ROME

Turkish-Italian relations are based on mutual trust, Turkey’s ambassador to Rome told Anadolu Agency.

Murat Salim Esenli said Mario Draghi’s government is aware of the strategic importance of Turkey as the Italian prime minister gave a clear message about bilateral relations in his address to the Italian parliament while seeking a vote of confidence.

“Mr. Draghi gave very clear messages about the position of our country. I think he has already included the necessary signals in his address,” said Esenli.

“When we look at it, it is possible to overcome many problems in relationships based on this understanding. We expect our relations to go beyond their current potential under the government of Mr. Draghi. In this context, we need to look at developments in our bilateral economic relations. It’s also very encouraging,” he added.

Esenli said Italy has traditionally been supporting Turkey’s EU bid.

“We continue our mutual cooperation with Italy in many areas and face common challenges. We are in an effort to find common solutions to these common challenges,” he added.

There is a mutual consensus between the two countries on the meeting of the intergovernmental summit in the first quarter of this year, Esenli noted, saying the course of the pandemic interrupted the plan “a little.”

– Economy, energy relations

Esenli said he is pleased with the state of Turkish-Italian relations, adding that there is a potential for further development of relations and that business people and the private sector are ready for this.

Italy made the highest rate of direct investments to Turkey in 2020, despite the pandemic challenges, Esenli said, and stressed that this is an important indicator of the strength of Turkish-Italian relations.

“The target set by our President [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] in terms of trade volume is $30 billion. We had reached $20 billion in 2019,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there was a decrease in our bilateral trade volume due to COVID-19, but we can say that it is relatively small [standing] at the level of 10-11%. Because the conditions are too harsh. I sincerely believe that when returning to normal, it is possible for us to quickly reach the target of $30 billion,” he added.

Esenli noted that in the energy field of the relations, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which is the continuation of the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline, became operational during his term of office.

Italy was heavily affected by the pandemic, he said, recalling Turkey’s help to Italy during that difficult period.

He stressed the significance of the COVID-19 aid that Turkey sent to Italy on April 1 last year, which he said, demonstrated his country’s power and friendliness.

“Of course, another dimension is that the EU left Italy alone at the time we made this assistance. And Turkey has extended a friendly hand in these dark days, without hesitation, to Italy. It was happening in a very emotional period. There were many deaths from COVID-19, despair was knee-deep,” he added.

* Writing by Busra Nur Cakmak in Ankara.

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