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Our Role and Vision During the Coronavirus Pandemic


A. General

The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as an unprecedented global threat to all humanity. Even the most developed countries have been shaken in result of the pandemic, especially in the face of challenges relevant to health systems and all areas of life. Pandemic restrictions imposed in almost every country in the world in various extents have affected individuals, social life and economic activities. Turkey believes that the fight against this global catastrophe can only be won through international cooperation and solidarity. In this direction, Turkey has shared messages with and made concrete contributions to the international community at both multilateral and bilateral levels.

At the national level, under the skilful leadership of our President, our institutions and society saw into the severity of the situation at an early stage, and thanks to the measures taken, the entry of the pandemic into our country was delayed as much as possible. After the arrival of the pandemic, Turkey has successfully maintained its resistance to this serious disaster owing to the facilities provided by our health and physical infrastructure.

The ministry has stood by our citizens abroad, using the opportunities offered by the world's fifth-largest diplomatic network with 246 representations abroad. The existence and power of our state have been felt in every part of the world. The efforts to meet the needs of our citizens abroad and the repatriation of our people from all over the world to our country have been followed with appreciation and shown as an example in international circles.

B. Institutional structuring of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic: Coordination and Support Centre

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The Ministry concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had multidimensional global effects posing an extraordinary and urgent challenge, cannot be countered in the usual institutional order. Therefore, it established a special structure. In this context, the Coordination and Support Centre of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was established on 25 March 2020 to provide a more effective response and guidance related to the situation abroad, including monitoring and evaluating all developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and most importantly, aiding our citizens, through establishing the necessary coordination with our national institutions, representations abroad and foreign countries. The Centre, which adapts all institutional procedures, resources and mechanisms of the Ministry and the representations abroad to the conditions arising from COVID-19 and mobilizes them to fight the pandemic, operates with a strong team and an enabling infrastructure, and is led by Deputy Minister Yavuz Selim Kıran and answerable to Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

The Coordination and Support Centre, whose priority task is to assist our citizens abroad in difficult humanitarian, social and economic conditions imposed by the pandemic, has served as the focal point for coordination in Turkey and within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the process of repatriation to Turkey of our citizens - primarily and most urgently of those who were in foreign countries temporarily as tourists, workers or visitors and stranded there due to the closure of the borders.

All kinds of problems of our citizens abroad like health issues, funerals and financial problems have been addressed one-on-one by our representations, in coordination with the Centre. Cooperating with non-governmental organizations, our representations have also provided supplies and cash assistance to our citizens in need.

Under the management of the Coordination and Support Centre, our Embassies and Consulates have worked 24 hours a day to identify all citizens abroad who were stranded and suffered hardships, and they helped them personally. Our representations were with our citizens on their journey from their homes or hotels to their flight to Turkey.

For some of our citizens in need to board a plane in another country, the closed borders between two foreign countries were opened for our official vehicles with diplomatic registration plates to take them to airports. In some cases, vital medicines were delivered to our citizens in need, and our citizens were taken to the Embassy residences with diplomatic vehicles and stayed there until their flights.

By 6 November 2020, 969 citizens abroad unfortunately lost their lives due to COVID-19, 774 of them have been brought back home. The Centre closely monitors the transfer of funerals to the places of burial in contact with their relatives, and during this process, the Centre asks about and tries to meet the wishes and needs of the families. Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu attaches utmost importance to this process and monitors it personally.

Currently, the condition of every citizen with COVID-19 disease is monitored, and those treated in the hospital are given the necessary attention by our representations abroad.

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Our Ministry’s Consular Call Centre, which serves on a 24/7 basis, supports our citizens who request information about consular services and have questions, by giving them information and guiding them. More than 140 thousand calls have been answered by the Consular Call Centre. No calls were left unanswered. Similarly, social media accounts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are used frequently by our citizens for communication. Each and every message is answered.

