Turkey plans to boost its exports to Iraq to $500 million in 2001, a 100-times increase since the United Nations started its oil-for-food program in 1996, Turkey's foreign trade undersecretary said Monday.
"With the arrangements we have made so far under the oil-for-food program, I see our exports to Iraq reaching $347 million by the year-end and $500 million in 2001," Kursat Tuzmen said, reported by Anatolia news agency.
"Taking into account the fact that we had started with five million dollars, this is very significant. It means a 100-times increase," Tuzmen said. "But this is still not enough. Our target is two billion dollars and then five billion," he added without specifying a period of time.
Iraq pledged to give Turkish imports a priority when Turkey's foreign trade minister Tunca Toskay met Iraqi officials in Baghdad last week, Tuzmen said. "The outcome of the talks was good, but to be honest, Iraq is a market where we have been late," he added.
Turkish exports to Iraq stood at $10.7 million in 1998, according to official statistics. The UN-supervised oil-for-food program allows Iraq to export crude oil in return for essential goods. Turkey, a close ally of the United States, says it has lost some $35 billion owing to the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990 for its invasion of Kuwait.
Ankara has announced its intention to increase the oil flow from a pipeline from northern Iraq to southern Turkey to a full capacity of 71 million tones as part of a series of moves to reinforce commercial ties with its southern neighbor. The pipeline was closed to operation in 1990. It was opened to limited deliveries in 1996 under the oil-for-food program.
Turkey also plans to open a second border gate with Iraq. Six Turkish planes, carrying officials, doctors, businessmen and humanitarian aid, have landed in Baghdad's Saddam international airport since early October as part of a campaign against the sanctions on Iraq. — (AFP, Ankara)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)