Braving the hurdles of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued his restless diplomatic engagements in 2021, as he did in previous years.
Participating in a number of international programs via video conference or video message, Erdogan also held bilateral virtual meetings, videoconferences and phone conversations.
After postponing his international visits in the first half of the year owing to the pandemic, President Erdogan made 14 trips abroad in the second half, including two to Azerbaijan.
In his first foreign visit, the president traveled to Belgium on June 13-14 to attend the NATO Heads of State and Government Summit, where he held many bilateral meetings. Following the summit, Erdogan had his first face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden, who took office in 2020.
On June 15-16, the president made his second visit of the year to Azerbaijan at the invitation of his counterpart Ilham Aliyev, where the two met in Fuzuli, a city liberated from Armenian occupation.
As part of the visit, the president was later welcomed with an official ceremony when he visited Shusha city. In a joint press conference after their bilateral meeting, Erdogan and Aliyev signed the Shusha Declaration, elevating bilateral relations to the status of an alliance.
On Oct. 26, the president arrived in Azerbaijan for the second time, becoming the first foreign leader to land at Fuzuli International Airport. The airport was jointly inaugurated by Erdogan and Aliyev during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
On July 19-20, President Erdogan went to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) for a two-day visit at the invitation of President Ersin Tatar, where he celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. He and his counterpart attended the Eid prayer at the Hala Sultan Mosque in Lefkosa.
On Aug. 27, the president paid an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, followed by a visit to Montenegro on Aug. 28.
The president visited the US on Sept. 19-22 to attend the 76th UN General Assembly. In addition to his busy schedule, Erdogan officially inaugurated the Turkevi Center, or Turkish House, in New York City, on Sept. 20, calling the landmark skyscraper a “masterpiece.”
On Sept. 29, President Erdogan undertook a working visit to Sochi, where he had a one-on-one meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Another landmark visit was President Erdogan’s four-day diplomatic tour of three African countries, including Angola, Togo, and Nigeria, from Oct. 17 to 20, during which Turkey expanded the number of embassies in Africa from 12 in 2002 to 43 in 2021.
Erdogan was the first Turkish president to visit Togo and Angola, and during his presidency and premiership, he officially visited 30 African countries.
He also held bilateral meetings with many heads of state and government in Italy, where President Erdogan was attending the G20 Leaders’ Summit on Oct. 30-31.
Erdogan paid an official visit to Turkmenistan on Nov. 27-28 at the invitation of his counterpart President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. On the second day of his visit, he attended the Economic Cooperation Organization Summit, of which Turkey was one of the founding members. The president also held bilateral meetings with the heads of state of Iran, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Azerbaijan on the sidelines of the summit.
On Dec. 6-7, President Erdogan undertook his final visit of the year to Qatar at the invitation of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad.
Turkey’s president also hosted many heads of state and government in Ankara and Istanbul in 2021.
As his first guest, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama came to Turkey on Jan. 6.
On Jan. 30, President Erdogan met with Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and President of Senegal Macky Sall at the Vahdettin Mansion in Istanbul.
On March 16, President Erdogan welcomed Chairman of the Presidential Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik as well as members of the council Zeljko Komsic and Sefik Dzaferovic with an official ceremony at the presidential complex in Ankara.
The Turkish president met with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky at Istanbul’s Huber Mansion on April 10, where the two leaders attended a high-level Strategic Council Session that was followed by a joint press conference.
Erdogan also met with TRNC President Tatar, who was in Turkey on a working visit on April 26.
Polish President Andrzej Duda was among the foreign guests hosted by President Erdogan at the Presidential Complex. During the visit, which took place on May 24, the two leaders signed agreements and held a joint press conference following one-on-one meeting and delegations level talks.
Erdogan revealed at the joint press conference that Turkey has agreed to transfer “Bayraktar TB2 armed unmanned aerial vehicles” to Poland, marking the first time in history that such a sale has been made to a NATO and EU member country.
In early June, President Erdogan separately received Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama and Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev.
As part of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) held on June 17 in the southern resort city of Antalya, the president held closed-door and separate meetings with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, North Macedonian counterpart Stevo Pendarovski and members of the Presidential Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He had also met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, late-Haiti President Jovenel Moise and Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani.
The president also hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov, President of Angola Joao Lourenco, Sudan’s head of Sovereign Council Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Felix Tshisekedi, President of Guinea-Bissau Umaro Embalo, President of Guinea Alpha Conde, President of Pakistan Arif Alvi, President of Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio, Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed and President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic.
Erdogan attended the Eighth Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council), where he met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart K. Tokayev, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary as well as Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Turkic Council Secretary General Baghdad Amreyev.
Then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the guests of President Erdogan in 2021, where the two leaders met at the Huber Mansion in Istanbul.
Among Erdogan’s diplomatic engagements was Chad’s Transitional President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno. Erdogan also met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who was in Turkey for the 7th Turkey-Spain Intergovernmental Summit.
On Nov. 24, President Erdogan hosted Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the Presidential Complex in Ankara.
Third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit
The Third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit, the first of which was held in 2008 in Istanbul and the second in 2014 in Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo, was held in Istanbul on Dec. 16-18.
The president held 15 bilateral meetings at the margin of the summit, which was organized with the theme of “Enhanced Partnership for Common Development and Prosperity” and attended by 38 countries.
Meanwhile, Erdogan attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the third power unit of Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, a joint project of Turkey and Russia, on March 10, together with President Vladimir Putin via videoconference.
*Writing by Merve Aydogan
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