Turkey aims to boost GCC ties amid free trade talks

Turkish President Erdogan attends a news conference in Sochi.

:: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said he aimed to boost economic and military ties with Arab Gulf states, as talks on a free trade zone deal pushed ahead.

Erdogan, who is expected in Kuwait on Tuesday, said Ankara was involved in “high level strategic dialogue” with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the state-run KUNA news agency reported.

Erdogan also confirmed that talks on a free trade zone between Turkey and the GCC were under way.

During his visit, Erdogan and Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah are expected to lay the foundation stone of a $4.3-billion (3.9-billion-euro) airport expansion project awarded to Turkish firm Limak Holding.

The expansion will triple capacity to 25 million passengers over the next six years, and is the largest contract to date for a Turkish company in Kuwait.

Erdogan said Turkish firms were involved in projects worth a total $6.5 billion (5.9 billion euros) in the Gulf emirate.

Trade volume between the two countries was $1.3 billion (1.1 billion euros) last year, with Turkish exports representing $431 million (393,625 euros), Erdogan said.

Turkey’s trade volume with the GCC states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — is currently around $17 billion (15.5 billion euros), up from $1.7 billion (1.5 billion euros) in 1999.

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