The Coordination and Support Centre also manages and channels medical equipment assistance to other countries and international organizations in consultation with the Ministry of Health and other organizations.

Border arrangements, transportation, travel and the conditions and restrictions applied in the neighbouring countries and around the world in this context are monitored by the Coordination and Support Centre, and initiatives are made in foreign countries in line with the commercial and economic interests of our country. The Coordination and Support Centre has assumed the primary responsibility for the revitalization of tourist movements to our country by initiating international flights (flights have been reopened with 97 destinations by November 6) and cancelling travel restrictions.

For the use of all our relevant institutions, the departments of the Ministry and representations abroad, the Coordination and Support Centre publishes daily reports that compile developments in the world about the pandemic, the situation and needs of our citizens, and applications of and requests by other countries.

The Coordination and Support Centre has also prepared comprehensive reports including the global effects of the pandemic, normalization processes and compilations of opportunities that may arise during and after the pandemic and has submitted them periodically for the use of our relevant institutions.

In the Coordination and Support Centre, vaccine research studies in the world are also followed, information transmitted through our representations abroad is compiled and shared with the Ministry of Health.

Also, information about the testing, quarantine and treatment systems of other countries against the COVID-19 infection and disease is reported to our Ministry of Health.

Notable articles about the coronavirus by various leading publications in the world are followed, summarized daily and made available to our relevant institutions, internal units and representations abroad by the Ministry’s Centre for Strategic Research.

With its publications, the Centre for Strategic Research has guided academic discussions during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, an interdisciplinary review “The post COVID-19 Global System: Old Problems, New Trends”, based on pre-analyses of respected academics and experts, was published in April when the pandemic was in full swing and uncertainty prevailed. Similarly, the work titled “The World after COVID-19: Cooperation or Competition?” that includes assessments and analyses of reputable scientists, global thinkers and experts on the impacts of COVID-19 on the international system, states, people, great power competition, international organizations, security, globalization, and conflicts was published in June by the Centre for Strategic Research and Antalya Diplomacy Forum.

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C. Repatriation of Our Citizens Abroad to Turkey

The welfare, security, and above else safe return of all Turkish citizens living and staying outside their motherland are our main priority. With this understanding, under the instructions of the President, the Ministry was mobilized to bring our citizens stranded abroad to our country.

A complex and months-long repatriation operation around the world was successfully carried out with the cooperation of the Ministry, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Health, along with Lending and Boarding Institution, Disaster And Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish Airlines.

Since the beginning of the crisis, more than 100 thousand Turkish citizens have been brought back home from 141 countries.

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This has been recorded as the largest-scale repatriation operation in the history of the Republic of Turkey.

Among the countries where we have ensured the repatriation of our citizens are small islands in hard-to-reach areas on very remote continents. Considering that there are also interprovincial travel bans in many countries, the complexity of the operation can be better understood. From Brazil to Mauritania, Canada and Bali, our citizens in 4 continents have returned to their homeland.

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D. Repatriation of third-country citizens in our country to their countries

In cooperation with our relevant institutions, the Ministry has facilitated the repatriation operations of 91 countries from March 17 to June 11, and 37,682 foreign nationals were repatriated from our country. 290 thousand foreign nationals left our country with our direct or indirect help from March 17 until June 11 - when pandemic-related restrictions were lifted.

E. Medical Aid

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Foreign aid we have provided in the fight against the pandemic reflects our humanitarian and enterprising foreign policy. Within this framework, we endeavour to meet the aid requests we receive from all over the world to the extent possible. In this process, our Ministry works in full cooperation with the Ministry of Health and other institutions in receiving, evaluating, directing and providing the requests from foreign countries.

So far, we have received aid requests of different categories (material grants, cash assistance, purchase/export permits) from158 countries, and we have provided aid to 155 countries so far.

