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Turkish president visits Colombia to boost trade, cooperation

BOGOTA, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledge Tuesday to boost trade, defense and culture cooperation with Colombia in his two-day official visit to the nation.

The two countries aim to increase bilateral trade to 5 billion U.S. dollars a year by 2023, Santos said at a joint press conference after meeting with his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos.

"Ties have been clearly and forcefully strengthened," said Santos, noting Erdogan is the first Turkish head of state to visit Colombia. Santos became the first Colombian leader to visit Turkey in November 2011, shortly after the South American nation opened an embassy in Ankara.

The two signed a variety of agreements in matters of defense, trade and culture, including a memorandum of understanding between their Ministries of Commerce, Industry and Tourism respectively, and a letter of intent to promote the Turkish and Spanish languages in each country, and a three-year cultural cooperation program (2015-2018).

The head of states also announced that Turkey's leading carrier Turkish Airlines will launch direct flights to Colombia.

"As I told Erdogan earlier, I believe his visit is not only advantageous, but also very timely," Santos said, adding the presence of important Turkish companies in Colombia has attracted the interest of others in making investments.

Erdogan reiterated his support for the peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group, which have been fighting with each other for more than five decades.

In 2006, Turkey launched a policy of fostering closer ties with Latin America and the Caribbean countries, Colombia's Caracol news agency said.

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