Manama: Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa is making an official visit to Turkey, the first by an Arab leader to Ankara since the failed coup last month.

During the visit upon the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two leaders “will hold talks on the historic bilateral ties and means to develop cooperation in all fields, and will also discuss the latest regional and international developments,” Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

Information Affairs Minister Ali Bin Mohammad Al Romaihi said the visit represented “an important step to consolidate strategic relations based on mutual respect, religious and cultural links, the shared keenness on the security of the Arabian Gulf region and the rejection of foreign interference in internal affairs”.

In a statement to Anadolu Agency, Al Romaihi said that King Hamad’s visit to Ankara in August 2008 was a major boost to political, economic, trade, cultural and security relations.

Al Romaihi said there were ample opportunities to boost joint economic and trade cooperation between Manama and Ankara.

“The volume of trade exchanges soared from $23.2 million in 1999 to $330 million, and reached $160 million in the first half of 2016,” he said.

According to updated figures released by the Turkish Statistical Institute, Bahrain’s exports to Turkey soared from $12.4 million to $104.4 million while Turkish exports grew steadily, soaring from $10.7 million to $225.3 million.

In 2000, only 491 Bahrainis visited Turkey but their number has since grown steadily to exceed 23,400 in 2015.

Turkey’s ambassador to Bahrain Hatun Demirer hailed the visit as “highly significant”.

“Certainly His Majesty the King’s visit is very important especially during this period because my country has faced a lot of difficult times – first there were back-to-back terror attacks and lately there was the coup attempt which was a big distress that my country had to deal with,” she said. “Like any country or nation we expect to see our friends stand right beside us, and Bahrain was one of them, the first one.”

Demirer, the second woman ambassador from Turkey to Bahrain, told BNA there were ample opportunities for both countries.

“The Turkish economy is steadily growing. It is the sixth largest economy in Europe and the 17th largest economy in the world. Bahrain has also immense opportunities for the business world, an on-going development programme and wide spectrum of immense opportunities. It is also one of the most business-friendly countries in this region. The aluminum sector and the petrochemical sectors are among the most advanced in the world. Ina addition, Bahrain has the best financial and banking sectors. The private sectors in the two countries should seize these opportunities,” she said.