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Opening Istanbul center, OECD chief hail’s city’s potential for global cooperation

The Turkish metropolis Istanbul is in a unique position to contribute to global cooperation and dialogue as it physically bridges two continents and serves as a connection between Europe, Asia, and Africa, the top official of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the organization’s Istanbul Center, Secretary General Mathias Cormann said Türkiye has shown great generosity in the wake of humanitarian crises in the region, including by hosting more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees.

The center was opened in January 2021 and it was officially launched on Wednesday with a high-level participance in Istanbul.

Türkiye has also been an “incredibly effective facilitator” in the recently renewed Black Sea grain deal, said Cormann, adding that the initiative has enabled the export of over 25 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs from Ukraine, thus helping ensure millions of people worldwide have access to food and basic supplies.

A founding member of the OECD, Türkiye “has been a strong advocate for our instruments and policy best practices, especially towards South Eastern Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East and North Africa region,” he underlined.

The Istanbul Center will provide political support in many fields, including tax administration, insolvency and bankruptcy laws, integration of global supply chains, transport connectivity, and infrastructure development.

“The center will in particular connect original programs in Southeast Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle Eastern North Africa region, encouraging policy cooperation and dialogue among these regions,” highlighted Cormann.

In less than a year since the center started operating, it has already made important contributions to the OECD’s outreach efforts, he said, adding that the center has hosted eight major events, attracting participants from around the globe.

He also said the center will host a sustainable infrastructure program in Asia to provide policymakers with training and capacity building to transition towards sustainable energy, transport, and industry.

Noting that Türkiye has a long history of contributing to the OECD and to its global mission, the former Australian finance minister said the center would “be a hub for our global engagement, connecting several important regions enabling mutual learning and enhancing our capacity building efforts.”

On the twin devastating earthquakes that hit Türkiye and Syria in February, Cormann expressed his condolences for the tragic loss of life and for those who were injured.

“We continue to grieve with the families and friends of the victims of this terrible disaster, our hearts go out to the Turkish people,” he added.

The quakes affected around 13 million people in 11 provinces and caused more than 50,000 deaths.

Mehmet Mus, the Turkish trade minister, said Ankara attached great importance to the work of the OECD and noted that the country invested in the Istanbul Center’s establishment.

Mus said that the center already started to emerge as an important regional hub that can further strengthen the ties between the OECD and a wider region, including with non-OECD nations in the Balkans, Middle East, North Africa, and Eurasia.

“We strongly believe that the center will contribute to the knowledge accumulation and enable increased cooperation between the academics, R&D, and industry circles,” he said.

Touching on global and regional issues, such as the impact of the pandemic on the economy and connectivity, he said Türkiye was ready to support and contribute to the center’s efforts with all its institutions to help promote sustainable and inclusive development in the region.

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