More than 20 Turkish and Syrian ministers got together on Tuesday at the second meeting of Turkey-Syria High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council held this time in Ankara and agreed on several joint projects to improve relations, especially commercial ties.
Projects to be initiated in 2011 by the two governments were announced by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a joint pres conference with his Syrian counterpart Naji al-Utri.
Accordingly, Turkey and Syria will build a joint customs gate and a dam on Asi River, establish a joint bank to help increase trade and investments, lay a 123-km high-speed railway between Gaziantep and Aleppo which will reduce travel time to 33 minutes from 4 hours, and connect natural gas pipeline networks of the two countries. Also, Turkish Eximbank will give 180 million euro to Syrian government for financing of specific projects to be carried out by Turkish companies.
Turkish and Syrian governments aim to double the 2.5 billion USD mutual trade, Erdogan said.
Turkey and Syria announced visa-free travel last year, a move that is expected to increase Syrian tourists to Turkey to nearly 1 million and the number of Turkish tourists to 1.5 million by the end of this year.
"Thanks to this visa liberalization our peoples have finally lived cohesion desired for years," Erdogan said.
Turkey established such a mechanism, a High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, with Iraq too.
Erdogan said, "these mechanisms will inspire other regional cooperation initiatives in which Turkey will take part."
A final declaration that was issued at the end of the meeting said that the two countries had sound ties and deep-rooted relations.
Projects that are planned to be fulfilled between Turkey and Syria included in the declaration are as follows:
-A ground-breaking ceremony for construction of Nusaybin-Kamisli Customs Gate will take place on January 26, 2011,
-A ground-breaking ceremony will be held for Friendship Dam on Asi River will be held by the end of 2010,
-Turkey-Syria Bank will be established to facilitate trade and investments between the two countries,
-A project on high speed train services between southeastern Turkish province of Gaziantep and Aleppo will be developed in 2011.
The final declaration said that Turkey and Syria were pleased with formation of a new government in Iraq.
The declaration said that a fair, comprehensive and lasting solution on bi-zonal and bi-communal basis should be reached in Cyprus.
Moreover, Erdogan said Turkey would strengthen the quartet strategic council also including Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and more countries could join that formation.
Erdogan also said Turkey and Syria had taken many steps regarding the Palestinian dispute, and Turkey was ready to undertake any new mission regarding the issue in case of any request.
Erdogan added, Turkey was concerned as the efforts to re-launch direct talks between Israel and Palestine bore no results due to uncompromising attitude of Israel. He urged the international community and the countries in the region to exert more efforts for establishment of peace.