ANKARA: Pakistan and Turkey signed 18 Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) in Ankara on Tuesday, in the first-ever meeting of the High Level Cooperation Council (HPCC).
The HPCC brings together senior cabinet ministers from Turkey and Pakistan to actively work on avenues of cooperation between the two countries. A senior Pakistani official described the HPCC as a “joint cabinet”.
Significant MoUs were signed between the health ministries of the two countries, focusing on post-disaster health services, training health personnel and reducing maternal and child mortality rates. More significantly, Turkey also signed a MoU offering Pakistan concessions on Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) trade. Turkey also focused on assisting Pakistan on post-flood infrastructure reconstruction with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointing out that Turkey had extensive experience in the housing sector and would offer its expertise to Pakistan on rebuilding homes, schools and hospitals in the flood-affected areas.
The Turkish prime minister also said that Pakistan had a critical need for clean drinking water, which was a project that he wanted to focus on.
This focus on the social sectors is likely to be somewhat disappointing for Pakistan, which was hoping to sign MoUs and agreements on projects such as Thar Coal, hydroelectric power and oil and gas exploration. Pakistan had focused extensively on attracting investment in these sectors, a move that Turkey seems to have set aside for now.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is likely to return to Pakistan as a happy man given that Turkish President Abdullah Gul awarded him the Jamhuriyat Nisan (Republic Order).
Earlier in the day, Gilani also addressed the Grand National Assembly, where he suggested raising the level of trade with Turkey to $2 billion by 2012 and asked the Turkish government to encourage its private sector. Gilani, who became the first Pakistani head of state to address the 90-year-old Grand National Assembly, said the Jamhuriyat Nisan was a great honour for him.
In response to a question by a Turkish journalist in the press conference, Prime Minister Erdogan commented on WikiLeaks, explaining that Turkey had formed a commission to follow up on the disclosures made on the website. The commission comprises the justice ministry, the prime minister’s office and the foreign ministry. He sharply criticised the leaks, saying it would negatively impact America’s diplomatic efforts.
(With additional input from APP)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2010.
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