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INTERNATIONAL > Turkey quits EXPO 2015, shocking Italy

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News

Italy is left bewildered after Turkey abruptly pulls out of next year’s expo in Milan, amid rumors of either Turkish anger at Rome’s failure to endorse İzmir’s Expo 2020 bid or a lack of finances

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Serkan Demirtaş Serkan Demirtaş serkan.demirtas@hdn.com.tr

Turkey has decided not to participate in Expo 2015, the world’s largest public exhibition, which will take place in Milan next year, despite signing a Participation Protocol with Italy in 2012.

Turkey’s unexpected decision shocked Italy, which was notified of the Turkish government’s decision last week without an official reason, although the decision was made after Italy failed to back İzmir’s bid to host Expo 2020, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

“We will most probably not participate in the expo. The decision is not political,” a Turkish diplomatic source confirmed to the Daily News. The Italian side, however, is still hopeful Turkey will change its mind and participate in the expo, but did not hide their disappointment with Ankara’s decision.

Although no official reason has been cited, one of the reasons of the cancellation could be Italy’s backing of Dubai for the Expo 2020 bid, although Italy had promised to support İzmir for the same competition. İzmir lost to Dubai in the fierce competition to host Expo 2020.

The decision is believed to have been made by the Prime Minister’s Office or by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as sources indicated the Foreign Ministry was not at all aware of the main reason behind Turkey’s non-participation. Turkey’s decision not to attend the world fair was conveyed to Italy last week when the country was heavily engaged in forming a government in order to overcome a domestic political crisis. As such, diplomatic sources said the new government under Matteo Renzi would likely approach the Turkish government to change its mind about participating in Expo 2015.

İzmir and Milan had competed for the 2015 Expo, which ended with the Italian city’s victory. Turkey and Italy signed a Participation Protocol in 2012 for the expo that will take place between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2015. The official Expo 2015 website still cites Turkey as among the participants of the world’s largest fair, at which countries promote their culture, history and tourism.

One other, but less probable, reason for not participating could be economic, although the participation cost is only around $15 million.

The decision could come as a surprise for many Turkish officials as well, as Turkey’s participation in Expo 2015 has been one of the issues President Abdullah Gül raised during an official trip to Italy in late January.

Italy, Turkey’s best friend in the EU

Italy and Turkey have largely enjoyed very good relations in recent times, as the former has traditionally been an advocate of Turkish accession to the European Union. Italy will resume the term presidency of the EU on July 1, and will likely play a crucial role in managing the already damaged Ankara-Brussels relations.

February/20/2014

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