Published On: Mon, Sep 24th, 2018

Suriname and Turkey discuss air-link, embassy opening, and investments

cavusoglu_beighle-pollack-1PARAMARIBO -  Last week, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu became the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Suriname. During a press conference on Friday with the Surinamese foreign minister, Yildiz Beighle-Pollack, they announced several initiatives to expand economic, political and cultural ties, and the opening of a Turkish mission in Paramaribo, signalling a seriousness to expand ties.

Cavusoglu said that Turkey and Suriname have agreed to develop economic cooperation, adding, “Bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Suriname is still low but continues to grow.”

The Turkish diplomat said that Suriname is an attractive country in the region for foreign investors, and noted that “Turkish companies are becoming more interested in investing in Suriname especially in tourism and infrastructure projects.”

This is good news for the president of Suriname, Desi Bouterse, with whom Cavusoglu had a meeting on Friday. The Bouterse government welcomed the Turkish top diplomatic with a red carpet welcome and a military salute. Bouterse has personally supervised the expansion of Suriname/Turkish ties.

The Turkish visit by Cavusoglu and the upcoming visit by Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, to Paramaribo have emboldened the Surinamese president.

During the visit, three agreements, one regarding visa removal for diplomats, cultural cooperation and training of Surinamese at the Turkish Diplomatic Institute were signed.

The two countries also announced that they will soon conclude an air agreement. Suriname has been seeking a cooperation agreement with state-owned Turkish Airlines (THY) since 2016. Also, under an agreement between the Islamic Bank and Turkish Airlines, state-owned Surinam Airways (SLM) can receive training and support from Turkish Airlines.

Turkey announced on Friday plans to open a diplomatic mission in Paramaribo, and wherever there is a Turkish embassy, Turkish Airlines flies there.

Çavuşoğlu said, “We believe that visa-free travel will increase trade, tourism and bring our people closer together.”

Pollack-Beighle raised the issue of air transport between Suriname, the Caribbean and Latin America. She made a point about Suriname’s strategic position so that it can emerge as a hub. The Bouterse government and all previous governments have struggled to develop Suriname’s rich and unique tourism industry.

Suriname and Turkey agreed to advance technical cooperation in education, health, restoration, agriculture, finance, and tourism. Suriname, which is planning to build an industrial park up river, invited Turkey to invest in the project. It was also announced that the Turkish International Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) will commit to fund education and health care projects in Suriname. TIKA will also build a hospital in Suriname.

“We agreed to implement projects in our country in areas such as health and hospital construction,” Pollack-Beighle said.

The two countries vowed to cooperate in fighting terrorism and Pollack-Beighle added that Suriname wants closer cooperation with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

ExxonMobil and Tullow Oil have found substantial oil reserves offshore Guyana, and this is why the Guiana Shield is drawing diplomatic attention from all corners of the world. It’s said to be only a matter of time before Suriname also makes a big oil hit.

Turkey is an economic giant and a major manufacturing centre. The country is poised to have the world’s largest airline, and the largest airport. It’s the world’s 17th largest economy, with a population of about 80 million.

By Ray Chickrie, Suriname

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