China and Turkey seek to build a common future
On Saturday, we commemorate the 47th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Turkey. Since 1971, our diplomatic relations have steadily improved every year and thanks to the leadership of our countries, in 2010 it was transformed into a strategic partnership based on mutual trust and interest.
Our diplomatic relations may have been established in the past century, but our friendship, cultural and economic relations are many centuries old despite the significant physical distance between our countries. Beginning from China, going through Turkey and reaching Europe, the ancient Silk Road was the basis of the historical cooperation and mutual interests between our countries.
Asia's easternmost and westernmost countries, China and Turkey, were the protectors of the ancient Silk Road for centuries. By protecting this route and allowing the conveyance of different cultures, religions, languages, ideas, knowledge and appliances, our countries contributed to the development of not only themselves but also the entire Eurasian continent.
It seems history repeats itself; fate has brought China and Turkey together again for the Belt and Road Initiative. I am happy to say that the Belt and Road Initiative proposed in 2013 has elevated the relations between our countries to another level.
Thanks to President Xi Jinping's great vision, the initiative has transformed into one of the largest joint development projects in human history. Led by Turkey, the "Middle Corridor" initiative is at the heart of the project.
Being the most important component of the Middle Corridor, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railroad Project, also known as the "Iron Silk Road", started operation last year. This railroad not only connects Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia, but also allows a train from London to reach Beijing within two weeks. Aimed at expediting the Middle Corridor initiative, the negotiations with our Chinese friends over the joint construction of the Edirne-Kars fast track, which will connect Turkey's easternmost and westernmost cities, are nearing a conclusion.
Increasing cooperation between our countries due to the Middle Corridor initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative, and the strengthening trust-based relations between the presidents of the two countries have greatly boosted bilateral relations.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo gan and President Xi have met five times in the last two years. Moreover, the crucial phone call between the two leaders in April and the meeting at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, last month indicate the importance both leaders attach to the future of bilateral relations.
Every significant political development between China and Turkey along with the increasing cooperation boosts bilateral interactions, leading to mutual benefit in tourism. The year 2018 has been declared "Turkey Tourism Year" in China, and our extensive promotion campaign has started to yield results. The number of Chinese tourists who visited Turkey in the first six months of this year increased by about 100 percent year-on-year. Which shows the common political approach of the two leaders has brought the peoples of China and Turkey closer.
As a Chinese proverb says, "Knowing how to make something is harder than making the thing itself". As countries that have experienced cooperation based on mutual respect and mutual benefit since the days when ancient Silk Road was flourishing, China and Turkey are cooperating again to build a new future based on common prosperity through the Belt and Road Initiative.
We are celebrating the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which are now building a common future based on friendship.
The author is Turkey's ambassador to China.