Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday warned of rising racism and Islamophobia in Europe as he once again denounced a recent French bill outlawing denial of Armenian genocide.

The French bill is a "serious manifestation of an insidious danger in Europe", Erdoğan said at a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in Ankara. "There is an undeniable racist approach, a racist mentality ... hidden behind this bill."

Turkey reacted furiously last week when the French Senate approved the law, which threatens with jail anyone in France who denies that the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces amounted to genocide.

Turkey would not remain silent to rising racism and Islamophobia in Europe, Erdoğan said, calling on friends of Turkey in Europe to urgently address the problem.

"Turkey is a not a country that will bow to insidiously growing racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe," he said. "I would like to sincerely warn our friends in Europe that the situation in France is a serious manifestation of an insidious danger."

On Tuesday, two separate groups of French politicians who oppose the contentious legislation -- from both the Senate and the lower house of Parliament -- said they had requested the constitutional council to examine the law.

The council is obliged to deliver its judgment within a month, but this can be reduced to eight days if the government deems the matter urgent.

"I believe and hope that the constitutional council will act with common sense and reach a conclusion that is compatible with French values and European Union principles," Erdoğan said.

If the French senators had not taken the "racist and discriminatory" law to the constitutional council, Turkish-French relations would have suffered "irreparable harm," he said.

Last week, the Turkish prime minister warned that his Islamist-rooted government would punish Paris with unspecified retaliatory measures if French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed it into law.

Ankara has already halted political and military cooperation with France and was threatening to cut off economic and cultural ties. France has already officially recognized the killings as a genocide, but the new law would go further by punishing anyone who denies this with up to a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($57,000).

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in 1915 and 1916 by the forces of Turkey's former Ottoman Empire.

Turkey disputes the figure, arguing that 500,000 died, and denies this was genocide, ascribing the toll to fighting and starvation during World War I and accusing the Armenians of siding with Russian invaders.


Iraqi Kurds See Turkey as Major Partner, Gate to the West

Upheaval in the Middle East and mutual economic interests are drawing together two unlikely partners: rising powerhouse Turkey and an entity whose name Turkish leaders hardly dare mention -- Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq.

Ankara has developed solid political and trade ties with Iraq's Kurds, as its foreign policy of "zero problems with the neighbors" unravels due to the uprising in Syria, tensions with
Baghdad and rivalry with Iran.

Iraqi Kurdish leaders also recognize that in an unstable region and with sectarian conflict threatening to upset the delicate political balance in Baghdad, their landlocked, oil producing territory needs an ally among its neighbors. Turkey, with one of the fastest growing economies in the world, could be their best bet.

"We can call it a key relationship because Turkey has an important status because of its location and because of the role that it plays in the international community," said Falah
Mustafa Bakir, the head of the Department of Foreign Relations of the Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG.

"Turkey is a major partner for Iraq as a whole, but also for the Kurdistan region in terms of commerce and trade," he told Reuters in a recent interview. "I am sure Turkey would have a good opportunity to be a major or main partner with the KRG, but also with Iraq."

But big issues remain, not least the presence in northern Iraq of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a militant group whose 27-year armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey has
claimed the lives of 40,000 rebels, soldiers and civilians.

Turkish leaders are also reluctant to see the emergence of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq, fearing this could rouse the already restless Kurds just across the border in Turkey.

In a landmark visit to the region last year, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeatedly referred to the "Kurdish administration," but never once used the word Kurdistan.

Pipeline Diplomacy

Victims of massacres and chemical weapons attacks, Iraq's Kurds rose up against Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War and broke free from Baghdad-rule. The 2003 U.S.-led invasion then toppled the dictator and led to a constitution that recognized the Kurds' hard-won de facto autonomy.

Once the poorest region of Iraq, Kurdistan is now its most prosperous, insulated from the insurgency and sectarian violence in the south by its mountains and stable government.

For now the region largely depends on receiving 17 percent of the national budget, but the regional government estimates there are about 45 billion barrels of oil reserves in the north,
most of it as yet untapped.

