"We realize the ever-growing importance of Turkey in the context of European and regional politics as it is visible in our commerce, as well as the development of investments and growth in the Moldovan economy," Bolboceanu told the agency in an exclusive interview Thursday.

Bolboceanu said that Turkey is the seventh-biggest exporter to Moldova and the ninth-largest importer from Moldova, a country of about 3.5 million people northeast of the Black Sea. He added that under a bilateral free trade agreement reached last November, numerous new opportunities opened up which will allow the intensification and significant growth in the volume of transactions that are "mutually advantageous".

"We are fairly optimistic that the volume of exchange goods will soon reach almost $1 billion. I also want to say that lately a rising number of Turkish businessmen are contacting our diplomatic mission to get more information about the business climate of my country, showing a great interest in establishing business contacts with potential business partners from the Republic of Moldova," Bolboceanu said.

Bolboceanu stressed that Moldova is developing policies which encourage businessmen from other states to invest in Moldova.

"Recently I made a work-related trip to Adana, famous like other regions of Turkey for its developed agriculture. I convinced myself that there exists an interest there in the Republic of Moldova, and on our fertile land there is place for a literally fruitful cooperation," he said.

"Also in order to support Turkish businessmen interested in doing business with the Republic of Moldova, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration has opened consulates of the Republic of Moldova in Bursa, Manisa, and Belek," Bolboceanu said.

25 years of Moldovan-Turkish relations

Bolboceanu said that when the Republic of Moldova declared its independence in 1991, Turkey was one of the first states to recognize it.

"I affirm with satisfaction that after the establishment of diplomatic relations, since Feb. 3, 1992, there has been a constructive political dialogue, at the level of heads of state and government, as well as inter-ministerial and interdepartmental, thus marking the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relations with a consistent bilateral agenda," he added.

Bolboceanu stressed that Turkey is a friend of Moldova, and a state with well-recognized economic, commercial, and technological achievements that can contribute to regional development and could effectively unite Europe and the Middle East.

"Of course, my country was stirred up by anti-constitutional bloody events that took place in Turkey in summer 2016, which were strongly condemned by the leadership of the Republic of Moldova on behalf of the entire Moldovan people, who wish for peace and prosperity in Turkey," Bolboceanu said, referring to the defeated July 2016 coup, which martyred 248 and injured nearly 2,200, and is blamed by Turkey on the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

Turkey’s ties with Gagauzia

Bolboceanu said that in December 1994, Moldova’s Parliament offered the Turkic Gagauz people a large autonomy within the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia (ATUG), to create a favorable environment for the 160,000 Gagauz to maintain their national identity and culture.

He added that Gagauzia enjoys large economic autonomy, and has the ability to establish economic-commercial relations with regions of other countries.

Turkish businessmen have an advantage in doing business with ATUG, he said, considering the lack of language barriers with the Turkic-speaking Gagauz and the facilities offered by the free economic area of Vulcanesti in that region.

Bolboceanu stressed that Moldova’s government salutes the consolidation of relations Gagauzia is developing with Turkey.

"Our government appreciates the help Turkey is offering in the economic development of the ATUG and the contribution in maintaining the Gagauz identity through TIKA [Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency], thus contributing to the modernization of kindergartens and schools. I also want to underline that TIKA is carrying out prodigious activities in other regions of the Republic of Moldova," he said.

Bolboceanu, mentioning a recent bilateral agreement signed last December on the reciprocal promotion and protection of investments, said that to date Turkey and Moldova have signed 66 bilateral agreements, as well as 18 projects for agreement that are included in the agenda of negotiations.

"The next step in the development of these principles will be the signing of a declaration concerning the establishment of a strategic partnership between our countries, which would bring our bilateral relations to a new, higher-quality level," he added.

Bolboceanu said that since 1992 Turkey has given scholarships allowing Moldovan young to go to prestigious Turkish institutions of higher learning, and the number of seats allocated to Moldovan citizens has been rising. He added that likewise Moldova has been enrolling Turkish youth in its institutions since 1993.

Tourism cooperation

"I am happy to confirm with satisfaction that the signing of the agreement concerning the abolition of visa regimes, which has been in force for more than two years, has promoted even more the cooperation of our states in the economic, political, and touristic domains," Bolboceanu said. He added that this mutual lack of visa requirements has led to a steady climb in Turks and Moldovans visiting each other’s country.

"In the summer the number of tourists rises even more, as the Turkish Mediterranean shores are becoming a preferred destination for Moldovan tourists. I am sure that soon these tourists will also visit the rich historical and cultural landmarks that Turkey has to offer," he said.

Bolboceanu said that he hopes to see more tourists in his country, as there are many destinations that Turkish tourists would be interested in like the capital Chisinau, and the Ottoman-era Soroca and Tighina fortresses.

"I am sure that you will also be curious to visit the city of Comrat, the capital of the ATUG [Gagauzia], which you can easily reach by speaking with locals who share your mother tongue," he added.