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South Africa and Turkey Map their Future
Source: BuaNews
Source Date: Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Country: South Africa
Created: Oct 05, 2011

The two countries have been meeting regularly following Motlanthe's official visit to Turkey in May 2010.

"These regular high-level exchanges do not only contribute to the strengthening of political and economic relations, but also facilitate constructive engagements in a number of fields like education and skills development.

"We share complementary economic, commercial and technical capabilities that can contribute to the advancement of the respective national development priorities," Motlanthe told a news briefing after the talks.

But trade and economic issues seem to be on top of the agenda for both countries.

With most Eurozone countries drowning in debt and the Middle East a political hotbed, the Turks are shifting their export dependency from their traditional trading partners.

In their quest to boost exports to $500 billion over the next few years, from $99 billion so far this year, they have set their sights on SA as a gateway to sub-Saharan Africa's huge consumer markets.

With a stable government, booming economy, vast consumer market, friendly investment environment and solid financial system, South Africa might just be the answer for the Turkish.

Already, trade between the two has increased, with over to over 75% of South Africa's exports to Turkey in nominal terms. The trade balance is also healthy, and currently in favour of South Africa.

Comparing the industries of Turkey and South Africa, Erdogan noted that the industries of the two countries complemented each other.

"Our visit is crucial to develop commercial relations. Half of all Turkish exports go to European Union countries. There is a serious recession in Europe. This visit will help us open up to new markets," he said speaking through an interpreter.

However, Motlanthe highlighted that the tariffs for South Africa were higher compared to other EU partners. To address this, the two agreed that they needed to look at both sides, which they labeled as "sensitive."

Acknowledging the growing importance Turkey places on South Africa, the prime minister stated that the country was becoming more powerful both within Africa and the international arena.

Erdogan, who described SA as a "pillar of strength", said Turkey understood that South Africa was key in sub-Saharan Africa and would be a great strategic partner - not only from a region-wide perspective but also for global issues.

In this light, the two leaders agreed to work hand-in-hand to address the situation in other parts of the world like Somalia. Turkey has committed to opening a health facility as well as an embassy in Somalia.

Welcoming this, Motlanthe said the next step was to bring about political stability, which he said was a "pre-condition" for any progress in that country.

On other international issues, the two counterparts discussed the situation in Syria, which Erdogan said his government would soon announce sanctions against.

"We can no longer remain spectator to the developments in Syria. There are serious deaths of innocent, defenseless people. We cannot say 'this should continue'," Erdogan told the press conference.

"We have already partially announced certain steps that cannot wait any longer," he added.

Erdogan said he would this weekend or next week visit the camps of Hatay, near the Syrian border, where thousands of Syrians have taken refuge. A roadmap regarding sanctions would then be announced after that visit.

Turkey has expressed frustration with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for failing to listen to the people, whose almost daily pro-democracy rallies have been met with violent retaliation.

The two countries also agreed to put "urgent attention" to waive visa requirements and increase bilateral visits with an aim towards enriching diplomatic and trade ties.

They also signed a Joint Declaration to identify areas of further cooperation and examine the ones they already have to see if they serve the intended purpose or need to be revamped. This framework is very important to follow up on both ends in order to insure that Turkey and South Africa take the right steps in the future.

The two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Diplomatic Academies of the two ministries of foreign affairs from both countries.

Motlanthe described the meeting as "productive and fruitful." Although there was a lot on their plate, they promised not to let anything fall through the cracks.

Motlanthe hoped by the end of the visit, they would have a much clearer roadmap on the direction of the bilateral relations between the two countries.
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