Oil majors, analysts say, are expected to follow the lead of Exxon Mobil and sign exploration and production deals with the regional government. This should help to raise production, estimated to reach 175,000 barrels per day this year, to 1 million bpd by 2015.

Kurdish oil exports are pumped into the Iraqi national pipeline system, but relations between the Kurds and Baghdad have been dogged for years by rows over late payments for crude oil,
the legality of the regional government's oil deals and disputed territory.

Add to that the traditional distrust of Baghdad following Saddam's atrocities, the present political infighting in the capital and risk of renewed sectarian violence, and the Kurds
feel they are right to look after their own interests. That means the regional government becoming less reliant on Baghdad.

One pipeline pumping about 60,000 bpd already feeds directly from Kurdistan's Tawke oilfield into the main pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, and more are due to follow.

"Turkey is our port to Europe and the West," said a regional government official who declined to be named. "It is a member of NATO, and one day could join the European Union. It is a much better option than Baghdad or Iran."

With an economy growing at 8 percent last year, Turkey is hungry for energy and values a fast-growing market on its doorstep where it can sell its manufactured goods.

From the construction firms putting up new five-star hotels to accommodate Western oil executives flocking to the region, to banks, retailers and restaurants, more than half the foreign companies in Iraqi Kurdistan are Turkish. About 80 percent of goods sold in the region are made in Turkey.

Iraq as a whole is now Turkey's second biggest export market after Germany, selling more than $8 billion of goods last year. But according to Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, about 70 percent of Turkey's exports to Iraq are to the north. If the Kurdistan region were a country it would still be Turkey's eighth biggest export market.

A war of words between Erdoğan and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has also drawn Turkey closer to the Kurds. Erdoğan has warned that Turkey would not remain silent if a sectarian conflict erupts in Iraq. Maliki has accused Erdoğan of meddling.

Turkey has heavily courted the Kurds, along with Iraq's Sunni Arab parties in recent years, analysts said, but Maliki and Shi'ite parties remain allied to Iran.
Strategic Alliance
Involving Turkey in the economy of Iraqi Kurdistan may not be enough to ensure Ankara's enduring support, particularly while its soldiers are being killed by PKK militants whose
leaders are based in the mountains of northern Iraq.

"For 30 years, we have paid a very heavy price for the terror directed here because of the lack of authority in Iraq, especially northern Iraq," Erdoğan told his parliamentary deputies on Tuesday.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union all classify the PKK as a terrorist organization. Turkey has staged 28 operations into northern Iraq in pursuit of the PKK in the last 20 years, Kurdish officials said, so it is in the regional government's interests to help solve the problem if it is to seek closer ties with Turkey.

The regional government, made up of pro-Western conservative parties led by landowners, has little natural sympathy with the PKK, a group with Marxist roots. But a military move against the Turkish Kurd militants by the regional government's forces would be extremely unpopular with Iraqi Kurds, and in any case when the two sides have clashed in the past the PKK have generally come out on top.

While Erdoğan has granted some Kurdish language and cultural rights in Turkey to try to de-link the "Kurdish problem" from the "terrorism problem," secret peace talks between the Turkish state and the PKK broke down last year, Turkish media said.

Masoud Barzani, the regional president, and the government are working behind the scenes to bring the two sides back to negotiations, said a second official who also declined to be named.

"I think violence only brings catastrophe," Barzani said when asked about efforts to mediate between Turkey and the PKK. "I cannot call it a mediating role, but both sides know our
view very clearly ... We only see a peaceful solution to this and the moment there is a need to follow a peaceful approach then we are ready to do whatever we can," he said in a recent

"Turkey is the key alliance for us, politically and economically," said the second government official. "It is a strategic alliance for us, mutually beneficial for both sides."


Turkey to Bring Iraqi Shiite, Sunni Groups Together in Istanbul

Turkey is planning to bring leading figures from Iraq's divided Sunni and Shiite communities together in İstanbul in late February to ease increasingly escalating sectarian tensions in the war-torn country amid its worst political crisis since the United States invasion in 2003.

