Erdogan: "Relations between Turkey and African countries have a great potential"
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday hosted a luncheon in honor of the heads of state and government of African countries attending the First Turkish-African Cooperation Summit at Istanbul's Ciragan Palace. Speaking to the leaders, Erdogan said, "You should know that when Africa is saddened, Turkey is also saddened, and when Africa is happy, the entire nation of Turkey is also happy." He added, "Turkey has always been friendly towards African countries." Erdogan said that the government had taken important steps to strengthen relations with African countries, citing as an example how Turkey declared 2005 the Year of Africa. Pointing to how the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) has opened offices in several African countries in recent years, he said the number of TIKA offices in Africa would continue to rise. He also said that Turkey would soon open new embassies in 15 African countries to boost relations with the continent. Erdogan also said Turkey aims to boost bilateral trade with the continent. Touching on Turkey's continuing efforts to restore peace and stability to the Caucasus, Erdogan stressed that Turkey has played a key role in working to peacefully solve critical regional and international disputes such as the Palestinian issue, problems between Syria and Israel, and the controversy over Iran's nuclear program. Saying that Turkey, along with Spain, initiated the Alliance of Civilizations and made it a UN project, he also touted Turkey's bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2009-2010, saying he appreciates African countries' support for this.