Daily Star | Wednesday, January 13 2010
Hariri: Lebanon will soon sign free-trade deal with Turkey
Premier invites Turkish private sector to step up investment
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri said during a meeting with Turkish and Lebanese businessmen in Istanbul on Tuesday a free trade agreement between Lebanon and Turkey will soon be signed. According to Hariri, the two countries have growing markets with high potential in the private sectors, which, he said is the driving force behind the economic vision of both countries. “Turkey and Lebanon have a joint goal to achieve economic prosperity in the region,” said the premier.
Hariri was speaking during a luncheon hosted by the Turkish-Lebanese Business Council of the Foreign Economic Relations Board in Istanbul.
Hariri called on the Turkish private sector to invest in Lebanon, and invited Lebanese and Turkish businessmen and women to exchange visits.
“A lot of work remains to be done despite Lebanon’s economic progress,” Hariri said. However, he added that as stated in the Ministerial Statement, the Cabinet faces challenges related to communications, infrastructure, energy and environmental issues.
Turkish Environment and Forests Minister Veysel Eroglu, in turn, called for strengthening bilateral relations, particularly at the economic level.
He also voiced hope for stronger cooperation between Lebanon and Turkey.
Lebanon and Turkey have signed major agreements on military, agriculture and transport cooperation, including a deal to lift entry visas and a Turkish pledge to supply Lebanon with natural gas and electricity.
On Monday Hariri and his Turkish counterpart Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan witnessed the signing of six deals that also covered the areas of health and education.
Hariri arrived in Turkey on Sunday and will wrapped up his visit on Tuesday.
The agreement on visa-free travel between Turkey and Lebanon comes after similar deals between Turkey and Syria, and Turkey and Jordan. Visa requirements have already been cancelled between Syria and Lebanon and between Syria and Jordan.
Beirut newspapers on Tuesday said that the measure is similar to the Schengen visa application which has made traveling between 5 European member countries much easier and less bureaucratic.
Erdogan said Turkey will supply natural gas and electricity to help meet Lebanon’s energy needs and that the two countries planned a ferry service between their Mediterranean coasts.
Media reports Tuesday said Turkey also proposed the idea of “strategic cooperation” between the two countries similar to that of the Turkey-Syria High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council. The reports said Hariri promised to consider the offer.
On Monday, Hariri and Erdogan lashed out at Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace and air strikes in Gaza, warning they were undermining prospects for peace in the region. “Attacks on Lebanon is terrorism itself … We have to stand shoulder by shoulder against the enemy’s plans … We have to stop Israel,” Hariri told a press conference.
Erdogan, whose country’s once-flourishing ties with Israel took a sharp downturn last year, said that Turkey “will never stay silent” on Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace.
He slammed the Israeli over flights as “unacceptable action that threatens global peace.”
“They [the Israelis] have disproportional capabilities and power and they use them … They do not abide by UN resolutions,” he added.