Last month, the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc banned lawmakers and government ministers from Parliament and Cabinet sessions after the Shiite-led government issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi on terrorism charges. The boycott brought the government to a standstill and plunged the country into a political crisis just days after the U.S. completed its military withdrawal in mid-December. The sectarian political fight has been accompanied by a surge in violence, killing more than 300 people since then and raising fears of a civil war.

The specter of civil war in Iraq has pushed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to call Iraq's Sunni and Shiite community leaders to Turkey and the Turkish Foreign Ministry has already started preparations for the conference, aimed at reducing tensions between rival sectarian groups, the Turkish daily Sabah reported Wednesday.

Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a leading Shiite cleric, has already agreed to send his representative, who will be presiding over Shiite clerics. Turkey will be moderating the conference, during which Sunnis and Shiites will work out ways to bury hostilities.

Turkey's message will be delivered by Religious Affairs Directorate head Mehmet Görmez. Turkey will also call on all groups to assume responsibility for ending violence in the country. Al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups are thought to be exploiting sectarian tensions in the wake of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to marginalize the Sunni minority and cement his own grip on power.

Al-Maliki's security forces have launched a widespread crackdown on Sunni politicians, detaining hundreds for alleged ties to the deposed Baath Party. Al-Hashimi, a Sunni, fled to the safety of the Kurdish semiautonomous zone after he was charged with running death squads during the height of the war.

Turkey has been critical of the Iraqi prime minister for stoking sectarian tensions in Iraq and ties between the two nations became significantly strained after Maliki accused Erdoğan of interfering in Iraq's internal affairs.

Turkey is planning to establish a dialogue mechanism between Sunnis and Shiites in the country that will facilitate consultations. Another goal of Turkey is to form an institutional organization that will bring together all segments of society in the region.


Turkish Prime Minister Mocks American Author, Calls Him 'Ignorant'

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan derided American writer Paul Auster as "ignorant" and said the fact his criticism of Turkey was shared by the main opposition and some newspapers was "grave."

"Author Paul Auster gave an interview to a Turkish newspaper recently. He said he will not come to Turkey as he finds it anti-democratic and because of arrested journalists. Oh! We were much in need of you!" Erdoğan said during a party meeting Wednesday.

Criticizing Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the newspapers for giving credit to Auster's statements, Erdoğan asked, "Will Turkey lose altitude if you don't come?"

Recalling that Auster joined a book fair in 2010 in Israel, where he described the country as a "secular, democratic country," Erdoğan slammed the American writer for being unaware of the fact Israel was a non-secular state and had killed thousands of innocent people in the Gaza Strip.

"I am sure Kılıçdaroğlu and Auster will join together for this year's book fair in Israel," he said.

Erdoğan dismissed mounting international criticism over press freedom in Turkey as a "smear campaign" and insisted the judiciary acted independently. He maintained that some of the journalists currently in jail were involved in violent activities and were linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.


At Least Free Speech Exists in Israel, American Writer Tells Erdogan

U.S. novelist Paul Auster released a statement Thursday following Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's comments on the author's earlier criticism of freedom of speech in Turkey, the New York Times reported.

"Whatever the prime minister might think about the state of Israel, the fact is that free speech exists there and no writers or journalists are in jail. According to the latest numbers gathered by International PEN, there are nearly one hundred writers imprisoned in Turkey, not to speak of independent publishers such as Ragip Zarakolu, whose case is being closely watched by PEN Centers around the world," Auster said in his statement.

"All countries are flawed and beset by myriad problems, Mr. Prime Minister, including my United States, including your Turkey, and it is my firm conviction that in order to improve conditions in our countries, in every country, the freedom to speak and publish without censorship or the threat of imprisonment is a sacred right for all men and women."

Erdoğan derided Auster, saying he was "ignorant" and that his criticism of Turkey was shared by the main opposition and some newspapers was "grave."

"Author Paul Auster gave an interview to a Turkish newspaper recently. He said he will not come to Turkey as he finds it anti-democratic and because of arrested journalists. Oh! We were much in need of you!" Erdoğan said during a party meeting Wednesday.

