By Sultan Cogalan and Cigdem Alyanak
Turkey promised to cement ties with Central America on Thursday at an Istanbul meeting of foreign ministers from the region.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara would seek stronger cooperation with members of the Central American Integration System (SICA) through “all the means of our foreign policy.”
He also announced a $500,000 contribution to the group and pledged to boost trade, which stood at around $326 million last year, between Turkey and SICA’s eight member states.
In recent years, Turkey has sought to explore new overseas markets and this has been marked by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visits to Africa and Latin America. In January last year, he led a large business delegation to Chile, Peru and Equador.
Werner Isaac Vargas Torres, SICA executive director, stressed the importance of Turkey’s links to member states. “We need to have important political dialogue and cooperation among us,” Torres told the summit.
Turkey is one of dozens of SICA observer states and Torres praised its contribution, especially in fighting the Zika virus.
SICA -- which includes Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama -- held its first Turkey forum in February 2015.
The group was established in 1991 to promote regional peace, democracy and economic development.
Reporting by Sultan Cogalan and Cigdem Alyanak; Writing by Nilay Kar