Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) greets vice president of Suriname, Robert Ameerali in Ankara
by Ray Chickie
Caribbean News Now contributor
ANKARA, Turkey -- On Thursday in Ankara, vice president of Suriname, Robert Ameerali, received an official welcoming ceremony equal to that of a head of state by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The two leaders then went into bilateral discussion and later held a joint news conference where they announced the signing of two bilateral agreements in the areas of “friendship and cooperation” and “trade and economic cooperation”.
Erdogan wants to see the relationship move to the next level and said that the two countries will soon sign three other agreements: a visa waiver agreement, an agreement on reciprocal promotion and protection of investments, and an air transport agreement. The Turkish prime minister wants the two countries to ink these agreements soon as possible.
“Suriname is among the countries which Turkey wants to develop its relations with as part of our country's Latin American initiative. Our relations with Brazil, ties that would develop with Suriname and Chile alike will boost our influence in the region," Erdogan told a joint press conference with Ameerali.
Erdogan said Suriname's rising profile and developing economy made it an important country in the region, adding that Suriname’s support is crucial to boost Turkey‘s relations with the Caribbean Community States (CARICOM).
"You cannot ignore anywhere. If you have a claim to become a big state, you need to reach every corner of the world," Erdogan said.
Ameerali said that the visit to Turkey is of great importance in developing relations with Ankara.
"When we received an invitation to visit Turkey a year ago, I did not know the potential of the visit,” he said.
He added that the trade mission to Turkey was “a historic step” in forging closer ties with Turkey. He said that Suriname would take advantage of all areas of this successful visit and build upon it.
"We welcome Turkish investors who want to do business in Suriname, and I can assure you that our business delegation is seriously looking into business opportunities here,” Ameerali said.
He added, “The price and quality of Turkish products are excellent and that’s why we are here.”
He praised Turkey for its rapid economic growth and growing global influence.
Later in evening, Erdogan hosted a formal dinner in honor of the Surinamese vice president.
The previous day, Ameerali met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul at Cankaya Palace, the official residence of the Turkish president, where they discussed economic cooperation between the two countries.
During their meeting, Gul called for the promotion of bilateral relations with Suriname in the economic sphere, especially in the areas of tourism, construction, housing projects, and mining. He said that Turkish companies have experience in all of these areas as well as mining and have shown interest in investing in Suriname.
This was the first highest level visit between the two countries since diplomatic ties were established in 1976 and the Turkish president urged that this momentum should not be lost. He said that through the "Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative Strategy" launched by Turkey in 1996, relationships with Latin America and the Caribbean have gained new momentum and, within this framework and through their common membership in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), they will advance economic cooperation.
Gul said that he is happy that 25 Surinamese companies under the umbrella of the Suriname Chambers of Commerce and the Turkish private sector will discuss investment and trade in Istanbul where most of the Suriname trade delegation remained. Gul said that he is closely watching the progress of the trade delegation.
Ameerali thanked Gul for the warm hospitality afforded to him and his delegation.
On behalf of President Desi Bouterse, Ameerali also invited Gul to visit Suriname.
Ameerali also had dinner with Turkish Economic Minister Mehmet Zafer Caglayan to discuss economic cooperation between the two countries. Caglayan praised Suriname’s successful economic management and the country’s economic growth. He pointed out that Suriname’s economy and population continues to grow and that the country is rich in gold, oil, natural resources such as bauxite.
Caglayan also drew attention to the importance of agriculture and fishery sectors of the Suriname economy.
The meeting was also attended by the Ankara Chambers of Commence whose president also held talks with Ameerali.