By Zuhal Demirci
ANKARA (AA) – Ethiopia's Ambassador to Ankara praised bilateral relations and called to further boost Turkish investments in Ethiopia.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview, Girma Temesgen Barkessa said that Turkish investors are represented in various sectors in Ethiopia.
Recalling the diplomatic relations between the two countries which go back over 100 years, Barkessa stressed that the bilateral relations between Ethiopia and Turkey are at a strategic level.
"Basically we have a strategic investment sector which has a comparative advantage for both Ethiopians as well as Turkish investors," he said.
Barkessa said Ethiopia gives priority to the fields of agriculture, processing, and textile and leather products.
"By comparative advantage, I mean that we have labor power in that sector, resources in that sector so that’s why we are putting these sectors in our priority area," he added.
Barkessa said the investment of Turkish companies in those sectors, particularly in textile and infrastructure construction, has been increasing.
"So far we have so many Turkish investors investing in Ethiopia. But in view of the stronger relationship between Ethiopia and Turkey, the number or the flow of investors to Ethiopia is not to the expectation of both countries.
We really need to increase the number of Turkish companies in Ethiopia," he said. To boost the flow of investors to the expected level in Ethiopia, he said the media needs to be used effectively to introduce Ethiopia to Turkish investors.
Pointing to the tourism potential between the two countries, the ambassador said Turkish people should designate Ethiopia, which is home to many historical places, as a top tourist destination.
Noting that there is a rapid increase of Turkish tourists in Ethiopia, Barkessa said that many services for them, such as visa regulations, were being discussed for facilitation.
– Turkey’s policy toward Africa based on 'fraternity, equality'
On Turkey's relations with other African countries, Barkessa said: "Turkey is not only limited [to] its relations with Ethiopia. It has also [been] expanding its relations with other African brothers through trade, investment — not only through the flights of Turkish Airlines [but also] to different parts of Africa."
Therefore, Turkey firstly expands its relations through investment and trade tourism, and then through the flights of Turkish Airlines, he said.
"We see the policy of Turkey toward Africa is based on fraternity, equality, as Turkey does not have any colonial background," he added.
On Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call to do business using local currencies, Barkessa said: "When countries exchange their goods through the local currency, it makes life more easier, it makes business interactions more easier. Particularly for Ethiopia the hard currency is decrease."
– Transferring FETO Schools
When asked about Ethiopian government transferring schools linked to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind a 2016 defeated coup in Turkey, to the Turkish government, Barkessa said: "We promised that we are going to transfer these schools to the Maarif Foundation. Maarif Foundation has already got a legal entity in Ethiopia. The process of transferring these schools is ongoing."
Turkey established the Maarif Foundation in 2016 to take over the administration of overseas schools linked to FETO.
The foundation also establishes schools and education centers abroad.
Asked whether Ethiopia sees the terror group as a threat, Barkessa said: "We consider all terrorists as an enemy of the country."
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
– 'Peace is a matter of process'
With regard to the recent positive developments in the relations between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia, Barkessa said: "It is a process. You cannot achieve peace overnight. Peace is a matter of process.”
“But the process has already commenced. We hope and wish that the commenced peace will be sustainable. We will see a peaceful Horn of Africa within the coming few years."
Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia in 1993, and from 1998 to 2000 the two countries fought a bloody war in which an estimated 70,000 people perished on both sides.
The two countries broke two decades of tension after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed extended an olive branch to the Eritrean president in his inaugural speech in April. Both opened their respective embassies, while Eritrea allowed Ethiopia to use its Red Sea ports.
-‘We are in favor of equitable utilization’
Asked if his country has any solution to put an end to the tension with Egypt due to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project, Barkessa said: “As it [the Nile] belongs to all, we have also the legal and natural right to use the dam without creating any significant harm on lower riparian countries.
“This is the understanding we try to create among all African brothers, including the lower riparian countries as well as upper riparian countries.”
Recalling a misunderstanding with lower riparian countries, he said: “Our neighbor Sudan has recognized and has accepted that our dam [is being constructed] to create energy….. So they are with the principle of equitable utilization of the Nile.”
“With regard to Cairo, we are discussing at the technical level," Barkessa said. “We hope they do understand us. What we can say, as Ethiopians […] we are in favor of equitable utilization of the rivers of the Nile.”
“We have also the right to use this dam,” he said: “No one can stop the construction of this dam. ”The dam, which will be the biggest dam in Africa to date, was scheduled to be completed within five years.
– Reforms in Ethiopia
Asked if there were obstacles to the reform process in Ethiopia after Ahmed came to power, the ambassador said: “Whenever reform comes, you should expect the resistance. That is natural. Reform without resistance cannot exist, because you learn a lot from resistance. That’s what we are facing now in Ethiopia."
“There is a fast reform going on in Ethiopia in terms of human rights, political reforms, economics, as well as combating corruption…..there may be few individuals who could be against. However‚ for sure‚ the reform is in favor of the majority of the people," the ambassador added.