Turkish govt, economy stable despite border troubles: PM Lee

Turkish govt, economy stable despite border troubles: PM Lee
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) shaking hands with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.

ANKARA - Turkey has been at the front line of the fight against terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the strains were visible this week. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the crisis put the country under considerable stress.

His dinner with his counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu started a little late as the Turkish PM was meeting more than 70 mayors and provincial leaders from the south-east, which has the most refugees.

"From the perspective of a solution, well, they know more than anybody else the difficulties in getting a solution," Mr Lee said.

"What they hope for is there can be moderate parties who can pull the different contending factions (in Syria) together and begin to form a new government. But I think that's a long way to go."

But amid troubles at its border, he noted that Turkey has a stable government and economy, and steady growth over the last decade: "Many of the neighbours have very serious problems. Some are almost failed states. And you have the problem of ISIS right on its borders.

"These are things our business people will naturally take note of. But if you are looking from a strategic point of view, for the long term, you've got to decide, do you have confidence, do you believe the country is on the move, the government is getting its act together, and if so, do you take a view and do you take a position?"

As for ISIS' impact, he said: "Even before ISIS, Syria was already in serious trouble and Iraq had difficulties. The Syrian civil war has gone on for three, four years now. Their immediate preoccupation is to deal with the outflow because when you have refugees from Syria, Turkey is the first port of call."

Turkish leaders told him there were 1.5 to 2 million refugees in Turkey.

This article was first published on Oct 16, 2014.
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