ANKARA - Singapore and Turkey marked 50 years of bilateral relations on Monday (June 24), but official interactions between the two countries can be traced back to when the Ottoman Empire established the first Turkish Consulate in colonial-era Singapore in 1865, a hundred years before independence.
This observation was made by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin at a reception hosted by Singapore's Ambassador to Turkey, Mr Jonathan Tow, to celebrate ties between the two nations at the Singaporean embassy in Ankara on Monday.
Mr Tan was the guest of honour at the event alongside the Acting Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mr Levent Gök.
In a speech, Mr Tan said that Turkey is not just an old friend, but an important partner for Singapore.
"Our bilateral relations are being built on two important pillars, namely the Strategic Partnership and the Turkey-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. Through these two pillars, our economic ties will grow stronger in the years to come," he said.
Mr Tan said that people-to-people and cultural ties were just as important as developing strong economic ties, noting that archival agencies of the two countries have signed an agreement to jointly uncover past histories and old ties between Ottoman Turkey and Singapore.
"We hope that from this cooperation, we will be able to further enrich our knowledge, and people-to-people ties," he said.
Mr Tan expressed appreciation that former Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mr Ismail Kahraman, visited Singapore in 2016, underlining the nations' parliamentary friendship.
"I am glad that we can reciprocate with a visit this year, to continue this interaction and friendship," he said, adding that he looks forward to welcoming Speaker Mustafa Sentop and a Turkish delegation on a future Singapore visit.
Mr Tan is currently on an official visit to Turkey with MPs Teo Ho Pin, Fatimah Lateef, Chia Shi-Lu and Joan Pereira.
To mark the occasion, Mr Tan and the guests viewed an archival exhibition charting out key bilateral milestones between Singapore and Turkey. Mr Tan also presented to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs a framed copy of the 1969 Singapore Press Statement announcing the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Earlier in the day, Mr Tan and the Singapore delegation visited the Anitkabir, the mausoleum of the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, where he laid a wreath to pay formal respects on behalf of Singapore.
Subsequently, the delegation visited the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) for meetings and exchanges with Speaker Mustafa Sentop and Turkish parliamentarians. A Facebook post on the official page of the Parliament of Singapore said the parliamentarians exchanged ideas on parliamentary practices and spoke about the importance of broadening bilateral and parliamentary relations.
In a Facebook post on his own page on Monday, Mr Tan wrote: "Clearly, Singapore is held in high regard by many. The effort to maintain our good name and standing didn't happen overnight and cannot be taken for granted."
He underlined that the nation's diplomats work hard to do so, but there was little they could do if it was not backed by substance.
"A number of our friends here shared that they track and watch Singapore's development carefully. That we are well respected and trusted are recurrent themes. For sure we can still do better and improve but we have got some pretty good things going for the well being of all our peoples here in SG.
"When we have the chance to fly our flag abroad, I for one am so very proud to be a Singaporean," wrote Mr Tan.