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30 Sep 11

Turkey's Erdogan Cements Ties to Macedonia

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan is paying an official visit to Skopje, aimed at closening the already warm political and economic links between the two countries.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic Skopje

Erdogan was greeted by his Macedonian counterpart, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, at Skopje airport where they held bilateral talks.

The two leaders viewed the recently launched new passenger terminal, part of a 200 million euro investment by Turkey's TAV holdings, which runs Macedonia’s two civil airports.

“At the moment there are around 100 Turkish investors in Macedonia but we would like to see that number grow,” Erdogan told a press conference in Skopje.

The hopes are that this year’s trade exchange between the two countries will amount to some 300 million euros, which would be 30 per cent up on last year.

Both Erdogan and Gruevski stressed that the potential for the future is much greater.

The Turkish leader will also meet President Gjorge Ivanov, Parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanoski, and Ali Ahmeti, head of the ethnic Albanian junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI.

Gruevski thanked his guest for Turkey’s continuous support for Macedonia’s bid to become a member of NATO, as well as Turkey's support for Macedonia in the bilateral name dispute with Greece.

Greece has prevented Macedonia from joining NATO, arguing that use of the name Macedonia implies a territorial claim towards the northern Greek province of the same name.

In the early 1990s, Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Macedonia under its chosen name.

Since then Turkey has become one of Macedonia's most important regional political and economic partners - and a vocal supporter of Macedonia’s NATO entry.

The exceptionally warm ties were additionally strengthened in 2008 with a treaty for strategic partnership.

Over 70,000 Turks live in Macedonia according to the last census in 2001.

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