We have provided grants to 128 countries, purchase and export permits to 73 countries, and cash assistance to 45 countries among the 155 countries we have provided aid. [ A country may receive aid in different categories at the same time (material grants/cash assistance/export permits/purchase permits).]

The continent that came first in terms of the number of countries requesting aid was Africa. We have received aid requests from 48 countries in Africa. Africa is followed by Europe (41 countries), Asia (33 countries), America (21 countries) and Oceania (15 countries).

In addition to these countries, international organizations (19 international organizations /their organs) have requested aid from our country as well. The requests of nine organizations (OCHA, UNICEF, PAF, SICA, CARICOM, NATO, IGAD, WHO, OSCE) have been met by our country, in part or in whole.

Our aid mostly consists of medical equipment - particularly personal protective equipment. Also, we grant respiratory devices produced in Turkey to the countries in need.

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We also provide food aid to the countries and regions having food security issues under pandemic conditions.

We develop special assistance programmes for disadvantaged groups such as the elderly, the disabled and orphans under pandemic conditions. Various items of assistance have been provided to internally displaced persons, refugees and migrants in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen , street children in Bangladesh, disabled people and orphans in Guinea, children in orphanages in South Sudan, the visually impaired in Kazakhstan, orphans inKenya, disabled people and orphans in Romania, fifteen social assistance centres including nursing homes, orphanages, educational facilities for orphaned children and shelters for homeless people in Moldova, Child Welfare dormitories and nursing homes for the elderly and the disabled in Mongolia, nursing homes for orphans and the elderly in Mozambique, disabled children and their families in Namibia, disabled people in TRNC, women's shelters and other disadvantaged groups in Yemen.

We carry out educational programmes in some developing countries for production of personal protective equipment using local resources. Also, we provide raw material to support the production of personal protective equipment with local means. Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) has developed training programmes for production of personal protective/hygiene equipment with local means or provided materials for local production in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Gambia, Georgia, Kingdom of Eswatini, Moldova, Mozambique, Serbia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Tajikistan .

We endeavour to provide budget support to some of the friendly countries experiencing economic difficulties because of the pandemic.

The process concerning the medical aid we provide at the international level is carried out through the cooperation and coordination of our different institutions . In addition to our Ministry, the main institutions and organizations involved in this process include the Ministry of Health, the Ministry National Defence and Trade, Turkish Red Crescent, Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA), Disaster And Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities and Turkish Airlines.

Our business world also supports friendly nations in their fight against COVID-19.Over 50 Turkish companies have supported more than 20 friendly nations in the fight against the pandemic in various ways.

With its contributions to international solidarity during the pandemic, Turkey proved once again to the whole world that it is a reliable partner.

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F. Our efforts to start international flights

To get international flights started after border restrictions to fight against COVID-19 were lifted on 11 June 2020 with some exceptions, initiatives were made since the beginning of June by our representations abroad and with the Embassies in Ankara, in coordination with our related institutions. As a result of these initiatives, international flights have started gradually.

Mutual flights with 97 countries have been initiated by 4 November 2020. Works for the flights yet to start are also on-going.

Since the beginning of October, flights to/from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Gambia, Iraq, Iran, Lithuania, Panama, Republic of South Africa, Rwanda, Tajikistan, Oman and Uganda have started.

Flights have been arranged with special permission even when regular flights to some countries had not started yet, and such flights continue to be arranged. The Coordination and Support Centre evaluates permission requests, and conducts the necessary coordination with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Flights with humanitarian purposes are allowed in this regard, giving priority to the repatriation of our citizens in the countries where regular flights have not yet started.

G. Our contributions to the works aiming at reviving tourism

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Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism has initiated a safe tourism program to revive tourism, which is extremely important for our country’s economy and the employment.

A series of health and hygiene measures have been taken in all areas, including the measures at airports and restaurants, along with those for accommodation and domestic transportation. Also, relevant certification processes have been initiated. Among the institutions that issue certificates are German companies TÜV Süd and Royal Cert, British company Lloyd's Register, French company Bureau Veritas and Turkish Standards Institution. Our strong health infrastructure is also ready to ensure the well-being and safety of our guests.

