UPDATE 3 – Erdogan: Turkey to reach new heights in 2020


By Gozde Bayar and Gokhan Ergocun

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey is all set to reach new heights in 2020 by protecting its rights, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.

"Through strengthening production, export and employment rate and protecting our rights on the international front, especially in the Mediterranean region, we are opening doors of a new rising period," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the Annual Evaluation Meeting for 2019 at Bestepe National Congress and Culture Center in Ankara.

Erdogan stressed that this year Turkey will demonstrate its historic achievements for its freedom and future regardless of the circumstances.

Underlining that the attacks on Turkey have unprecedentedly increased in recent years, he said, Turkey will continue to frustrate those who expected it to surrender in 2019.

– Eastern Mediterranean

Erdogan underlined that Turkey intended to open new consulate generals in Iraqi cities of Najaf and Kirkuk within the first half of 2020, in addition to its existing missions in Basra and Mosul.

Referring to a recent maritime delimitation agreement between Turkey and Libya, he said Ankara would begin drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

"We will license those areas and start exploration and drilling in 2020. Firstly, Oruc Reis will carry out seismic activities in the region," Erdogan said.

On Nov. 27, Ankara and Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) signed two separate pacts, one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The maritime pact asserted Turkey's rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also has rights to the resources in the area. It went into effect on Dec. 8.

Since the ouster of late leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: one in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and the other in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.

In 1974, following a coup aiming at annexation of Cyprus by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.

The decades since have seen several attempts to resolve the Cyprus dispute, all ending in failure. The latest, held with the participation of the guarantor countries — Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. — came to an end without any progress in Switzerland in 2017.

– Economic development

According to the new economic program, Erdogan said Turkey aims to reduce unemployment rate to %9.8 in 2022 by increasing the employment with 3.2 million people in the next 3 years.

As laid out in Turkey's new economic program announced last September, the government targeted to reduce unemployment to 12.9% in 2019, 11.8% in 2020, 10.6% in 2021 and 9.8% in 2022.

Turkey also aims to reduce the inflation rate, which saw over 25% level last year, to 8.5% in 2020 and 4.9% in 2022, while the country targets to reach 5% growth rate in the coming years.

Erdogan also said that Turkey will 6.6 billion Turkish liras ($1.12 billion) support to livestock sector and the country aims to end meat imports as of 2020.

Referring interest rates in the country, he said Turkey took measures for lowering interest rates and it dropped.

Turkish Central Bank lowered its policy rate gradually from 24% to 12% in eight monetary policy meetings during 2019.

The central bank also lowered the rate from 12% to 11.25% on Thursday in its first meeting in 2020.

Speaking about the 180-day action plan, the president said the action plan has a 34 billion Turkish liras budget ($5.8 billion) for the six months of 2020 into practice as of January 1.

– Mega projects

He added that Turkey completed 1,161 projects out of 1,451 in its 2019 action plan.

Highlighting the mega projects in Istanbul, Erdogan also touched on the newly-built mega-Istanbul Airport.

He said they planned to open the second phase of the first stage of the airport in June.

The Istanbul Airport, whose first phase officially opened in October 2018, took over air traffic from the former main Ataturk Airport on April 6.

The airport is projected to serve 200 million passengers annually with a full capacity after the completion of all four phases with six runways by 2028.

Referring to the maritime traffic in Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait, Erdogan underlined the importance of building a new canal.

“It is not possible to prevent maritime traffic in Bosphorus legally, economically and socially. The only solution is to build an alternative canal,” he added.

The planned 45-kilometer (nearly 28-mile) canal to be built west of the city center on the European side of the Istanbul province, aims to boost the city's marine through-traffic capacity.

The mega-project, which aims to prevent risks posed by vessels carrying dangerous shipments through the Bosphorus Strait, was approved by the country's Environment and Urbanization Ministry.

– Tourism

Praising the number of tourists visiting Turkey in 2019, Erdogan said Turkey aims to increase health tourism.

He said the number of tourists coming for health services reached 470,000 by the end of November 2019.

Turkey aims to raise the number of medical tourists to 750,000 and 1.5 million gradually in the coming period, he added.

– Health and education

Turkey’s quality of general health insurance and health services have reached a level that could set an example for the world, Erdogan said.

The number of hospitals and health institutions increased up to 5,500 from 2, 600 over 17 years, he said.

Stressing that Turkey is focused on developing its quality of education, Erdogan said Turkey has expanded the scholarship opportunities to students, especially to those who lack financial resources.

He also pointed out that they prioritized the training of the technical labor force including the defense industry, automotive, biotechnology and aerospace in 2019.

He added that Turkey will open 21 dorms with 13,750 bed capacity in the first half of 2020.

– Space and technology

Mentioning Turkey's satellite studies, he said Turkey will launch Turksat 5A satellite in the third quarter of this year, and the first indigenous telecommunication satellite Turksat 6A next year.

The Turksat 6A satellite was developed by the Spacecraft Assembly, Integration, and Test [AIT] Center in Ankara, Turkey's capital.

He reiterated that Turkey, which established its space agency in 2018, would reveal its National Space Program in 2020.

– Counter-terrorism

Regarding the country’s counter-terror operations, Erdogan said Turkey neutralized a total of 1,250 YPG/PKK terrorists and prevented dozens of terrorist activities.

He added that a total of 388 terrorists were neutralized during operations against Daesh/ISIS, al-Qaida and other terror groups.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.