World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey and Japan have reiterated historic good relations with the opening of a tunnel through the Bosporus which links the two sides of Istanbul, straddling Asia and Europe.
Prime Ministers Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Shinzo Abe held a joint press conference on Tuesday after inaugurating the Marmaray, a subterranean rail system cutting travel time across the Bosporus to four minutes.
Erdogan and Abe asserted good ties between the two states, signing a partnership agreement on nuclear energy, science and technology.
The deal covers details on an ongoing nuclear power plant project undertaken by a Japanese-French consortium, among other projects.
Erdogan told journalists the two leaders discussed the last six months in bilateral relations, and attended meetings between Turkish and Japanese businesspeople.
He added that he sought Abe's support for the bid of Turkish province Izmir to host the 2020 Expo, a major world fair.
"We want to launch negotiations as soon as possible on a Free Trade Agreement," Erdogan said in hopes of significantly raising the current four billion dollar trade volume between the two countries.
Japanese Prime Minister Abe said he welcomed the agreement on nuclear energy cooperation, adding that his country was willing to deepen its strategic partnership with Turkey.
"It is our responsibility to contribute to the development of nuclear energy around the globe by sharing with the world the lessons we have learned from Fukushima," Abe said.
Erdogan explained plans were underway for Turkey and Japan to collaborate on the establishment of a science and technology university in Turkey, as well as a movie on friendly Turkey-Japan ties which tells the story of Ottoman frigate Ertugrul. The frigate sank on a goodwill voyage to Japan in 1890 after the country presented its highest state order to the Ottoman sultan. Over 500 sailors died in the accident.
Erdogan also thanked Abe for honoring his promise to attend the opening ceremony of the Marmaray tunnel after visiting Turkey in May.
Marmaray was partially put in service on October 29, marking the Turkish Republic's 90th anniversary. It is expected to give heavy Istanbul traffic much-needed relief.
The name of the rail project, realized by a Japanese-Turkish consortium, is a conflation of the words Marmara (from the Sea of Marmara in northwestern Turkey) and "ray," a Turkish word for rails.