President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport ahead of his departure for the Vatican on Sunday that he saw his official visit to the Vatican as a "significant opportunity' to convey messages of peace.
President Erdoğan is scheduled to pay an official visit to the Vatican and Rome on Sunday and Monday. His visit will be the first Turkish presidential trip to the Vatican in 59 years.
"I see this visit as a significant opportunity to draw attention to common human values, giving friendship and peace messages,” Erdoğan told reporters at Istanbul's Ataturk International Airport ahead of his departure for the Vatican.
Erdoğan went on to outline the issues he will discuss with Pope Francis during his official visit.
“We will discuss Palestine, Jerusalem, Syria, Iraq, counterterrorism, refugee issues, humanitarian aid,” he said.
Erdoğan said that since Pope Francis was the spiritual leader of the Catholic world in 2013, he played a very active role in ongoing issues which have won the general approval of the international community.
“We especially welcomed his stance on the Jerusalem issue. We spoke several times over the phone during this period. His positive stance really mattered to show us what we can jointly do together with him as the Christian world’s leader."
Along with Erdoğan, Pope Francis was one of the most prominent international leaders to criticize the U.S. decision last December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“We will also exchange views on rising Islamophobia in the west and fighting cultural racism,” he added.
During his two-day official visit Erdogan will also meet his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella for a working luncheon in Rome and and then separately Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
During the meetings, the leaders will discuss cooperation in various areas, including economy and defense industry.
Also expected to be covered are the latest developments in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, Jerusalem, Turkish-EU relations, anti-terror cooperation and irregular migration.
Erdoğan said he hoped the trade volume between Turkey and Italy would increase from $20 billion to $30 billion by 2020.
"During my visit, we will also discuss the mutual steps to be taken towards this goal," he said.
Additionally, President Erdoğan said the number of "neutralized" terrorists had reached 935 since the launch of Operation Olive Branch in Syria's Afrin on Jan. 20.