SINGAPORE and Turkey have agreed to step up contacts in a range of areas such as defence and counter-terrorism cooperation, as well as economic and peopleto- people links.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu yesterday signed a declaration on a strategic partnership to boost these ties. Under it, leaders and officials will meet more regularly and promote their countries as gateways to their respective regions: Turkey as the door to Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, and Singapore to the Asia-Pacific region.
"We share certain similarities in our strategic situation, while being complementary," Mr Lee said at a press conference with Mr Davutoglu after the signing. "We are in different parts of the world, but see opportunities to work together and do more together."
Mr Davutoglu said relations dated back to 1864 when the Ottoman Empire established its mission in the region, and both countries had seen ties grow significantly in recent years.
Pointing to similarities between their flags, which have a crescent moon and stars, he added: "We are very close, as if we were literal neighbours."
Both leaders hope the partnership will give impetus to broaden and deepen ties, and to negotiations under way for a free trade agreement - on which good progress has been made.
Mr Lee said both sides have an interest in becoming aviation hubs and he looked forward to progress on an enhanced bilateral air services agreement.
Before the signing, both leaders met for about an hour, during which Mr Lee told Mr Davutoglu Singapore will appoint a resident ambassador to Ankara next year.
Mr Davutoglu thanked Mr Lee for backing Turkey's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council - which will be determined this week - and Mr Lee, in turn, thanked him for inviting Singapore to the G-20 summit in Turkey next year.
With the signing of the declaration, Turkey joins a select group of countries with which Singapore has strategic partnerships. The United States, France and Vietnam are the others, and talks with Australia and India are under way.
Under the partnership, Singapore and Turkey will sustain the momentum of high-level political visits, and exchange views as well as build capacity on counter-terrorism matters. Also on the cards are more student exchanges and cooperation to provide technical assistance to other countries.
Officials will also discuss ways to promote Turkey and Singapore as complementary gateways with the aim of increasing trade and investment flows between the two regions, and to strengthen aviation and maritime cooperation.
Both leaders yesterday also witnessed Singapore research agency A*Star sign an agreement with the Turkish Education Foundation to extend a programme for up to 15 top Turkish students to pursue PhDs in Singapore.
Also signed was a letter of intent for the agricultural agencies of Singapore and Turkey to further develop ties.
Yesterday, Mr Lee visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, and laid a wreath there.
He was hosted to lunch by Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan where they exchanged views on recent economic and financial developments and Turkey's preparations for its G-20 chairmanship. Mr Lee also called on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and was hosted to dinner by Mr Davutoglu.
He leaves for Milan later today for the Asia-Europe Meeting of leaders from the two continents.
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