To introduce Turkey’s comprehensive advancements towards safe tourism and to lift travel restrictions and warnings, frequent contacts, initiatives and promotional activities have been carried out, pioneered by the meetings of our President, our Minister and the Minister of Culture and Tourism with their counterparts.

These efforts have yielded good results in terms of the countries that are key tourism markets.

The United Kingdom included Turkey in its travel corridor list in July and lifted the quarantine requirement for travellers returning from Turkey and its travel warning. Our country hosted British tourists throughout the summer season. Despite Turkey’s removal from the travel corridor list on October 3 upon the UK government's decision on October 1, flights and travels to/from this country continue and we work together with the UK to ensure that tourism activities continue without interruption.

At the beginning of August, Germany removed the travel warning for four important tourism destinations in Turkey -Antalya, İzmir, Aydın and Muğla- within the framework of the agreement we reached. German tourists have been hosted in Turkey in accordance with this agreement. It is the goal of both parties to restore this agreement, which was suspended on November 9. Flights and travels to/from Germany continue.

Reciprocal scheduled flights between Turkey and Russia started on August 1. Russian tourists began coming to our country with touristic charter flights on August 10. Russia also removed the restrictions for the entry of Turkish citizens into Russia.

Similarly, flights to/from Ukraine started on July 1 and there are flights from Ukraine to our tourist destinations, especially Antalya.

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Malta lifted travel warnings for Turkey. Switzerland did not include Turkey in the high-risk countries list, which is updated periodically.

Romania and Poland also removed travel restrictions for Turkey, which had affected tourism. Flights to/from both these countries have started as well.

On August 31, Bulgaria removed all restrictions related to tests, quarantine, entry and transit pass affecting both Bulgarian citizens and our citizens.

Moldova has not included Turkey in the red zone list where entry is prohibited. Our citizens can enter Moldova without being subject to 14-day compulsory isolation. Accordingly, Montenegro considers our country in the green category in the context of international travel.

Jordan has classified countries into green, yellow and red categories in the context of international travel, and Turkey was included in the "green category" where the lightest measures would be applied.

Authorities of the Republic of South Africa decided to start international flights on October 1, and subsequently, a list of countries where flights would be prohibited was published. Our country is not among the countries determined as highly risky.

H. Overseas cooperation aspect of vaccine studies

Vaccine development efforts for COVID-19, which are important strategically and from an humanitarian viewpoint, continue to be at the top of the world’s agenda. Our Ministry closely follows the developments on vaccines in the world and compiles and conveys the information required by the Ministry of Health, especially considering the potential cooperation and procurement opportunities. In this context, a study, containing information about supply cooperation activities of countries and companies carrying out projects related to clinical-stage vaccines worldwide with other countries, has been completed with the contributions of our representations.

According to the data of the World Health Organization dated 29 October 2020, there are a total of 201 vaccine development studies worldwide. 45 of these studies are at the clinical stage, while 156 of them are at the pre-clinical stage. In the list, there are 12 vaccine candidates from our country, all of which are at the pre-clinical stage. Our country has been at the forefront of vaccine development efforts in the World.

The Ministry contributes to the legal assessment and decision-making processes regarding our participation in the Global Access to COVID-19 Vaccines (COVAX), an innovative global funding mechanism to support equal access to COVID-19 vaccines, and in this respect, close consultation is held with the Ministry of Health.

Likewise, the Ministry gives the necessary support to the cooperation initiatives made in China, Russia and Indonesia in the field of vaccine development.

The Ministry will continue to follow closely the vaccine development studies in the world, which is a strategic matter, and to share up-to-date information.

