COLOMBO : When we trace back to the Ottoman era, the diplomatic/consular relations between the Ottoman Empire and the then Ceylon were established in 1864 with the appointment of Hassan Lebbe Marikar as the Honorary Consul of Ottoman Empire in Colombo, said ambassador of Turkiye, R. Demet Şekercioğlu told Colombo Times on the eve of the 99th national day of her country on Friday, October 28.
“ In 1901, Honorary Consul Abdul Majeed took part in Silver Jubilee Celebrations of the accession of Sultan Abdulhamid II to the throne. Honorary Consul Mr. Abdul Majeed was succeeded by Sir Mohamed Macan Markar Efendi, who served as the last Honorary Consul of the Empire in Ceylon between 1
903 and 1915.
More significantly, Republic of Türkiye was among the first countries to recognize the independence of Sri Lanka in 1948. In the same year, the Embassy of the Republic of Türkiye in New Delhi was also accredited to Sri Lanka.
The visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the then Prime Minister of Türkiye, to Sri Lanka in 2005 after the tsunami catastrophe in the region was a turning point in our relations. It was followed by the visit of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2008, which marked as the first official visit from Sri Lanka to Türkiye at the presidential level. These exchanges laid the path for the opening of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Ankara and the Turkish Embassy in Colombo, respectively in 2012 and 2013. Furthermore, H.E. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was the first Minister of Foreign Affairs to officially visit Sri Lanka in 2016. More recently, H.E. Çavuşoğlu re-visited Sri Lanka on 28 January 2022. In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, mutual visits and contacts are expected to be rejuvenated to further enhance the relations between our countries.”
Speaking on the bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Turkiye, she said : “ Türkiye and Sri Lanka despite being in two very different regions of the world have similar characteristics and experiences. We traditionally enjoy cordial and friendly relations, based on mutual respect. The collaboration of the two countries in the international organizations has been remarkable. Türkiye and Sri Lanka consider each other as reliable partners.
On the other hand, there is still room to further develop our bilateral trade and commercial ties. Global challenges like climate change, food and energy security as well as regional conflicts make the cooperation of our countries in the international fora even more significant. These issues are also being discussed on the occasion of high level contacts.
In line with her Enterprising and Humanitarian Diplomacy, Türkiye has been providing much needed humanitarian assistance to many countries around the world, including Sri Lanka. As it has been in the past, Türkiye, assisted Sri Lanka during the Covid-19 pandemic and is continuing to extend her helping hand during this trying time as well. Last month, Türkiye provided three containers of medical donation including cold chain medicines, medical consumables and ventilator devices.”
Speaking on the trade relations between the two countries, the envoy pointed out that the Türkiye-Sri Lanka Joint Economic Commission (JEC) established back in 1988 is considered as one of the most important tools to develop the economic relations between our countries. The mechanism was revived through the meeting held on 11-12 November 2016 in Ankara. The second meeting was held on 10th of June 2021.
“ During the JEC Meeting held in Ankara a bold target was set to increase the trade volume to 500 million USD. However, the unprecedented challenging times in Sri Lanka such as the Easter Sunday attacks, followed by the Covid-19 pandemic which has affected every aspect of our lives, has not permitted to achieve our goal. Nevertheless, we are determined to take necessary steps to reach this objective.
In 2020, our bilateral trade volume was recorded as 167 million US Dollars, marking the lowest figure when we look at the past five years. Later, bilateral trade volume rose to 175 million USD in 2021. As of August 2022, the trade volume recorded as 120 million USD.
Since 2017, Türkiye has been the biggest tea importer of Sri Lanka excluding the years of 2018 and 2021. Türkiye has also been importing garments and other textile products from Sri Lanka, while exporting electrical machinery appliances, iron and steel to Sri Lanka.
There are immense opportunities of trade and investment between the two countries. Ranging from tourism and agriculture to construction and pharmaceutical sectors, both countries can enhance and diversify their commercial relations in various potential fields.
During the visit of Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Türkiye to Sri Lanka in January 2022 the Agreement on Elimination of Double Taxation was signed. The conclusion of several crucial agreements which are under negotiation will certainly boost the cooperation in various fields of potential collaboration.
People to people relations as well as contacts between business communities will also be given priority. The Türkiye-Sri Lanka Business Council of the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Türkiye organised online webinars to bring together the business communities from two countries during the pandemic. The Chairman of the Council has visited Sri Lanka twice this year. To this end, we are working towards the establishment of the Sri Lankan pillar of the Türkiye-Sri Lanka Business Council.
The presidential decree was also signed allowing the opening of a commercial counsellor office in Colombo recently. We are currently working to designate a commercial counsellor, whom we believe will significantly contribute to boost our economic relations.”
Touching on the tourism traffic between the two countries, she said that according to the official figures, the number of arrivals from Türkiye to Sri Lanka in the past three years were 4972, 2121 and 309 respectively. On the other hand, the number of the Sri Lankans who visited Türkiye during the past three years stood at 7530, 1602 and 2144 respectively. While Sri Lanka began to become popular among the Turkish tourists in quest of new destinations, Covid-19 pandemic has clearly had a negative impact on the exchange.
Tourism has been an important sector in terms of foreign currency earnings for both Türkiye and Sri Lanka. Some Turkish business people who are residing in Sri Lanka have been investing in tourism sector through the hotels they operate in different regions of this beautiful island.
Last but not least, despite all challenges, Turkish Airlines has also been undertaking an undeniable task to deliver Sri Lankan goods to the world market, especially during the pandemic. THY’s passenger flights are currently operating seven times per week, and offering an immense service to the revival of the Sri Lankan tourism sector, as well as to the development of people to people relations between Türkiye and Sri Lanka”.
She also stressed that Turkiye’s foreign policy is guided by its enduring objective to achieve “Peace at Home, Peace in the World” as set out by the founder of our Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. To this end we have implemented an “Enterprising and Humanitarian Foreign Policy” which is the saying of H.E. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “best reflects the enterprising spirit and humanitarian values of our nation.”
“ Today Türkiye stands as a pillar of strength in a turbulent neighborhood, works to expand a sphere of peace and prosperity, generate stability and security, help establish an order that paves the way for prosperity, human development and lasting stability in her region and beyond.
“Asia Anew Initiative” announced in 2019 was one of the various initiatives Türkiye has adopted to strengthen bilateral and regional cooperation between Türkiye and the Asian countries in a more comprehensive and systematic, and to contribute to the regional peace and prosperity in Asia. Of course, Sri Lanka is of strategic importance in her region and Türkiye regards Sri Lanka as an essential partner in South Asia,” she concluded.
- China Hosts Appreciation Reception for Sri Lanka’s Rescue Mission of the Chinese Capsized Fishing Ship
- Steps are being taken to improve Lanka-Pak trade ties
- CBSL revises rules on conversion of export proceeds to SLR – 25% within 30 days of receipt
- 3 Lankans workers rescued from an inferno in the Maldives