Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey is ready to realize joint projects with Chinese companies in third countries, especially in Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East and Balkan. China and Turkey can develop very useful cooperation projects in the third countries when they collaborate, Erdogan said in an interview ahead of an official visit to China. Erdogan is scheduled to visit China at the invitation of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on April 8-11. Turkey thinks that the "Memorandum of Understanding for Increasing Cooperation in the Fields of Infrastructure Construction and Technical Consultancy in Third Countries," which was signed during Chinese Premier Wen's visit to Turkey in 2010, constitutes an important step regarding the development of cooperation in this area, Erdogan, who made a trip to China in 2003 as Chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), told China's news agency (Xinhua). He said that political relations between Turkey and China are at a good level. "We are continuing with our efforts in order to ensure the positive reflection of this, especially in our commercial and economic cooperation and other fields." China, with its great population, natural resources and its investments in areas from science-technology to research- development, is among the biggest economies of the world, while, at present, the Turkish economy ranks sixth in Europe and 17th in the world, the Turkish prime minister said. Erdogan pointed out that Turkey has an important cooperation potential, especially in the fields of energy, construction, automotive, banking, information and telecommunications, saying "we are waiting for the Chinese investments in Turkey especially in these sectors." He said the trade volume between Turkey and China, which was 1. 6 billion US dollars in 2002, reached a record level of nearly 25 billion dollars in 2011, adding that he hopes that Chinese public and private sector investments in Turkey could increase in the future. He meanwhile hailed the "RMB-TL Swap Agreement" which was signed during Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's visit to Turkey in February 2012 and enables the utilization of the Turkish Lira and Chinese Yuan in bilateral trade. On tourism, Erdogan said that Turkey hosted nearly 31.5 million tourists last year and the number of the Chinese tourists exceeded 100,000 in 2011 for the first time. But he expressed hope that the number could further increase. On Turkey's foreign policy, the prime minister said "gaining strength from her economic and democratic development in recent years, Turkey has been actively involved in shaping policies in her region." "In this respect, it is true that the image of our country is getting stronger... As a matter of fact, Turkey today has risen to the position of a "wise country," whose friendship and cooperation is being valued by all members of the international community," he said. As the continuation of the principle of "peace at home, peace in world," Turkey pursues the "zero problems with neighbors" approach, with the understanding that this would pave the way for the solution of problems in the long run, Erdogan stressed. On bilateral cultural exchange, Erdogan said, in the context of fast-developing friendship and cooperation in every field between Turkey and China, the "China Culture Year in Turkey" is being held in 2012 and the "Turkey Culture Year in China" will be held next year. "Cultural relations enable the peoples of Turkey and China to get to know each other more easily, and to discover their common aspects and thus contribute in a positive manner to developing cooperation in other fields," he said.