By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
ISTANBUL, Turkey -- In an effort to expand and consolidate ties between CARICOM nations and Turkey, a second high level meeting between the government of Turkey and representatives from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will take place in Istanbul from May 12 to 14.
The last meeting took place also in Istanbul in 2008. The 2008 meeting was attended by representatives from Turkey and Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, according to Suriname’s Ambassador to the UN, Henry MacDonald, who represented Paramaribo at that meeting.
Turkey started negotiations with CARICOM in 2007 to sign a consultation and cooperation agreement. In 2011, this culminated in the signing of a memorandum of understanding on consultation and cooperation between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu and CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque in New York.
The MOU also emphasizes cooperation in the promotion of trade, investment and tourism, along with the areas of natural disasters, commerce and scientific and technical exchange.
Recently, Davutoğlu visited the Caribbean to lobby CARICOM support for Turkey’s candidacy for a UN Security Council rotating seat. Davutoğlu became the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Haiti and the Dominican Republic in April. Turkey and Spain are both competing for that Security Council seat.
Most Spanish speaking Latin American countries according to insiders will support Spain. But Turkey is counting on the support of the English-speaking Caribbean countries and especially Guyana, Haiti and Suriname.
During the last CARICOM-Turkey high-level meeting in Istanbul in August 2008, former Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, identified trade, education, culture, tourism, climate change, food and fuel prices, as potential areas for cooperation. According to the CARICOM Secretariat, “These are indeed among CARICOM’s priority issues, and are expected to feature on our cooperation agenda.” These are some of the issues up for discussion during the upcoming meeting.
CARICOM has already benefited immensely from the support provided by Turkey in 2006, to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) through the Regional Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) Programme and notably in regard to the Haitian earthquake in 2010, according to the CARICOM Secretariat.
Haitian minister of foreign affairs and religious affairs, Duly Brutus, will travel to Istanbul to attend the meeting.
Guyana, Suriname and Turkey also belong to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and this has increased bilateral and multilateral ties, which have translated into increased economic ties and people to people relations. Turkish charitable NGOs are active in Guyana, Haiti and Suriname.
The fact that some top Turkish diplomats such as the former secretary general of the OIC, Dr Ishanoglu, and Davutoğlu, the current foreign minister of Turkey, visited the region last year, may give impetus in expanding CARICOM-Turkey economic relations to new heights.