Visit to Japan by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Republic of Turkey
(Evaluation and Overview)

April 16, 2004

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Republic of Turkey visited Japan as a guest of the Government of Japan on a working visit from April 11 to 14, 2004. Prime Minister Erdogan was received in audience by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, was received by Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Mikasa, and held talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The following is the overview of the meetings.

On his visit to Japan, Prime Minister Erdogan was accompanied by four ministers of the Republic of Turkey, including the Minister of State in charge of economy Ali Babacan, Minister of Transportation Binali Yildiirim, Minister of Health Recep Akdag and Minister of Culture and Tourism Erkan Mumcu, in addition to other related persons of approximately 300 in total, including ten members of parliament and approximately 150 businessmen.

1. Evaluation

(1) This visit by Prime Minister Erdogan is the first in nine years for a prime minister of Turkey to visit Japan, and the relationship of mutual trust was further advanced between the two leaders. Firm ground for close cooperative relations between the two countries in the future was also established through summit meetings and others. The Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi or AK Party) led by Prime Minister Erdogan won strong public support at the general election of November 2002 and established the first single-party administration in 15 years in Turkey. There are high expectations that the administration will remain a long-term, stable one. Therefore, the development of friendship and mutual trust at a personal level between Prime Minister Koizumi and Prime Minister Erdogan was also beneficial and will be significant in the construction of even stronger bilateral relations in the future.

(2) Turkey, as a bridge between the European, Middle Eastern and Asian regions, is located in a geopolitically important area and shares with the Western countries the common values such as secularism, democracy and market economy, and is proactively advancing its efforts towards accession to the European Union (EU). Turkey possesses great influence in the Middle Eastern region, and in addition to bearing an important role as a stabilizing factor in the region and it also maintains friendly relations with Japan. Japanese side could have an open and honest exchange of opinions took place with the Turkish side on important issues including the issue of Iraq. Furthermore, with regard to the hostage case involving Japanese nationals in Iraq, the Turkish side offered cooperation to provide information.

(3) Prime Minister Erdogan, aside from the four main ministers, was accompanied by ten members of parliament and around 150 businessmen, and beneficial opinion exchanges took place with Japanese Diet members (Japan-Turkey Inter-parliamentary Friendship Groups) and business executives, which marked an important opportunity for the development of cooperative relations between the two countries in various areas.

2. Overview of the Summit Meeting

(1) Bilateral relations

  • In opening remarks, Prime Minister Erdogan congratulated the steady progress and development of Japan-Turkey relations that now span over a century, and while referring to the incident in which Turkey rescued Japanese nationals in Teheran at the time of the Iran-Iraq War in 1985, he expressed his gratitude for the assistance Japan provided at the time of the devastating earthquake in Turkey in 1999. Moreover, Prime Minister Erdogan expressed his expectation for further development in economic relations, especially the increase in direct investment from Japan. The "2003 Year of Turkey in Japan" which started last February has gained popularity and Prime Minister Erdogan announced the extension of this event until this May. Furthermore, noting the fact that a Japanese prime minister has not paid a visit to Turkey in 14 years since 1990, Prime Minister Erdogan extended an invitation to Prime Minister Koizumi to visit Turkey and expressed his expectation to vitalize mutual visits among leaders of the two countries. In addition, Prime Minister Erdogan stated that Turkey would provide assistance in all forms possible for Expo 2005 Aichi scheduled to be held next year.

  • In response, Prime Minister Koizumi expressed his appreciation for the favorable development of Japan-Turkey relations, and with regard to the dispatch of a special aircraft by Turkey on a rescue mission of Japanese nationals in Teheran in 1985, explained that the incident has been taken up on a TV program (Project X) and many Japanese nationals were grateful for the good will shown by Turkey. Furthermore, in the area of investment, Prime Minister Koizumi expressed the expectation that cooperation in the area of economy would further advance between the two countries through development in the investment climate and that Japan would provide all assistance and cooperation possible for the development of industrial infrastructure in Turkey.

(2) Regional situation

  • Prime Minister Erdogan noted that Turkey is cautiously observing the progress of the Israeli-Palestine conflict and the issue of Iraq. He also praised the efforts for the reconstruction of Iraq provided by Japan which has in its framework US$1.5 billion in grand aid and US$3.5 billion in yen loan assistance, and that Turkey too is prepared to provide assistance. He further praised the efforts for reconstruction of Iraq jointly provided by Japanese and Turkish corporations in cooperation. Furthermore, Prime Minister Erdogan remarked that Turkey wishes for the establishment of a stable and democratic Iraq while maintaining its territorial integrity and shared the concern that nation-building based on ethnicity or religious beliefs would destabilize the situation. In addition, Prime Minister Erdogan offered cooperation to provide information concerning the Japanese nationals held hostage in Iraq.

  • In response, Prime Minister Koizumi remarked that at present, the most pressing issue is that of Iraq and asked the Turkish side for cooperation in various areas including provision of information on the Japanese nationals held hostage.

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