ANKARA

Turkiye is ready to undertake infrastructure projects, including rebuilding the Port of Beirut, the Turkish president said Tuesday at a news conference with the Lebanese premier.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan received Najib Mikati in the Turkish capital of Ankara and held a joint news conference after a one-on-one talk and delegation-level discussions.

“During our meetings, we discussed Turkiye-Lebanon relations comprehensively. We focused on the development of cooperation opportunities. We discussed together with my dear friend how we can contribute to Lebanon and what additional steps we can take. In the first days following the Beirut Port explosion, I immediately sent my deputy and foreign minister to Beirut to show our solidarity with the Lebanese people,” said Erdogan.

He said Turkiye was the first country to come to the aid of its Lebanese brothers with ambulance planes after the explosion in Akkar last August and noted Turkiye does not discriminate between the Lebanese people.

Erdogan said he was ready to support reform efforts of the Lebanese government. He noted that despite conditions of the coronavirus pandemic, the trade volume between the two countries reached $1.8 billion with an increase of approximately 80% last year.

“I believe that Turkish products are suitable and attractive for the Lebanese market in many aspects such as price, quality, transportation cost. We also wish to diversify the products we import from Lebanon within this scope. I expressed that our companies are ready to undertake important infrastructure projects, including the reconstruction of the Port of Beirut,” he said.

Erdogan added that to encourage more tourists to go to Lebanon, Turkish Airlines made a 20% discount on all flights to Beirut from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28. He said the flagship carrier is also working on a similar campaign that will last until May.

Mikati said his country needs Turkiye’s cooperation and assistance.

“Today, we are in dire need of cooperation and assistance from Turkiye,” he said, hoping that “our close personal relations will open many doors for cooperation and assistance.”

The Lebanese premier said his country “is going through a crisis that is almost the worst in the world at all economic, financial and social levels. We need support and assistance in all fields.”

Lebanon suffered the worst economic crisis in its history two years ago with the collapse of its currency amid a shortage of medicines, fuel and basic commodities as well as a sharp decline in the purchasing power for its citizens.

Mikati said that during Lebanese-Turkish talks in Beirut in 2005, a joint decision was taken to cancel visas between the two countries, which contributed to strengthening bilateral relations.

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