Dec 29, 2015, 11:11 AM
The Turkish Embassy in Banjul will celebrate the country’s National Day today Monday 29th October 2012.
This day marks the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. After Turkey’s victory in the War of Independence (1919-1923), the Turkish parliament proclaimed the new Turkish state as a republic.
A new constitution, which the parliament adopted on October 29, 1923, replaced the constitution of the Ottoman Empire.
The leader in the Turkish War of Independence, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, became the country’s first president on the same day.
According to Atatürk, Republic Day is Turkey’s most important holiday.
Speaking in an interview with The Point ahead of the national day celebration, the Turkish ambassador to The Gambia, Ali Riza Ozcoskun, said “the National Day of our country, which is the proclamation of the republic of Turkey, is very important for us. This year marks the 89th year since Turkey became a Republic, enjoying the democratic rights of the people.”
Relationships with Gambia
Ambassador Ozcoskun said Turkey and The Gambia share a long relationship that dates back to the 60s since The Gambia gained independence. He stated that three main focus areas for a stronger relationship between Banjul and Ankara are the military, political and economic cooperation.
“I can say that even though we newly opened our embassy in Banjul and the Gambian embassy in Turkey last year, we have interactions for almost 40-50 years now. Since The Gambia gained independence, Turkey and Gambia have supported each other in international forums in every possibility. If Gambia needed something Turkey helps, if Turkey needed something, Gambia helps,” the Turkish ambassador told The Point.
Apart from that, he added, Turkey and Gambia have since the 1990s had very close military cooperation.
“The Turkish army has trained almost 8000 Gambian soldiers; also there are many Gambian students studying in Turkey,” he stated.
According to Ambassador Ozcoskun, there was economic cooperation between Turkey and Gambia but after the opening of its embassy here in Banjul, the cooperation is been growing much bigger.
“Before it was purely military, but it has now widen. We are now inviting many Turkish businessmen to come to Gambia and see the prospects here; what kind of investment can be done in The Gambia; what kind of cooperation can be done,” he explained.
Noting that that Turkey is widening its cooperation with The Gambia from military to political to economic spheres, Ambassador Ozcoskun said the benefit of opening a Turkish Embassy in Banjul is that they have started to sign many agreements with Gambia.
“We have very good relations, but we have not yet completed the legal foundations between the two countries. Now we have started to build these foundations. Since the opening of our embassy in Banjul, we have signed six agreements or seven with Gambia which are very important, especially the one on Tourism,” he stated.
“This cooperation on Tourism is very important, and now we will establish the contact groups. They will come and go and every kind of cooperation in the field of tourism will start soon.”
Gambian students in Turkey
Commenting on Gambian students studying in Turkey, the Turkish diplomat said plans are at hand to increase the number of Gambian students studying in Turkey.
“We will increase this number as time goes on. Currently, we have over 50 Gambian students studying in Turkey now. Every year, we send at least 10 and, this year, we have so far sent 6 students to medical faculties in Turkey. The scholarships are growing, and now that we have opened our embassy, we will also try to find more scholarships for Gambian students,” he told The Point.
The Turkish ambassador further told The Point that Turkey does not consider Gambia as a small country.
“We consider Gambia as a Muslim, brotherly ally country. Turkey is a big country, but we have bonds with Gambia. Not only the friendship between the two countries, but also the affection for both countries.
“We share many cultural things with Gambia; we share similar traditions. For example, in Turkey family comes first, so in Gambia also family comes first. We have similar things, similar understandings and similar behaviors,” he noted.
He added: “We also share economic cooperation, because Turkish people are coming here, Gambians are also going to Turkey. So if we said that Gambia is a small country, we wouldn’t have opened an embassy here.”