The Turkish PM, who was in Singapore, said he plans to focus ‘more on this part of the world’.
Media Outlet : Today
Date of Publication : 21 August 2017
Country : Singapore
Writer : Albert Wai

     Turkey wants to strengthen its ties with Asia, the country’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said last night, adding that Singapore is important to his country as a gateway to the region and as a partner in counter-terrorism efforts.

     Speaking to reporters after he landed in the Republic for a three- day official visit, the premier said Turkey considers itself both European and Asian. “From now on, we will be focusing more on this part of the world,” he said, adding that Turkey wants to work with countries in the region to fight against terrorism and enhance trade and investments.

     “By promoting relations with this region, we will be able to fight against terrorism ... If we know each other better, we can easily overcome prejudices,” he said. “(You) can say that between Singapore and Turkey, there is a long distance. But today, the facilities (to overcome distance) are very much there.” He noted that  there are daily flights between Singapore and Turkey, and the Internet has eliminated the problem of both countries being in different time zones.

     Asked about the benefits of the Singapore-Turkey Free Trade Agre ement (FTA) , Mr Yildirim said: “This FTA is something special.” He noted that its coverage is much wider than the others Turkey has signed and covers agriculture, services and public procurement. “We tried to reach an agreement with the European Union, but we did it much earlier with Singapore,” he said. The FTA was signed in November 2015 and has since been ratified by both sides. Mr Yildirim added that Singapore can be Turkey’s window into the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean).

     “In terms of (Singapore’s) location, connections with surrounding countries, openness and trust. Anyone can come and do business around here without any hesitation,” he stated. Earlier this month, it was announced that Turkey has become a sectoral dialogue partner for Asean. Turning to counterterrorism, Mr Yildirim said Turkey is ready to share its experiences with Singapore.  Asked for his thoughts on deradicalisation, the premier said: “The answer is to teach through Islam ... Look at root causes.”Singapore-Turkey relations are warm and growing.

     Both sides signed a Strategic Partnership agreement in 2014. There is increasing bilateral cooperation in trade, defence and counter-terrorism among other areas.  Mr Yildirim is the second Turkish prime minister to visit Singapore, following the official visit of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2014.

     Today, Mr Yildirim is scheduled to call on President Tony Tan KengYam and meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who will also host an official dinner, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Turkish premier will also deliver the 41st Singapore Lecture, titled “Turkey-Singapore Relations: Building a Smart Strategic Partnership”, which will be moderated by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

     Image Credit: AA/Ali Balıkçı

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