ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) ¿ ATM maker Diebold Inc. said Thursday it has formed a direct sales operation in Turkey as part of a strategy to forge closer ties with financial institutions in the region.

The Canton, Ohio-based company said it previously supplied customers in the region through a distributor.

Diebold said the operation will be led by a local team, with the support of the company's regional operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It is expanding that team by recruiting sales staff, the company said.

Diebold said it will supply products directly to customers and work with local service partners, whose responsibilities will include installation, warranty and maintenance services. It is also working to certify software for the Turkish market.

"The ATM market in Turkey is one of the fastest growing in the (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region," Danilo Rivalta, Diebold's vice president and general manager for the region's southern and central area, said in a statement.

He said the market has expanded 20 percent in the past year and is expected to grow by the same amount in the coming year.

Many banks in Turkey are replacing their old equipment, Rivalta said, and Diebold believes there are compelling reasons for them to choose Diebold products as their new alternative.

Shares of Diebold dipped 3 cents to $32.10 in afternoon trading.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.