Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pope Francis are expected to discuss bilateral relations, developments on Jerusalem, Syria, regional issues and fight against terrorism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said that he saw his official visit to the Vatican as a “significant opportunity” to convey messages of peace.
Erdogan is scheduled to pay an official visit to the Vatican and Rome on February 4-5, the presidential press office said on Thursday.
His visit will be the first Turkish presidential trip to the Vatican in 59 years.
“I see this visit as a significant opportunity to draw attention to common human values, giving friendship and peace messages,” Erdogan told reporters at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport ahead of his departure for the Vatican.
Erdogan will meet with Pope Francis as well as Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, said a statement by the office.
Erdogan said he would discuss Palestine, Jerusalem, Syria, Iraq, counterterrorism, refugee issues, humanitarian aid with Pope Francis during his official visit.
“We will also exchange views on rising Islamophobia in the West and fighting cultural racism,” he said.
“The Pope and the President Erdogan will be together talking with one voice for Jerusalem as a holy city and for developing the peace in all the world especially in the Middle East,” said Bishop of Istanbul, Ruben Tierrablanca Gonzalez.
Along with Erdogan, Francis was one of the most prominent international leaders to criticise the US decision last December to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
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Following his visit, Erdogan will meet his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella at a working luncheon in Rome including Italian Deputy Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
Erdogan said he hoped the trade volume between Turkey and Italy would increase from $20 billion to $30 billion by 2020.
“During my visit, we will also discuss the mutual steps to be taken towards this goal,” he said.
During the meetings, the leaders will discuss cooperation in various areas, including politics, the economy, and the defence industry.
“Our strategic partner and ally Italy, with which we enjoy excellent relations, is also one of the leading economic partners of our country. President Erdogan is also expected to receive executives of leading Italian firms during his visit to Rome,” the statement added.
Also expected to be covered are the latest developments in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, Jerusalem, Turkish-EU relations, cooperation against terrorism, and irregular migration.
Erdogan said the number of “neutralised” militants had reached 935 since the launch of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin on January 20.