(AA) — Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held the first official talks with his Cambodian counterpart in Phnom Penh on Monday, expressing Turkey’s support for Cambodia’s application as an observer in the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Cavusoglu and Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong also signed a visa exemption agreement for diplomats and special passport holders.
Cavusoglu arrived in Cambodia on Saturday and officially opened the Turkish Embassy in Phnom Penh on Sunday evening, holding a joint dinner with delegates from both countries.
It is the first time a Turkish foreign diplomat has visited Cambodia in an official capacity since diplomatic relations were established in 1970.
“Today I held a meeting with the foreign minister of Turkey for the first time,” Namhong said in a press conference at the ministry of foreign affairs. He added that discussions focused on “strengthening bilateral relations in every sphere,” including increases in investment and economic partnerships and parliamentary relations.
Cavusoglu is to meet with National Assembly president Heng Samrin on Monday afternoon.
Namhong thanked Turkey for hosting the Junior Diplomats Program, which a member of Cambodia’s foreign ministry will attend later this year after receiving a scholarship to go to Ankara.
In remarks to the media that largely echoed those of his counterpart, Cavusoglu lauded the two countries’ “conciliatory relations,” which he said was bolstered with the signing of the visa exemption deal.
“As one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is a rising actor and important partner for Turkey,” he said, adding that Turkey supports Cambodia’s observer status bid to join the OIC.
Namhong first expressed Cambodia’s interest in joining the 57-member group in November, during a meeting with Kuwaiti Ambassador Dherar Naser Al Tuwaijr.
“I will encourage Turkish Airlines to start its flights to Cambodia in the near future. It is seeking air rights in neighboring countries,” Cavusoglu added, before renewing his invitation for Namhong and a Cambodian delegation to pay a visit to Turkey as soon as possible.
Discussions also went beyond regional matters: both said they discussed the mounting terrorism threat in Iraq and Syria and roundly condemned Daesh, with Namhong criticizing them as un-Islamic while Cavusoglu called for the eradication of “terrorist” groups and efforts to combat the radicalization of fighters.