An Interview Of H.e. Ambassador Sedat Onal Published On Jordan Times

Amman Büyükelçiliği 30.10.2012

Jordan-Turkey ties unique, based on strong bonds — envoy

by Khetam Malkawi | Oct 29, 2012                              

AMMAN — The ties between Jordan and Turkey are unique and based on a strong bond between the two peoples, and the will to enhance them even more, said Turkish Ambassador to Jordan Sedat Onal.

In a recent interview with The Jordan Times on the occasion of Turkey’s national day, which falls on October 29, Onal also noted that the already strong bilateral relations got a boost in 2009 when the two countries signed several agreements that had a positive impact on many sectors, including economy and tourism.

Economy

Amman and Ankara signed a Free Trade Agreement that year, which reflected positively on the volume of trade, the ambassador said, noting that Turkey lifted all customs duties on Jordanian imports since then.

He added that over the past 10 years, there has been a regular increase in the bilateral trade volume, with the exception of 2011, which witnessed a decrease as a result of the situation in Syria.

However, this year the situation has improved despite the impact of the turmoil in Syria on both Jordan and Turkey, the envoy said.

In 2010, the overall trade volume stood at $600 million, in favour of Turkey ($570 million), while in 2011, it dropped to $507 million with Jordanian exports to Turkey amounting to $67 million.

In the first eight months of this year, Turkish exports to Jordan stood at $500 million, while it imported goods worth $57 million from the Kingdom.

“So the overall volume is expected to exceed $700 million by the end of this year,” Onal said, noting that due to the effect of the situation in Syria, the private sector came up with other solutions such as using the sea route to transport goods.

Turkey’s imports from Jordan include phosphate and pharmaceuticals, while it exports textiles, auto parts, iron and steel products to the Kingdom.

Overall Turkish investments in Jordan currently stand at $200 million, according to the ambassador, who noted that Turkish company GAMA is implementing the Disi Project, one of the Kingdom’s mega-ventures.

Tourism

Apart from charter flights, there are four daily flights between Turkey and Jordan.

The envoy said there is a regular increase in the number of tourists visiting both countries, citing a “mutual lifting of visa requirements” agreement Amman and Ankara signed in 2009 to strengthen people-to-people contact.

“Thus, we have started to see positive consequences and this is a reason for increasing our trade volume as well,” Onal said.

The increased interest in Turkish drama productions was a factor that contributed to the rise in tourists to Turkey, as some people are interested in visiting the places where the TV series were shot, the ambassador said.

According to embassy figures, some 100,000 Jordanians visited Turkey in 2011, compared to 27,000 in 2001, while 160,000 Turks visited Jordan in last year.

“We are interested in helping increase the number of Turks visiting Jordan even more,” the envoy said.

“There are some ideas about joint destinations in the area, including Jordan, Turkey and Egypt… The private sector should have the lead in this and officials can facilitate such interactions,” he added.

Onal said his country is ready to help Jordan with “our technical know-how in tourism, such as services”.

In 2011, a total of 31.5 million tourists visited Turkey and revenues stood at $18 billion; in 2009, Turkey was one of the top 10 world destinations.

“Now, almost every sector is relevant to tourism in Turkey,” he noted.

Education and cultural cooperation

Turkey’s first cultural centre in Jordan opened in 1969; it was recently named “Yunus Emre”, after a well-known Turkish poet.

Approximately 100 Jordanian students join this centre each month. In addition, “we opened a Turkish language and cultural department at the University of Jordan” in 2010. Currently, 140 students study there, while around 130 are registered in a Turkish language course at Yarmouk University.

In addition, there is a cultural exchange programme between the two countries.

“This year, we provided 54 scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate Jordanian students,” the envoy said, adding that Jordan also provides 45 scholarships for Turkish students to study Arabic in the Kingdom.

Jordan is one of the preferred places to learn Arabic, according to the ambassador.

Currently, there are some 4,000 Turkish citizens in Jordan; of them, 3,000 are residents.

Syria

Jordan and Turkey are the two countries most affected by the current situation in Syria, Onal said, adding that camps in Turkey host over 100,000 refugees, while 50,000 Syrians live outside the camps.

In Jordan, there are more than 200,000 Syrian refugees, with no sign that the number will stop here, he noted.

“We both are using our natural resources to address this,” the ambassador said, adding that “we both emphasised the need to end the bloodshed in this country, and we need to see more effective humanitarian assistance for people inside Syria and in hosting countries.”

“We are in close consultation with Jordan on these issues.”

Palestinian cause

Amman and Ankara share the same political perspective on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, Onal said.

“We also share the same stance about the situation in Jerusalem and the need to preserve its identity and to protect the holy places, and we cooperate with Jordan in this regard.”

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