Friday, December 30, 2011

Turkey takes giant leap toward Africa, prioritizes Somalia on agenda


CEREN KUMOVA, ANKARA
Today's Zaman
Dec 30, 2011

Keeping up its wide-range initiative for closer ties with Africa, Turkey throughout the year added to its foreign missions and sped up ambassadorial appointments all over Africa, but its main focus stayed on Somalia as the country went through its most severe drought in a century in the summer of 2011.


As part of the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) initiative to increase the country's representation to a striking 95 percent of the African continent, Turkey geared up efforts in 2011 to connect to the continent through its newly established embassies, in hopes that the country will reach close to four dozen missions in Africa within a few years. While the country focused on its foreign missions and the appointment of ambassadors to the newly established spots, the Somali famine dominated Turkey's global agenda and even the speech Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered at the General Assembly session of the September UN meeting.

Addressing leaders of the world, Erdoğan called on UN nations to act on Somalia, repeating his sorrow over the high number of Somali deaths due to the harshest drought and famine the country has experienced within the last century.

In regard to humanitarian efforts, Turkey has championed the delivery of urgently needed supplies ranging from medicine to food, as well as the digging of water wells in the country through a unified relief act organized by the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA), the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), the Religious Affairs Directorate and the Directorate of Disaster and Emergency Management (AFAD), mobilizing all efforts to give aid to the best of the country's ability.

Turkey also called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in August to set up an urgent meeting regarding the Somali crisis; the UN revealed that in the summer of 2011, 187 Somali children out of every 1,000 died before the age of 5. Kenya and Ethiopia were also hit by famine, but conditions improved by December, due to both a weakening in the persistence of environmental conditions and contributions donated to Africa throughout the year. In various international platforms, Turkish officials repeated their calls for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Somalia as some senior officials lashed out at world powers for standing idly by at the sight of the catastrophe. Turkey raised $350 million by October through both the means of the state and private enterprise.

Turkey's immediate intervention aiding the victims of the African disaster was crowned by a visit from both Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, as both leaders went to Africa with their spouses to reaffirm Turkey's support for the famine-stricken nations. Erdoğan was hailed in the international media for his visit to Somalia, as he is one of very few leaders to step foot in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital and a city not only devastated by famine but also by terrorism, as rebels targeted the Somali government through suicide missions after they were defeated by the Somali army. Sporadic fighting between the Somali army and rebels in the country has claimed the lives of many of those who survived disease and malnutrition.

Adding to Turkey's improved image both in Africa and on the world stage for its sensitivity toward the humanitarian tragedy in the Horn of Africa, Turkey also hosted in December a Turkey-Africa Partnership Ministerial Review Conference in İstanbul, which 54 African ministers attended along with representatives from important African institutions, achieving the risky task of gathering so many diverse voices under one roof. The aim of the summit was largely to improve economic ties among African nations and Turkey, as well as to demonstrate Turkey's commitment to establishing a better, more effective and institutionalized mechanism to further enhance relations with the continent. Africa, in return, demanded that more schools and hospitals be built and operated by Turks in the coming years.

Prior to the summit, in October, Turkey's Africa initiative was further boosted with the appointments of Ahmet Rıza Demirer to Gabon, Hasan Ulusoy to Niger and Ali Rıza Coşkun to The Gambia, where the ambassadors have already started heading the newly established embassies. Alongside business agreements and trade deals, Turkey's Africa initiatives further aim to help improve African infrastructure through assistance in fields including agricultural development, irrigation, energy and education, and the country took an active part in most of the UN missions deployed in Africa in 2011 by way of providing personnel and making financial contributions. As in the last decade, Turkey tried on all fronts in 2011 to show the African continent that it is genuine in its interest and its projects are long-lasting. By the end of 2011, the African Union president named Turkey as the first country the union truly trusted, referring to European countries that shut down their embassies during the continent's hard times, leaving them to face their fate alone.
ource: Today's Zaman

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