Recalling that Auster joined a book fair in 2010 in Israel where he described Israel as a "secular, democratic country," Erdoğan slammed the American writer for being unaware of the fact Israel was a non-secular state and had killed thousands of innocent people in the Gaza Strip. "I am sure Kılıçdaroğlu and Auster will join together for this year's book fair in Israel," he added.


Debate on Religion Takes Over Politics in Ankara

Political squabbles over religion simmered in Ankara Wednesday as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asserted that raising devout generations was part of his Justice and Development Party's, or AKP, mission.

"Do you expect the conservative democrat AKP to raise atheist generations? This may be your business and objective, but not ours. We will raise a generation that is conservative and democratic and embraces the values and historical principles of its nation," Erdoğan said at an AKP gathering.

His remarks came in response to criticism by Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who called the premier a "religion-monger" and accused him of fomenting divisions among people along religious lines. The row was triggered by the application of a CHP deputy to the Council of State seeking the cancelation of a regulation that put graduates of imam-hatip religious high schools on equal par with others at university entrance exams.

Brushing aside CHP accusations that the judiciary had become a government puppet, Erdoğan said constitutional amendments approved at a referendum in 2010 had marked a "turning point" in reforming the judiciary.

"The judiciary is not under government command. It is being purified from your militant mentality," he said.

In a bizarre remark to Kılıçdaroğlu, he added: "You are now under the magnifying glass. Every step you make and even every breath you take is monitored by the nation."

Erdoğan's comments triggered an angry response from the CHP, with the party's Deputy Group Chair Emine Ülker Tarhan suggesting Erdoğan's "anger fits" could be the side effect of his health problems.

"Those are fascist views. He is talking total nonsense and should change his advisers," Tarhan told the Hürriyet Daily News. "He has a society pattern on his mind. They are trying to design society according to their despotic mentality. Designing the judiciary, the military and now designing family life – that's too much, too much even for the prime minister."

Tarhan insisted the judiciary had become "an army with a chain of command" under government control. A former judge, Tarhan said she was proud to be "a militant of democracy and judicial independence."

In further comments Wednesday, Erdoğan hailed a move by French parliamentarians to appeal a law that would outlaw the denial of Armenian "genocide" but raised alarm over "the sly rise of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia" in Europe.

He argued the bill was the product of this phenomenon and called on the European Union to act. "The European Union must take measures as a top priority on its agenda," he said.


Coup Leaders Must be Tried as Example, Gul Says

Turkey needs to make a judicial example out of the two surviving architects of the 1980 coup to serve as a deterrent against future military takeovers, President Abdullah Gül told reporters Wednesday in Dubai.

The [trials] show the kind of country Turkey has turned into. Everyone ought to know their [proper] area [of authority], their constitutional limits. No one is going to arrogate any de facto powers to himself," Gül said, adding that the true importance of trying Gen. Kenan Evren and Gen. Tahsin Şahinkaya lies in deterrence.

Last month, an Ankara court accepted an indictment to try Evren and Şahinkaya for their role in the 1980 coup. The trial against the pair will begin April 4.

Coups were committed in the past when the perception was that the state of things would never change, Gül said, adding that such trials were significant in preventing a repeat of such events.
Gül also rebuffed a journalist who inquired about a photograph of the president with Evren in the Çankaya Presidential Palace.

"Regardless of whatever you have to say, is he not a former president? He represented Turkey for all that time," Gül said, adding that the laws would determine whether or not Evren, who was president of Turkey from 1980 to 1989, ought to be tried at the Supreme Council, the name assumed by Turkey's Constitutional Court when it oversees a criminal case.

Meanwhile, Gül said the continued imprisonment of eight deputies did not indicate the presence of a problem between the judiciary and the legislative branch, he said.

"Of course, this is a problem of ours that is definitely awaiting a resolution. There are various lawsuits filed against elected deputies. As such, they could not take the [Parliamentary] oath and start their [term of service]. [Finding] a solution to this [matter] is undoubtedly important," Gül said.

