Turkey attaches great importance to its relationship with GCC member states and wishes to develop its relations with these countries both on a bilateral level and within the framework of the GCC. We highly value our dialogue with the GCC and wish to upgrade it to a strategic partnership. Turkey acts in close cooperation and solidarity with GCC member states on regional and international issues with a view to contributing to regional peace, stability and prosperity.
Our close cooperation at the UN and other international organisations is of crucial importance. Ever expanding and deepening relations with the GCC will enable us to further influence and shape policies in world affairs and bolster our ability to solve issues of common concern in line with our demands and expectations. Therefore, intensification of our efforts to form common positions to the extent possible will serve our common interests. Turkey has forged cooperative economic partnerships with the GCC. Frequent mutual high-level visits have enabled us to deepen our relations across all fields. We should strive for an even higher level in bilateral relations. Our government has the political will to bring about a new age of partnership between the Arab world and Turkey, and it is a great pleasure for us to see that a similar political will exists among most Arab governments as well.
We should mobilise the vast potential between Turkey and GCC countries in sectors such as agriculture, tourism, construction, small and medium-sized enterprises, energy, banking and finance. The Turkey-GCC High Level Strategic Dialogue Mechanism, which was established in 2008, could be instrumental in this regard. It is the first mechanism the GCC has established with a third country for regular consultations. Strategic dialogue with GCC aims to develop existing positive relations between Turkey and GCC countries in a more structured way. For this purpose, a regular cooperation and consultation mechanism has been established to cover mainly the fields of politics, economics, defence, security and culture. According to the Joint Action Plan, which was approved in 2010, 11 joint working groups were established. Energy also is another area that Turkey and GCC countries will be collaborating on closely in the coming years. In order to meet its energy demand Turkey is going to invest approximately $130bn in the energy sector by 2023.
Our visa liberalisation policy for the region has brought our people closer and removed barriers restricting business. The latest figures show that our bilateral trade volume with GCC countries increased from $2.1bn in 2002 to $22.3bn in 2012. Also in 2012, GCC countries received 8.3 % of our total exports. As shown by the figures, the GCC is a major trading partner for Turkey. The number of tourists from GCC member states was around 44,000 in 2002; however, this figure has increased seven-fold within a decade and reached 324,000 in 2012.
A new law came into effect in Turkey on May 18, 2012 regarding the ownership of real estate by foreign nationals in Turkey. With this new law, investors and individuals from GCC countries can buy a wide range of properties in Turkey and register those properties under their own names in a comparatively short period of time. This latest development in property ownership will establish a new link between the people of Turkey and the GCC states.
Having cherished the relations between our countries, I would like to reiterate my government’s firm commitment to further strengthening our cooperation with the Gulf countries in every sphere and our readiness to exert all efforts to fulfil the potential of our countries for the betterment of our brotherly peoples. The progress that we have made, the political will that both sides have, the fraternal ties that are embedded in our peoples’ cultures and the legal basis that has been established so far give us ample reason to be optimistic about the prospects of the future of Turkish-GCC relations. Let us continue to work together on attaining the lofty goal of a more prosperous, peaceful and stable region and world in the 21st century.
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