21 August 2011, Sunday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, ANKARA
Turkey, South Africa agree to waive visas, draft free trade agreement
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Sunday that Turkey has reached an agreement with South Africa to mutually waive visa requirements and increase bilateral visits, with an aim toward enriching diplomatic and trade ties, as he announced plans for a visit to South Africa by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the coming months.
“We have placed a great deal of importance on our relations with South Africa in recent years,” the Anatolia news agency quoted Davutoğlu as saying, as he explained that the countries had agreed in principle to facilitate visa liberalization and that the technical work to conclude the visa waiver was in progress.
The foreign minister also shared news of the first steps toward a free trade agreement to be signed between Turkey and South Africa, with transportation issues being a focus of the bilateral talks between the countries. In that context, Davutoğlu also indicated that the weekly number of Turkish Airlines (THY) flights between the countries will be increased from five to seven.
Acknowledging the growing importance Turkey places in South Africa, the minister stated that the country was becoming more powerful both within Africa and in the international arena. “We have once more renewed our agreement in principle, by which our countries act as strategic partners in international projects and mutually cooperate both in Africa and Eurasia,” Davutoğlu said.
On Saturday South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Davutoğlu held a meeting in which the two ministers said they had strengthened the strategic partnership between the two countries, speaking later at a joint press conference. The ministers discussed bilateral relations as well as developments on a regional and global scale, including the current situation in Libya and Syria.
“We exchanged views on Libya and Syria, and South Africa wants to work with Turkey,” Mashabane, quoted by Anatolia, told reporters, as he commented on the significance of Davutoğlu’s visit for improving ties between countries.
“We have decided to make a greater effort to boost relations between our two countries, because this relationship promises to have great potential,” said Davutoğlu. South Africa was his last destination on a larger tour of African countries that began with a visit to drought-stricken Somalia on Friday.
On the sidelines of his South Africa visit, Davutoğlu also met Sunday with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and the former prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, to discuss current regional developments in the Middle East.