UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM ERDOGAN, ADDS DETAILS
By Handan Kazanci
ISTANBUL (AA) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday departed for Algeria, the first stop of his three-nation African tour.
“We are determined to enhance ties with African countries,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul before his departure.
The Turkish president is expected to hold a joint news conference with Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune following their bilateral meeting in the capital Algiers. He will also attend Turkey-Algeria Business Forum.
"We were together with Mr. Tebboune at the Berlin Conference [on Libya]. We also held bilateral meetings there," Erdogan said.
"We will also have the opportunity to discuss our bilateral relations in detail during our meetings with Mr. president and other officials," he added.
"Through a joint statement to be signed by the two presidents during the visit, the Turkey-Algeria High-Level Cooperation Council will be established," according to a statement by the Turkish Presidency.
"We will also discuss current developments in our region, especially in Libya," Erdogan said.
On Jan. 12, parties in Libya announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by the leaders of Turkey and Russia. But talks for a permanent cease-fire ended without an agreement after renegade commander Khalifa Haftar left Moscow without signing the deal.
Last Sunday, Haftar accepted terms in Berlin to designate members to a UN-proposed military commission with five members from each side to monitor the implementation of the cease-fire.
Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the other in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.
- Historic visit to Gambia
Pointing out trade volume between Turkey and African countries, Erdogan said: "[the trade volume] has reached $26 billion, a 381% increase in the last 17 years as a result of our efforts."
Erdogan’s visit to Gambia will be of historic importance as “it will be the first-ever official presidential visit to this country,” the statement added.
Erdogan had visited 27 African countries during his terms as prime minister and as president and now with Gambia visit, this number will increase to 28.
The Turkish president's last stop in Africa will be Senegal.
"Various agreements aimed at strengthening the contractual bases of the bilateral relations with these countries are likely to be signed during the visits. Business forums are also planned to be held in Algeria and Senegal," the statement added.
Turkey's First Lady Emine Erdogan is accompanying Erdogan as well as key aides -- including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Technology and Industry Minister Mustafa Varank, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez, head of the Turkish Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan, Communications Director Fahrettin Altun and presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin.
Turkey-Africa relations have gained substantial momentum since the declaration of Turkey as a strategic partner of the continent by the African Union in January 2008.