UPDATE – Turkey backs Georgia's sovereignty, territorial integrity, president says


By Seda Sevencan

ISTANBUL (AA) – Turkey backs Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Turkish president said on Tuesday.

"As Turkey, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our desire to resolve the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia by peaceful means and in accordance with Georgia's territorial integrity. We fully support our neighbor's goal of integration with the Euro-Atlantic structures," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

His remarks came during a joint news conference with Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili after a meeting in Ankara, Turkey’s capital.

With regional issues discussed during the meeting, Erdogan said Georgia is key to regional collaboration and the tripartite cooperation with Azerbaijan is important in this regard.

"Besides, we are in for tripartite cooperation of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia or of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia," the president said.

– Talks ongoing to expand free trade deal

Addressing the bilateral trade relations, Erdogan said Turkey has been Georgia's largest trading partner for the last 14 years.

"Although there is a slight contraction in our bilateral trade volume in 2020, we have now set our goal to reach $3 billion and we will continue working for it."

Turkey and Georgia are in talks to expand the coverage of bilateral free trade agreement, he added.

"We are also determined to work on regulations that will facilitate our trade and speed up customs procedures," Erdogan said.

– Turkey is ‘very important strategic partner’ for Georgia

Garibashvili, for his part, said that Turkey is a "very important friendly country and strategic partner" for Georgia.

The prime minister thanked Ankara for its support to Georgia's sovereignty and membership in NATO.

"I have conveyed our thoughts on the current situation in our country and the occupied lands. Of course, there is no alternative to peace. All conflicts should be resolved through peaceful manners," he said.