Gül also reiterated earlier statements and said judicial processes should be expedited and that arrest periods should not be turned into actual penalties.

The democratic initiative has also never faded out of view, Gül said, adding that Turkey had to solve the problem in order to gain a stronger position on the world stage. The president vehemently denied the existence of any semblance between Turkey's Kurdish issue and the "Arab Spring."

"Issues that everyone complains about should undoubtedly fade away through the raising of our democratic standards. It would only honor us for our citizens to exercise their rights as in the most developed countries," he said.


Last Trial Dating Back to Military Coup Ends

A 30-year case into the now defunct far-left Revolutionary Path, or Dev-Yol, ended without convictions Wednesday as the Court of Appeals dropped the proceedings against the suspects due to the statute of limitations.

Ekrem Ertuğrul, the chief judge of the court's 6th Criminal Chamber, announced that the decision was made unanimously, as relatives of the 21 defendants greeted the ruling in tears. The decision covered 20 defendants, while a lower court is expected to enforce the statute of limitations for one remaining defendant due to a legal technicality.

The defense welcomed the ruling but voiced frustration that the suspects were not acquitted.

"Justice delayed is justice denied. The statute of limitations is a shadow that blurs the truth. We wanted acquittal because that should have been the only outcome in a trial in which the charges were brought as a result of unlawful interrogations and torture," defense attorney Şenal Sarıhan said.

"All suspects who stood trial in this case will be remembered as dignified people who carry the pride of having fought fascism," said one of the defendants, Cahit Akçam. "Our only solace is that no one is going back to jail."

The case began in 1982 at a martial court in the wake of the 1980 military coup on charges that the defendants committed murders and other violent acts in a bid to overthrow Turkey's constitutional order. The trial began with 574 suspects but their number soon reached 723 as the military regime pursued a massive crackdown on leftist movements.

In 1989, the court sentenced seven people to death and 39 to life in prison. The ruling, however, was quashed by the Appeals Court and the retrial resulted in 22 death sentences.

Turkey's abolition of the death penalty in 2001 prompted another retrial, in which 20 suspects were sentenced to life in prison and two others received 16-year jail terms. Another appeal followed, while, in the meantime, one of the defendants passed away.

The case was allegedly marred by the torture of suspects, flagrant breaches of the right to defense and the loss of documents and files.


Turkey Concerned by Sharp Escalation of Violence in Syria

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or MFA, said Wednesday that they were concerned by the sharp escalation of violence in Syria.

In a statement released Wednesday, the MFA said: "We are deeply concerned by the sharp escalation of the Syrian administration's acts of violence against its own people and the consequent loss of lives. At this juncture, the atmosphere of violence and lack of confidence in the country has reached such a level that forced the Arab League to suspend the activities of its Observer Mission.

"It has now become indefeasibly imperative for all sides to act with the sense of responsibility in order to ensure the peace and security of the Syrian people as well as regional peace, stability and security; in addition to the opening up the way for a peaceful political transition process in Syria," the MFA said.

"In this context, it is expected that the UN Security Council, in coordination and consultation with the Arab League, focuses in all seriousness on the situation in Syria and gives the necessary message to the Syrian Administration in order to stop this acute course of events."


Sarkozy to Re-Draft Genocide Bill, if Rejected, Ministers Say

President Nicolas Sarkozy will immediately submit a new draft of a law punishing denial of the Armenian genocide if France's top judicial body rejects it, two ministers told the AFP Wednesday.

"The president told us in cabinet that he would immediately submit a new draft if there is a rejection by the Constitutional Council" of a bill approved recently by the French Parliament, said one of the ministers, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another minister said Sarkozy had also criticized those in the Cabinet who had opposed the bill, saying they "did not see past the ends of their noses." He said a rejection of the bill by the Constitutional Council could open the door to questioning a law that penalizes denial of the Holocaust.

After being approved by the National Assembly and Senate, the law was put on hold Tuesday after politicians opposed to the legislation demanded that its constitutionality be examined.

