ISTANBUL, 11 August 2006 — Saudi Arabia and Turkey set out a new vision of economic relations yesterday during a business meeting here jointly chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Gul attended the meeting.

King Abdullah and Erdogan pledged to remove all barriers and extend all support to businessmen of the two countries to boost trade and increase investment links.

“There was a need of cooperation between the Kingdom and Turkey in every sector,” said the king while addressing about 500 leading Saudi and Turkish businessmen at the historical Ciragan Palace Hotel in Istanbul. “More than 50,000 Saudis visited Turkey last year, which indicates the interest evinced by Saudi businessmen and tourists in this country.”

King Abdullah said Saudi-Turkish relations have been deep-rooted and steady over the years and that these relations are to be bolstered in the interest of the entire region in general and of the two countries in particular.

King Abdullah said Turkey is strategically located between the West and the East and that he appreciated the important role it plays in promoting dialogue between civilizations. For his part, Erdogan said Turkey’s developing economy with full membership with the European Union would provide for a robust partnership with Saudi Arabia.

Erdogan also called on Saudi investors to benefit more from Turkey’s investment opportunities.

“Turkey is ready to share its modern technology and experience with the Saudi brothers and King Abdullah’s visit has added a new phase for the friendly and good relations between the two countries,” he said. “We greatly wish to push forward bilateral cooperation.”

The king said he hoped that the two countries could use their strategic relationship to bolster regional security.

“We are also reminded on this occasion of Turkey’s efforts in the past as well as in the present to support the Palestinian people and to reach a just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and its active role in the Organization of the Islamic Conference to serve Islam and Muslims,” said the king.

Erdogan said Turkey would always support efforts for peace and stability in the region. With regard to Israel’s atrocities in Lebanon the prime minister said: “The international community should act directly and should not allow more tragedies to occur.”

He lauded the recent call by the OIC to stop the bloodshed in Lebanon immediately.

The king also highlighted the six agreements the two countries signed during the trip that seek to strengthen bilateral ties, such as an agreement to eliminate double taxation for goods, saying they provided the legal framework for commercial activities between the two countries.

The king also said that the agreements would help Turkish and Saudi companies in the construction sector.

The Turkish business community has raised the issue of lack of qualified human resources in the Kingdom for their projects, and others have called for easier access for Turkey’s financial institutions to the Saudi market. Nevertheless the two sides have emerged from talks with optimism that trade relations would continue to grow.

“Ankara has sought to boost trade relations further, which had been progressively growing,” said Erdogan. “In 2005, two-way trade exceeded three billion dollars.”

The premier noted that the present balance of trade was inadequate because it did not fully reflect the resources and potentials of both the countries.

“We hope that the visit of King Abdullah will change the economic scenario,” he said. “Our joint aim must be to raise (the bilateral trade) to $7 billion within two or three years.” If Erdogan’s goal were attained, Saudi-Turkish trade ties — dominated mostly by oil to Turkey and construction projects in the Kingdom — would double.

The Turkish premier said economic and political stability in his country has led to robust growth, and his government is seeking to remove barriers inhibiting foreign investment. Likewise, Turkey is keen to invest in the numerous Gulf mega-projects and the construction boom in the Gulf Cooperation Council member states, of which Saudi Arabia is by far the most important member.

“We are closely observing the mega projects in the Gulf region and the opportunities, which abound with the prosperity of that region,” he said.

He pointed out that Turkish companies currently handle about $30 billion in projects in Saudi Arabia.

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