World, Europe

Italian ambassador underlines Turkey’s place in Europe

Luigi Mattiolo describes Turkey as ‘strategic partner’ for Italy, highlights role in migration crisis

22.11.2017
Italian ambassador underlines Turkey’s place in Europe Luigi Mattioli, Italian ambassador to Turkey

By Ecenur Colak and Meltem Bulur

ANKARA

Turkey has a place in Europe because of its lengthy ties and the role it has played in protecting the continent in recent years, the Italian ambassador to Ankara said Wednesday.

Luigi Mattiolo told Anadolu Agency that Turkey -- a NATO ally and a candidate for EU membership -- remained a “strategic partner”.

“We always felt and we are still convinced that Turkey’s place is in Europe because our history, culture, and values make us members of the same family,” he said.

He pledged an event in Istanbul next year to improve tourism ties between the two countries.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is due to address a Turkish-Italian business forum and meet his opposite number Angelino Alfano in Rome on Thursday.

Mattiolo said Turkey and Italy shared “direct challenges to the regional stability that are still emerging from the broad crisis area just beyond Turkey’s southern border”.

“These certainly include the management of the largest migration flows that we have seen in recent history, an area where our strategic cooperation and shared experience can greatly contribute in fighting human trafficking networks and in addressing the root causes of migration.”

In recent years, both countries have been at the fore in stemming a humanitarian crisis that saw tens of thousands of migrants coming from Africa and the Middle East drown in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.

A deal between Turkey and the EU that came into force in March 2016 has largely stopped the flow of migrants risk their lives in the crossing to Greece.

Trade

Mattiolo added: “We Italians understand very well Turkey’s position because, just like Turkey, we are an arrival point of refugees.”

The ambassador, who was posted to Ankara in 2015, spoke of his “deepest appreciation for the generous effort that Turkey is making to benefit of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from the armed conflict” in Syria.

However, he warned that it was not a “battle we can win alone” and called for collective agreement to deal with migration.

“It is a problem demanding global solutions, not only at national level but rather at the European and international level,” he said.

“We need a comprehensive approach in order to address the root causes of displacement and migration.”

Mattiolo also emphasized bilateral trade and investment with Turkey and pointed to Italian support for Turkey’s EU bid.

“Italy has always considered Turkey as a strategic partner with whom cooperation is not only necessary but also mutually beneficial,” he said.

Turkey applied for membership in the European Economic Community in 1987 and became eligible for EU membership in 1997. Accession talks began in 2005.

“Trade volume in 2016 reached almost $18 billion and the Italian presence in Turkey consists of 1,400 companies,” Mattiolo said.

Turkish-Italian Forum

“So far this year, we have observed an improvement of 9.5 percent in trade volumes with Turkish exports growing faster than imports from Italy.

“Also, Turkey is a popular destination in Italy for health tourism while Turkish entrepreneurs have invested a lot in accommodation facilities in Italy.”

Meanwhile, Murat Salim Esenli, Turkey’s ambassador to Rome, said Cavusoglu would meet Alfano to “take a close look at the international agenda”.

Italy is a “very important strategic partner in many fields for us,” he added.

Meanwhile, in a written statement, Turkish Foreign Ministry said that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will visit Rome to participate in the 10th Turkish-Italian Forum on Nov. 23.

The main focus of the forum would be economic and trade relations, and joint investments in third markets, said the statement.

The forum will bring together politicians, businessmen, academicians, journalists, non-governmental organizations’ representatives and opinion leaders from both countries.

A diplomatic source said that the Turkish foreign minister will also hold bilateral meeting with Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano.

The two officials are expected to exchange views on Turkey-EU relations, current regional and international issues as well as political, economic and commercial relations between Turkey and Italy, the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on talking to the media, said.

Cavusoglu will also address the audience at the NATO Defense College and the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) during his visit.

* Baris Seckin in Rome contributed to this report.

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