CARICOM foreign ministers meeting in Turkey. Photo: Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
ISTANBUL, Turkey -- “Turkey is and will remain as a reliable partner of CARICOM, amplifying your voice in different regions and countries of the globe, including international organizations. We will continue to work closely in the UN and carry on our cooperation and consultation on issues of mutual interest.” This was the commitment made by Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu at the just concluded first Turkey-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) foreign ministers meeting that ended in Istanbul on Friday.
Turkey promised to use its G-20 presidency in 2015 to advocate CARICOM's interest and pledge support and cooperation in areas of climate change, natural disaster, and coordination in international forums.
Turkey will open an embassy in Trinidad and Tobago and has offered financial incentives for CARICOM to open a joint embassy in Ankara. Davutoğlu said that it makes sense for CARICOM to open an embassy in Turkey because of that country's growing global political and economic power. He added that there are 119 embassies in Ankara, and that Turkey is a gateway to surrounding regions like Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Caucasus, Russia, Europe and the Mediterranean.
As well, Ankara will open a Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) to execute numerous bilateral development projects with member countries of CARICOM, according to Davutoğlu in his address to the gathering. In his address, Davutoğlu also said that Turkey is willing to start negotiating a free trade agreement with CARICOM.
The Turkish foreign minister told the gathering of CARICOM diplomats: “Rest assured that we will voice your concerns and defend your interests in every international fora that we participate, including during our G-20 presidency. It is within this understanding that we support Trinidad and Tobago’s candidacy to host the Arms Trade Treaty Secretariat in Port of Spain.”
Chair of the Council of Foreign and Community Relations, and head of delegation to the first foreign ministers meeting of CARICOM and Turkey, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, foreign minister of Guyana, was among other CARICOM foreign ministers in Istanbul, attending this first ever high-level meeting between Turkey and CARICOM.
Rodrigues-Birkett and Davutoğlu held bilateral discussions on Friday, which centered on developing “consultation and cooperation mechanism” to foster stronger CARICOM-Turkish ties. They also addressed Guyana-Turkish relations.
Davutoğlu, on behalf of Turkey, CARICOM's secretary general Irwin La Rocque and Rodrigues-Birkett signed various agreements.
Turkey and CARICOM agreed on developing a cooperation and development action plan to immediately “strengthen institutional infrastructure.”
Davutoğlu said, “In this action plan, in terms of improving both bilateral and regional relations, we have prioritized specific sectors such as tourism, health and agriculture, we have addressed these sectors individually.”
The meeting was attended by Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.