I. Our contributions to the arrangements regarding the works at our borders, trade applications and freight shipments, National Coronavirus Coordination Commission, and the participation of our Country to the International Coordination Group Meetings

During the pandemic, it has been understood once again that the smooth running of the international supply chain is critically important for the community life, to deliver the materials that are vital in the fight against the disease, maintain food supplies and eliminate the economic impacts of the pandemic. Turkey has made the greatest effort it can, in order not to disrupt the supply chain in international freight shipment during the fight against the pandemic.

Contact-free trade have been implemented at our borders with Iraq as of March 1, with Iran as of March 4 and with Bulgaria as of March 22 to meet the society’s needs and ensure the continuity of the supply chain. Trade has been carried out through container change, trailer change and driver change in buffer zones. Contact-free trade de facto ended with Bulgaria on April 27, with Iran on June 6, with Iraq on August 21.

With the Contact-free Trade at Habur Border Gate, the daily average number of exits reached to 642 in March, 1,255 in April, 1,356 in May, 1,395 in June, 1,388 in July, and to 1,210 in August with the de facto ending of the Contact-free Trade on August 21. Thus, the figures got closer to the figures of Habur Border Gate in the pre-crisis period.

Due to the lack of a buffer zone with Iran, it became impossible to do anything through the highways for a long time. During the period when the borders were closed, all alternatives have been considered, and only Kapıköy Railway Customs Gate stood out as an alternative. In January and February, transportation with an average of 659 wagons was carried out on the railway line, and the total departure reached to 1,797 wagons in April, 1,168 in May, 1,544 in June, 997 in July, and 628 in August.

As a result of the necessary diplomatic initiatives, an annual average of35,606 transit export trucks going to Central Asian countries were largely diverted to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway line. The carrying value of goods, which was 121 wagons/4,219 tons in January 2020 in the direction of exit on the BTK line, reached 27,113 tons with 443 cars in April, 28,243 tons with 423 cars in May, 12,989 tons with 236 cars in June, 6,947 tons with 138 cars in July, and 7,071 tons with 187 cars in August.

In the process of fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, the principles of entry/exit through our border gates are determined by the Circulars of the Ministry of Interior. At the beginning of the pandemic, 14-day quarantine was imposed with the Circular “International Freight Transport” no. 6360 of 9 April 2020, for Drivers and Vehicles Entering Turkey to Unload Goods

Those procedures and principles were gradually liberalized with the circulars issued on 27 April, 9 May, 14 May, 3 June, 11 June and 15 September 2020 and finalized, taking into account the stage reached in our country in fighting against the pandemic and in neighbouring countries. In this context, there are no restrictions regarding crossings at our borders, except for the ongoing restrictions with some exceptions for passenger crossings at the Iranian border.

Coordination in shaping the measures taken by our relevant institutions for our border gates and their transmission to foreign representative offices in our country has been carefully observed during the pandemic process.

On the other hand, within the scope of international freight transport, the necessary initiatives have been made to eliminate the complaints from the sector about various problems -especially regarding visas- faced by our truck drivers due to the practices of other countries at border gates. In this context, an "ad hoc" working group was established between the International Transporters Association and our Ministry, and the first meeting was held on 17 July 2020. The second meeting was hosted by our Ministry on 5 November 2020.

To address the steps to be taken in the coronavirus pandemic process, Deputy Minister Mr Yavuz Selim Kıran attends the meetings of the National Coronavirus Coordination Commission, established at the level of Deputy Ministers among our relevant institutions, and shares our views and suggestions on the developments regarding pandemic in the world and the response of our country. The fifteenth of the meetings held via videoconferencing was on 3 November 2020.

J. International Cooperation Efforts:

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Turkey has emphasized the importance of international cooperation and solidarity since the beginning of the pandemic, which is a global challenge affecting all humanity and has concentrated its efforts and initiatives in this area. In multilateral forums and at the bilateral level, our President has been a leader whose opinions were sought by other countries’ heads of state and government. President Erdoğan has attached great importance to contacts and meetings at the level of leaders in the context of multilateral and bilateral cooperation and consultation in the fight against the pandemic.

