Ministers discuss Syrian conflict, Astana talks and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to Russia on ASEAN sidelines
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Sunday met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the Philippine capital Manila during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum.
Speaking to reporters after the bilateral talks, Cavusoglu said they discussed the ongoing Syrian conflict, Astana talks, visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to Russia, and economic ties, especially the export of Turkish tomatoes.
"It was a positive meeting," he said, adding that he would later also meet the U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, on Sunday evening during the summit.
The foreign minister also said Turkey remains interested in building closer economic and diplomatic ties with ASEAN states.
"We aim to boost our relations with the region. With the latest decree, we have appointed an ambassador to Laos, now we have missions in each ASEAN state," Cavusoglu said.
The bloc was established in 1967 and includes 10 states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Cavusoglu also hinted that Turkey was really close to getting sectoral dialogue partnership with the ASEAN group.
"We applied for sectoral dialogue partnership with ASEAN in 2015 and since then, we have been working for it. We also submitted an action plan in 2016. The decision will be announced tomorrow.”
Although not a member of the bloc, Turkey formed ties with ASEAN in 1999 and attended its first summit in 2013; the country has applied for ASEAN partnership.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Turkey signed a cooperation treaty in 2010.
Turkish foreign ministers have participated as guests at ASEAN meetings; Cavusoglu also attended the meeting in August 2015.
A year earlier, Turkey’s trade with ASEAN countries crossed the $8.5 billion mark, which is a four-fold increase over 10 years.