Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria agreed on Thursday to set up a free-trade zone, complete with a visa-free travel regime for their nationals, a joint declaration issued here said.
The four countries will establish a cooperation council "to develop a long-term strategic partnership" and "create a zone of free movement of goods and persons among our countries," it said.
The deal was agreed by the foreign ministers of the four countries who met on the sidelines of a Turkey-Arab cooperation forum in Istanbul.
The free-trade zone will be based on "existing bilateral agreements and practices on free trade and visa exemption" between the parties, the statement said, adding that Turkey and Lebanon were required to complete a bilateral arrangement before the four-way process could go ahead.
"The quadripartite mechanism... will be open to the participation of all the other brotherly and friendly countries in the region," it said.
Turkey's Islamist-rooted government, in power since 2002, has significantly improved ties with the Arab world, often neglected in the past amid the country's traditionally pro-Western orientation.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissed suggestions that Turkey's growing ties with Eastern neighbors represented a search for an alternative to the country's struggling bid to join the European Union.
"Turkey is determined to become a full member of the European Union," he told reporters Thursday.