The Maldives and Türkiye have inked a trade and economic cooperation agreement, formalised in Ankara, following high-level discussions between President Mohamed Muizzu and his Türkiye’s counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Muizzu, on his inaugural official visit overseas, arrived in Türkiye on 26 November, leading a top-tier government delegation. Originally, Saudi Arabia was slated as his first official visit destination, but due to undisclosed circumstances, the trip was deferred, and Türkiye was chosen instead.

The “Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation Between the Government of the Republic of the Maldives and the Government of the Republic of Türkiye” was signed by the Maldives’ Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Mohamed Saeed, and Turkish Minister of Trade Ömer Bolat. Further details of the agreement are yet to be disclosed.

During the official talks, Muizzu emphasised the robust bilateral partnership between the Maldives and Türkiye, expressing his intent to expand cooperation into new areas, including trade, investment, renewable energy, and higher education. He expressed his deep gratitude to Erdoğan and the people of Türkiye for their support in various areas of socio-economic development.

Erdoğan congratulated Muizzu on his election victory and inauguration as the President of the Maldives. He expressed his honour and the honour of the people of Türkiye by saying that Muizzu chose Türkiye for his first official visit as President of the Maldives. He also expressed confidence that the visit would usher in a new era in bilateral relations between Türkiye and the Maldives.

During the discussions, the two leaders highlighted various areas in which relations could be further strengthened and agreed on a roadmap for strengthening bilateral relations, the President’s Office said.

Following the official talks, the Türkiye government has offered 30 scholarship opportunities for Maldivian students, announced President Muizzu at his meeting with the Maldivian community. The scholarship applications will commence in January 2024.

While in Türkiye, Muizzu met with the Maldivian community residing in the country, pledging to address the challenges faced by Maldivians living abroad. The community specifically highlighted the absence of a Maldivian embassy in Türkiye and the constraints faced due to the U.S. dollar transaction limit imposed by the Bank of Maldives (BML), which he pledged to resolve in line with his presidential campaign promises.

President Muizzu, during his official visit to Türkiye, also met several high-ranking Türkiye officials, including the Vice President Cevdet Yilmaz; the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mehmet Nuri Ersoy; the Vice President of Türkiye’s Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges, Faik Yavuz; and the President of Turks Abroad and Related Communities of Türkiye, Abdullah Eren.

First Lady Sajidha Mohamed, accompanying President Muizzu on the visit, signed the ‘Global Commitment to Zero Waste for the World, Our Common Home’ initiative following her meeting with Türkiye’s First Lady Emine Erdogan. Mrs Erdogan leads the “Zero Waste” initiative, which received a U.N. General Assembly resolution last year.President Muizzu is scheduled to conclude his visit to Türkiye on 29 November.

Additional reporting by Ibrahim H. Shihab