President Lee Myung-bak will embark on a weeklong visit to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates this weekend, his office said Monday, a trip expected to focus on enhancing economic cooperation, especially Seoul’s efforts to diversify sources of crude imports.
The trip comes as South Korea prepares to reduce its crude oil imports from Iran in line with a U.S.-led campaign to dry up the Middle Eastern nation’s oil exports revenues as punishment and pressure over its alleged nuclear weapons.
Lee is scheduled to arrive in Turkey on Saturday for a four-day visit that includes talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan about trade expansion, infrastructure construction and other issues of cooperation, the presidential office said.
During a summit on the sidelines of November’s G20 summit in Cannes of France, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan asked for South Korea’s participation in the project, raising the prospect of resuming stalled negotiations.
In 2010, South Korea and Turkey held intense negotiations on the $20 billion project to build four nuclear reactors on Turkey’s Black Sea coast. But the negotiations were suspended after the sides failed to work out key differences. Japan had been expected to win the project. But Turkey’s talks with Japan have reportedly been halted since March’s nuclear power plant accident in Japan in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami.
Lee will visit Saudi Arabia on Feb. 7-9 for talks with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz about boosting cooperation in energy, construction, defense and health care areas, the presidential office said. Separate meetings with the Saudi defense and oil ministers are also scheduled.
On Feb. 9, Lee will visit Qatar for summit talks with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. The agenda includes expanding cooperation in trade, energy, construction and health care as well as such global issues as climate change and green growth, the office said.
On the way home, Lee will make a stopover in the United Arab Emirates for a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi about increasing economic cooperation, the office said.