By Daniel Salgar
Deputy Speaker of the Turkish Parliament Sureyya Sadi Bilgic recently visited Colombia to formalize the admission of Turkey as permanent observer to the Andean Parliament.
Headquartered in in Bogota (Colombia), Andean Parliament represents the 120 million inhabitants of the Andean region that includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Bilgic spoke about his visit and significance of Turkey being granted as observer status to the Andean Parliament and other bilateral issues.
Anadolu Agency (AA): What was the purpose of your visit to Colombia?
Sureyya Sadi Bilgic: In 2018 we started negotiations so that Turkey could be a permanent observer to the Andean Parliament. In February 2019, the Andean Parliament approved the request. The purpose of my visit to Bogota was to sign a memorandum of understanding for the political dialogue and the cooperation with the Andean Parliament. After signing this agreement, I had the chance to participate in the Andean Parliament and observed work of the committees and commissions. I also observed discussions related to the fires in the Amazon forest, something that is very important for countries of the region such as Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia. There is also the audit of public spending, accounting and transparency, subjects in which the Turkish Parliament can collaborate with the Andean Parliament.
AA: What are the most important aspects of the memorandum of understanding that has been just signed with the Andean Parliament?
Bilgic: According to the agreement, three to five Turkish parliamentarians will be working with the Andean Parliament. We also have the option of having rotating parliamentarians, who can sit in the Andean Parliament. And have the right to participate in all the general, ordinary and extraordinary sessions, as well as special committees and commissions. We are also looking forward to exchanging information, documents and channels of interaction and communication between members of the parliaments. We are looking forward to cooperate to develop policies with the Andean Parliament and create regional and international mechanisms.
After observing how the Andean Parliament works, I believe in a short-term, we can define some subjects to work together and set up working groups.
AA: During your visit you also had meetings with the presidents of both the Senate and the House of Representatives of Colombia. What was the outcome of discussions?
Bilgic: The President of the Senate, Lidio Garcia Turbay had visited Turkey last year. We had formed an inter-parliamentary friendship group between Turkey and Colombia in the Senate. Our group is presided by the congresswoman of Istanbul Canan Kalsin.
This year we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Turkey and Colombia. We will bring to Bogota a group of artists of ballet and opera to have mark celebration in November. The presidents of both the Senate and the House of Representatives will support this event. Another subject we covered was the increase of inter-parliamentary contacts and official visits.
The President of the House of Representatives, Carlos Alberto Cuenca, gave us a very good news; that in a very short time a parliamentary group of friendship between Turkey and Colombia will be formed. They will share names of their members with us. Another subject we talked about is the cooperation in the area of tourism. From next year we will receive a group of representatives in Istanbul and other important tourist sites of Turkey.
AA: Turkish presence in Colombia has become stronger over the years, with Turkish Agency for Cooperation and Coordination (TIKA), Turkish Airlines and Anadolu Agency opening their offices in the country. What more can be done to strengthen bilateral relations?
Bilgic: Turkey gives Colombia great importance. In Latin American and the Caribbean region, we have a policy of commencement. Because of its strategic geographical location, we see Colombia as a very important center for the development of different activities.
Turkish Airlines already has three direct flights Istanbul-Bogota, and from September we will have more frequency with larger planes such as the 787 dream liners. It is very important that TIKA, an agency that operates from Colombia to all over South America, is executing more than 170 projects for the whole region, more than 80 of them in Colombia. This agency also sees Colombia as a very important center. And, as you know, Anadolu Agency opened its central office in Spanish with headquarters in Bogota. Regarding commercial relations, Turkey and Colombia already have a balance of bilateral commerce worth more than $2 billion. Now Turkey is the fourth destination of Colombian exports in the world, something that is very important for Colombia. There is a deficit in the bilateral commerce that in fact favors Colombia. In the defense sector, Turkey has two important companies that are bidding for the contracts to build eight corvettes for the Colombian Navy. Currently Colombia is the second trade partner of Turkey in South America, after Brazil. In other words, it is an important partner. President Cuenca is sending a delegation to travel to Turkey, to share experiences, share our potential and strengthen bilateral relations.
*Susana Noguera translated this report.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.