(Civil.Ge) — A stable and strong Turkey is “vitally important” for the region and Georgia, PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili said after meeting his Turkish counterpart, Binali Yildirim, in Ankara on July 19.
Late on Tuesday night the Georgian PM also met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a presidential complex in Ankara; the Turkish PM was also present at the meeting.
Accompanied by eight ministers, the Georgian PM paid one-day visit to Turkey, where an inaugural meeting of the High Level Georgia-Turkey Strategic Cooperation Council was held – the visit and the launch of the council was planned long before the failed coup in Turkey last week.
The Georgian PM expressed hope that the launch of the bilateral Strategic Cooperation Council will “contribute to institutionalization” of already close ties between Georgia and Turkey.
Turkish PM Yildirim thanked Georgia for its “strong support” expressed in the early hours of attempted coup in Turkey last week.
“My distinguished friend met the Turkish ambassador in Tbilisi in the first hours of the coup attempt and conveyed his strong support,” PM Yildirim said added that during a phone conversation with him on Sunday, his Georgian counterpart told him that he was ready to pay visit to Ankara, as scheduled, because it would be an “important message” especially against the background of recent developments in Turkey.
“On behalf of my nation and my government and people of Turkey I express my gratitude to Mr Kvirikashvili and the people of Georgia for their support,” the Turkish PM said, adding that after the failed coup “life has now returned back to normal” in Turkey.
Around 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have reportedly been suspended or detained since the coup attempt, which Ankara claims was orchestrated by the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen and his followers.
PM Kirikashvili said after the meeting with his Turkish counterpart that the support voiced by his government to the democratically elected authorities in Turkey “was not a result of only personal friendship.”
“It demonstrated how important unhindered development of stable and democratic Turkey is for the region, including for Georgia. Stable and strong Turkey is vitally important,” the Georgian PM said.
He said that trade and economic relations were one of the main issues discussed during the Strategic Cooperation Council meeting.
“We have noted the need to intensify bilateral trade as there still remains untapped potential,” the Georgian PM said. “We are interested to broaden our bilateral free trade agreement and to maximally increase Georgian exports to the Turkish market.”
According to the Georgian PM’s office, during the Strategic Cooperation Council meeting, the Georgian side stressed the importance of “securing more accessibility to the market” and making the existing bilateral free trade agreement “more balanced in order to further increase Georgian exports to Turkey.”
After the meeting PM Yildirim expressed the Turkish side’s readiness to work on amending the existing free trade agreement.
In a joint statement on the launch of the High Level Strategic Partnership Council, Turkey and Georgia “affirmed their commitment to extend the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by further liberalizing trade in agricultural goods” and to also include services and public procurements in the treaty, as well as to activate diagonal cumulation among Georgia, Turkey and the EU to harmonize rules of origin and maximize potential advantages of free trade agreements Georgia has with Turkey and the EU.
Turkey is Georgia’s long-time largest trading partner. Bilateral trade turnover stood at USD 777.9 million in the first half of 2016, a 3% increase over the same period of last year, according to the Georgian state statistics office.
Georgia’s exports to Turkey declined by 3.7% y/y to USD 105.5 million and imports from Turkey increased 5% y/y to USD 672.4 million in January-June, 2016.
PM Yildirim reiterated Turkey’s support to Georgia’s territorial integrity and Georgia’s NATO membership aspirations.
He also said that trilateral cooperation between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey is contributing to the regional stability.
The Turkish PM said that one of the issues discussed was the repatriation of Meskhetians back to Georgia – survivors or descendants of a Muslim population who were deported by Joseph Stalin from southern Georgia in 1944. The issue is regularly raised by the Turkish side in its bilateral talks with Georgia, which undertook a commitment to repatriate the Meskhetians in 1999 when it joined the Council of Europe. Georgia adopted law on Meskhetians’ repatriation in 2007.
In Ankara, the Georgian PM met earlier on July 19 Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman.
Economy Minister Dimitri Kumsishvili; Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze; Minister of Healthcare and Social Affairs Davit Sergeenko; Agriculture Minister Otar Danelia; minister in charge of the penitentiary system Kakha Kakhishvili; Culture Minister Mikheil Giorgadze; Minister of Environment Gigla Agulashvili, as well as chairman of the parliamentary committee for foreign affairs MP Tedo Japaridze accompanied the PM during the visit to Turkey.
The next meeting of the High Level Strategic Cooperation Council will be held in Georgia in 2017.