Feb 7, 2020, 3:30 PM
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.
Ahead of the national day celebration, The Point had an interview with the new Turkish ambassador to the Gambia, H.E. Ergin Soner, who assumed his duties as Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in Banjul as of 15th October 2013.
A career diplomat who served the Turkish ministry of foreign affairs for 25 years, Ergin served in various capitals, including Beirut, Moscow and Athens. Lately, he was the Deputy General Director for the Cultural Diplomacy in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to him, Turkey has traditionally maintained good relations with the African continent and is determined to improve and develop its political, economic, commercial, and cultural interaction with African countries.
‘‘The Turkish foreign policy towards Africa is not only based on economic and trade objectives, but also incorporates a comprehensive approach which includes sustainable development of Africa through technical and project assistance in the fields such as fight against diseases, agricultural development, irrigation, energy and education and regular flow of humanitarian aid,’’ he stated.
Noting that the Turkish foreign policy of opening up to Africa was initiated in 1998, the Tirkish ambassador recalled that Turkey has been declared as a strategic partner in the 10th African Union summit in January 2008.
He cited the ‘‘Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit’’ held with the participation of 49 African countries on 18-21 August 2008 in Istanbul as the beginning of a steady and sustainable cooperation process. The second Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit will be held in November 2013.
Commenting on the relationship between Turkey and the Gambia, Ambassador Ergin said Turkey and the Gambia has friendly and brotherly relations and this has been facilitated and intensified by the mutual opening of the Embassies in Banjul and Ankara.
He revealed that Turkey and The Gambia has signed eight agreements since the inauguration of the Turkish Embassy in Banjul in 2011, noting that Turkish-Gambian Inter Parliamentary Groups have been established in the national assemblies of both countries.
‘‘A regular consultation mechanism between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the two countries will be in effect in the near future for the facilitation of the political dialogue. The two countries have an ongoing dialogue and fruitful cooperation in the fields of trade, tourism, development, education, health, tourism, military and security,’’ he stated.
The Turkish diplomat also noted that the bilateral trade and economic relations have been strengthened with the signing of the agreement concerning Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments between the two countries this year.
The volume of trade between the two countries, he revealed, has increased from US$30 million in 2011 to US$36 million in 2012.
Ambassador Ergin further stated that the signing of the agreement concerning Cooperation in the field of Tourism between the two countries in 2012 has initiated a more extensive collaboration in this regard.
In terms of development cooperation, aid and assistance, the Turkish diplomat stated that projects have been conducted by the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency and Red Crescent, as well as by several Turkish Non-Governmental Organisations in The Gambia.
‘‘In the health sector, as part of its dedication and commitment to achieve the goals concerning EXPO 2020 Izmir candidacy, Turkey has initiated a ‘‘Health for all Fund’’ to develop health projects in 40 African countries, including the Republic of The Gambia. This fund allocates a budget of US$50, 000 to launch a health project in The Gambia,’’ he revealed.
Regarding education, Turkish ambassador Ergin noted that each year, the Turkish Government allocates higher education scholarships to Gambian students. He stated that in the year ahead, the number of scholarships to be granted to Gambian students will be doubled.
In the security and military sectors, the Turkish diplomat stated that aside from the fact that Turkey and The Gambia has signed several military assistance agreements and protocols, Turkish Gendarmerie Forces every year finances the special training courses for the Gambian military personnel.
‘‘Moreover, Turkey and The Gambia have remarkable cooperation in international organisations, mainly at the UN Organisations and Islamic Cooperation Organisation. In this regard, The Gambia has always supported Turkey at the international for a,’’ he stated.
While expressing the Turkish Embassies resolve to further its efforts to consolidate and build on Turkish-Gambia friendship and partnership, Ambassador Ergin said Turkey and The Gambia shares many similarities in terms of culture and social life.
‘‘Both Turkish and Gambian people are friendly. In both countries, despite the fact that Muslims constitute the majority of the society, there is a secular social structure and culture. Indeed, in a century where xenophobia, anti-Islamism and racism are at peak, Turkish and Gambian societies are the rare gems in terms of cultural and religious tolerance,’’ he stated.