Bukele makes the first visit of a Salvadoran president to Turkey – Middle East Monitor


Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele landed in Turkey last Wednesday, January 19, to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The following day, the two leaders signed an agreement worth $100 million, including trade and investment in defence, energy and infrastructure, immediately after the inauguration of the Salvadoran embassy in Ankara. In a press conference, Bukele pointed out: “We already have agreements almost done to build new ports by a Turkish company, to build a geothermal power plant by a Turkish company and to buy military equipment from Turkish companies… Then we have another meeting with another company that is going to help us build our first satellite, so we can send it into space; the first Salvadoran satellite, but with Turkish technology.”

Bukele and Erdogan’s common goal is to expand bilateral trade up to $500 million over the next five years. The two leaders also announced a new Turkish embassy in El Salvador and an upcoming official visit by Erdogan to the Latin American country. According to Bukele, it aims to improve his country’s position as a logistics hub for the entire region. El Salvador, the 40-year-old president added, has been exploring opportunities to win Turkish investment, especially in energy and tourism, thanks to the strategic advantages enjoyed by the Salvadoran coastline – also known as Surf City.

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele during a press conference in San Salvador on January 5, 2022. [Camilo Freedman/Getty Images]

Bukele was elected as the candidate of the so-called center-right Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA), becoming the first Salvadoran president whose origins lie outside the nationalist establishment that had ruled the country since 1988. Bukele has Palestinian roots, as the grandson of Christians from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The Salvadoran president also became the first head of state to visit Turkey in 72 years of diplomatic relations.

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A Turkish statement claimed that the Salvadoran tour had achieved the following objectives:

  • Signature of six new agreements to strengthen bilateral cooperation in trade, economy, defence, education, diplomacy and maritime rights.
  • Opening of the El Salvador Embassy in the Turkish capital, Ankara, and announcement of the upcoming opening of the Turkish Embassy in San Salvador.
  • Expansion of trade from $50 million to $500 million in the next five years.
  • Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) and the Republic of El Salvador.
  • Agreement on cooperation in maritime law signed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador and the National Center for the Sea and Maritime Law of the University of Ankara.

Erdogan’s approach to foreign policy

Bukele’s visit fits Turkey’s aspirations to expand ties with Latin America, as one of the pillars of its new multidimensional foreign policy. In just 15 years, the Turkish presence in the region has grown from six to 17 diplomatic missions.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (C) and Salvadoran Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill (3-R) during the opening ceremony of the Salvadoran Embassy in Ankara on January 20, 2022 [Cem Özdel/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated: “In 2002, we had six Turkish embassies throughout Latin America; the South American embassies in our country were also six. Now with the Salvadoran embassy there are 16 [Latin American] embassies in Turkey, and we will expand our presence in Latin America to at least 18 missions, with the next embassy in San Salvador”.

Ankara intends to strengthen its diplomatic relations with the whole region since the last presidential elections in Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, Argentina, Mexico and El Salvador, which changed the tendencies of subordination to the United States government. Brazil’s elections next October are also expected to change the political landscape in Latin America, with former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva well ahead in the polls.

Erdogan gave Bukele two of his books: “The World is Bigger than Five” and “It is possible to create a fairer world”. The Turkish leader hinted that his literary agent also had Palestinian roots, as did the relatively young Salvadoran president. This fact, according to Erdogan, gave new meaning to the whole agenda.

Simon Khoury, director of the Palestinian Federation in Latin America and member of the Palestinian National Council, expressed his optimism regarding the current relations between El Salvador and Palestine:

“Of course, this visit disrupts relations between El Salvador and the occupying Zionist power. The reason is that the Turkish Republic does not shy away from its commitment to the Palestinian people and condemns the occupation in international forums.

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Khoury pointed out that the first wave of immigration to El Salvador consisted of 100,000 to 120,000 Palestinians. In 2018, the Palestinian community represented 1 to 1.5% of the Salvadoran population, according to a study commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior. Plus, it’s a fierce and cohesive community. The Palestinian people – both at home and in exile – seem to expect the current affairs of Sheikh Jarrah to be on the table as well. Ankara is racing for influence with its Arab neighbours, not only as a commercial hub but also in strategic foreign policy terms. The Salvadoran rapprochement proves it, because it accords with the aggressive presence of the monarchies allied to the Zionists in Latin America.

According to Prensa Latina, Bukele’s next stop is the United Arab Emirates, as part of an international program for 2022, recently approved by the Legislative Assembly, including visits to Spain, France, South Korea, Singapore , Russia and Italy.

The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.


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