Addressing the first Turkish-African Cooperation Summit in Istanbul yesterday, President Abdullah Gul said, "Turkey is ready to share all its experience and knowledge in all areas with African countries. It aims to improve solidarity and cooperative relations with the continent for a common future." He added that the summit was an important milestone in relations between Turkey and African countries. "With this summit, Istanbul, bringing us together with our African friends, has symbolically joined the three continents of the world: Europe, Asia and Africa," he said. "Relations between Turkey and the continent have seen a rapid transformation in recent years. While Turkey declared 2005 the Year of Africa, relations took on a new momentum with mutual visits and the African Union's decision this January to declare Turkey a strategic partner." He added, "Turkey's trade volume with African countries has risen considerably over the last decade. Turkish companies' investments in African countries rise every year. The Turkish public's interest in Africa is also gradually growing." Urging the international community to show more interest in Africa's problems, he also said, "No one can be indifferent to the problems of the continent in the medium- or long-term." Gul also hosted a dinner in honor of the summit's participants. Afterwards, Gul told a press conference that they had decided to hold the summit once every five years. Touching on Turkey's rising aid efforts to the continent, he said, "Turkey's development assistances towards the continent has been welcomed by our African friends." He added, "The activities of the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) activities are especially appreciated in Africa." Asked about his meeting with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, Gul said they had discussed the controversy over the Darfur issue. "I told him that human suffering causes concern among everyone, no matter the religion, ethnicity or language of the people who are suffering," he said. "I told the president (al-Bashir) that the Sudanese government should work hard to address this matter." Asked if African countries support Turkey's candidacy for a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council, Gul said Turkey's bid enjoys widespread African support.