Two separate groups of French politicians who oppose the legislation -- from both the Senate and the lower house -- said they had formally requested the Constitutional Council examine the law.

The groups said they each had gathered more than the minimum 60 signatures required to ask the council to test the law's constitutionality.

The council is obliged to deliver its judgment within a month, but this can be reduced to eight days if the government deems the matter urgent.

Turkey reacted furiously last week when the Senate approved the law, which threatens with jail anyone in France who denies that the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces amounted to genocide.

Ankara has already halted political and military cooperation with France and was threatening to cut off economic and cultural ties if the law took effect.

Despite government backing of the law, at least two ministers, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire, have spoken out against the bill.


U.S. Deals Blow to PKK Terrorist Organization

The Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, of the United States Department of the Treasury on Wednesday declared Zeyneddin Geleri, Cerkez Akbulut and Omer Boztepe residing in Moldova as Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker, or SDNT, and individuals with connections to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Turkey.

OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin said their decision draws attention to international drug trafficking and the financing of terrorism through the sale of illicit drugs.

Our decision is a warning to all those who threaten the national security of the United States and its allies, Szubin said.

After OFAC's decision on Wednesday, the aforementioned names with links to the PKK may face a penalty of $1.075 million and up to 30 years in prison.


U.S. Tasked Turkey with Impeding Iran's Policies, Iranian Official Says

A key aide to Iran's supreme leader claimed on Tuesday that Washington has tasked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey with directing regional developments against Iran's policies.

"The United States has given a role to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to direct regional developments in a way that they move towards these countries' interests in line with U.S. policies and contrary to Iran's policies," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's military adviser Maj. Gene. Yahya Rahim-Safavi told Iran's Fars News Agency, or FNA, on Tuesday.

Owing to the fact that Iran's Islamic Revolution serves as a role model for the region and the world in the fight against the tyranny of rulers and arrogant powers, the U.S. and its allies are attempting to prevent Tehran's further political influence in the region, he added, according to FNA.

Iran sent several subtle indicators of their mounting unease with Turkey's announced intention to host NATO's early-warning radar system. The several threats Iranian officials have made in the past few months were the latest example of bust-ups between Ankara and Tehran. In a sign of Iran's growing frustration, Hussein Ibrahim, the vice president of the Iranian parliamentary national security and foreign policy panel, said in an interview with the Iranian daily Shargh last month that it is Iran's natural right to target the missile defense shield system in Turkey in case of an attack, and "we will definitely resort to that."

Turkey pointedly ramped up its public warnings last month about Iran's threats, accompanied by private warnings to Iran delivered by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi. Rahim-Safavi's remarks were the latest an Iranian official has made against Turkey and there were no immediate reports of whether the Iranian government had distanced itself from the statement. Senior Iranian official also said, according to some reports, the Qatar administration has given Turkey billions of dollars to destabilize Syria.

In earlier remarks against Turkey by Iranian officials, Salehi told Davutoğlu that those statements reflect only officials' personal opinions and are not Iran's official position.


Macedonian Prime Minister Says Turkey Important Strategic Partner

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said on Wednesday that Turkey was the most important strategic partner of Macedonia.

Macedonian Premier Gruevski attended the Turkey-Macedonia Trade and Investment Forum in the western province of Izmir. Delivering a speech at the opening of the forum, Gruevski said perfect political relations between Turkey and Macedonia would also contribute to improvement of economic relations.

Turkey has become a regional power and contributed to peace and stability in the international platform, he said. Turkey also extended great support to Macedonia, he said.

Gruevski said that Macedonia signed free trade agreements with all European Union countries and Turkey, stating that trade volume between Turkey and Macedonia rose to 400 million U.S. dollars with the free trade agreement. Macedonia was supporting an objective set by businessmen to increase the trade volume to $1 billion, he said.

Macedonian Minister Without Portfolio Hadi Neziri said that Macedonian government attached a great importance to Turkey. More than 100 Turkish companies had investments in Macedonia, he added.


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