UPDATE 2 – Turkish VP meets Sudanese president, parliament speaker

UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS; ADDS QUOTES FROM OKTAY

By Mumin Altas

KHARTOUM (AA) – Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay met on Wednesday with high-level Sudanese leaders in the eastern African country’s capital of Khartoum.

Oktay was received by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with whom he held a closed-door meeting.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Oktay said they had discussed energy cooperation between the two countries.

He also met Sudanese Parliamentary Speaker Ibrahim Ahmed Omar, to discuss means of enhancing cooperation between the two countries.

Speaking before Sudan’s national assembly, Oktay thanked Omar for his “hospitable” reception and expressed his pleasure with meeting representatives of the Sudanese people

Pointing to Sudan’s “significant potential” in the agriculture and stockbreeding sectors, Oktay said that Turkey hopes to share its considerable experience in both fields with Sudan.

He also noted Turkey’s many energy and mining projects now underway in Sudan, pointing in particular to the restoration of Sudan’s historical Suakin Island.

“Our primary goal is to improve trade,” the vice-president said. “Bilateral trade [between Turkey and Sudan] currently stands at less than $500 million, which is low for countries with good relations at both the presidential and public levels.”

“All these projects will bring us closer to our goal,” Oktay said.

He went on to assert that Sudan’s national assembly, which enjoys oversight of the projects, must closely follow the progress of these initiatives with a view to serving the interests of the Sudanese people.

The Sudanese people, Oktay asserted, “are like brothers to Turkey”.

"We’re ready to share everything with Sudan, including experience and know-how,” he said. “We’re serious about doing business and our [Sudanese] counterparts share this seriousness.”

He added: “But we have to move faster if we want results.”

Omar, for his part, expressed his pleasure with hosting Oktay and his accompanying delegation.

He pointed out that Sudanese officials had promised to develop relations with Turkey during a visit to Khartoum last year by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"We are closely following developments in the region — and in Europe, Asia and Africa — and are aware of the role Turkey is playing,” Omar said.

“We hope Sudan will be Turkey's most important partner in Africa,” he added. “And we can achieve this by joining forces.”

Later, attending the opening ceremony of a building of a joint international Turkish-Sudanese agricultural and livestock company, Oktay lauded cooperation between the two countries with projects in the field of economy, petroleum, mining, health and education.

The building is to oversee joint agricultural activities on 780,000 hectares (1,930,000 acres) to be preceded by a pilot study on 12,500 hectares (30,890 acres).

"Our goal is Sudan’s development, enhancing the quality of life of the brotherly people of Sudan and at the same time boosting the fraternity between the peoples of the two countries," Oktay said.

He added that Turkey wished to develop a "win-win, sustainable" model in its relations with Khartoum and that the two countries were on a "good track".

Oktay is being accompanied on his visit by Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli, Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan, Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Mithat Cansiz, Turkish Ambassador to Khartoum Irfan Neziroglu and Serdar Cam, Chairman of Turkish aid agency TIKA.

The visit, in which Oktay said much "progress" was made, was held in preparation for a planned Turkish-Sudanese High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council Meeting to take place next month in Khartoum.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara

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