad Future City, a 9,500-unit residence project costing $5 billion.
- The $3 billion Mutlaa project, of 18,000 residences.
- A $15 million gas refinery project to be finished by 2016.
- Four power stations and a desalination facility totaling $8.4 billion.
- A $5.2 billion campus for Sabah Al-Salam University. Bidding has already started.

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