Also, Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has made effective efforts and contributions to the development of international and bilateral cooperation in the fight against the pandemic both in multilateral forums and in bilateral meetings. Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has given priority to the repatriation and medical assistance of our citizens during the bilateral meetings.

Turkey has pioneered, fully supported and actively contributed to the cooperation initiatives created and launched to fight against COVID-19. In this framework, contributions have been made to the efforts carried out at the UN, the G20, the Turkic Council, the MIKTA, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and many international platforms, and importance of multilateralism in fighting against the pandemic has been highlighted.

Turkey was among the countries that presented the draft resolution on “international cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19” at the United Nations General Assembly.

On 26 March 2020, the extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit on COVID-19 was held via videoconferencing. Focusing on health, economy, international trade and cooperation, G20 leaders addressed steps that can be taken under the leadership of G20 to combat the global, social and economic impacts of the virus and adopted a declaration that focuses on financial measures that can be taken in cooperation with the IMF, World Bank and multilateral development banks and the steps that can be taken by coordinating with international organizations such as the UN, the OECD, the ILO and the WHO. Some G20 leaders, notably our President, drew attention to the situation in countries that are particularly vulnerable due to conflicts and the risks faced by refugees and forcibly displaced persons in unfavourable conditions, and they called for the removal of barriers obstructing free trade and for ensuring the functioning of international trade under the WTO rules.

At the Turkic Council Extraordinary Leaders’ Summit held on 10 April 2020 with the participation of our President, the creation of a joint action plan in the context of the joint fight against COVID-19 was discussed, and views were exchanged on removing the existing obstacles for the timely passage of essential substances, food and medicine across the borders of the Turkic Council member countries, compiling a list of goods that can pass through the borders of the aforementioned countries without obstacles, establishing a mechanism that will enable sharing information quickly on freight transport at the borders and establishing an online platform where information about infected people can be shared.

At the initiative of our country, the Executive Committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation convened via videoconferencing on 22 April 2020 at the level of Foreign Ministers to address the pandemic. At the suggestion of Turkey, the Final Declaration included the decision for the Committee of Permanent Representatives to convene regularly for coordination and consultation at the intergovernmental level, as the magnitude and severity of the pandemic necessitated frequent, systematic and regular contact and consultation at the intergovernmental level.

At the Informal Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) held on 25 September 2020, our Minister proposed the establishment among the BSEC countries of a mechanism where good practices can be shared through a coordination network between the Centres of crisis and operations, and he drew attention to the contribution such a network would make in conducting activities such as repatriation of citizens and transportation of medical supplies. Secondly, our Minister stated that our proposal was to cooperate in the development and production of vaccines and antiviral drugs and pointed out that some countries, including BSEC members, have taken important steps towards the development of the COVID-19 vaccine and suggested that BSEC adopt a regional and cooperative approach in the field of vaccines. Our Minister has also brought the strengthening and diversification of cooperation between the BSEC Ministers of Health to the agenda.

Our Minister attended the Ministerial Coordination Group (MCGC) meetings started at the initiative of Canada with the participation of 16 countries including Turkey (Brazil, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, South Africa, Morocco, Mexico, Peru, South Korea, Singapore, India and Turkey) and the EU, and our views and suggestions were shared. Eleven videoconference meetings have been held at the Ministerial Level of the MCGC, which is an informal consultative forum where steps taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic are discussed at the level of Foreign Ministers. Also, eight meetings were held at the level of senior officials within the MCGC.

The Ministry, under the guidance of its enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy, will continue its initiatives for the recuperation from this calamity of humanity on the same boat, in cooperation and solidarity, and use the lessons learnt to pave the way for a fairer, share-based and effective structure of the international system in the post-pandemic world.