By Nilay Kar Onum and Handan Kazanci
ISTANBUL (AA) – Turkey’s foreign minister on Monday warned African countries about the threat of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey.
“FETO has never ever represented Turkey,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told the Turkey-Africa Ministerial Review Conference in Istanbul -- the second since 2008, the year a strategic partnership between Turkey and Africa began.
“Never think that they represent Turkey just because they use the word ‘Turk’" in their names, he told the conference, which Anadolu Agency is serving as official photo provider.
“They are only exploiting the Turkish flag and Turkish name in order to reach their purposes,” he added.
Cavusoglu said that many African countries gave "strong support" to Turkey following the defeated coup.
“In many African countries, FETO schools were shut down. […] Many of them were transferred to the Maarif Foundation,” which Turkey established to assume the administration of FETO-linked overseas schools, a considerable income stream for the terrorist group.
To date, around 30 African countries have handed over FETO schools to Maarif or closed them down at Ankara's request.
The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup on July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
- Bilateral ties
Calling African countries "close friends and neighbors," he said: “African countries want a better life. We approach world issues with the same vision. Together we want the international order to be fairer and more democratic.
“Our relations further deepened with the Turkey-Africa Union summits held in 2008 and 2014.”
Turkey and African countries see their economic ties through a win-win perspective, he added.
He pointed to Turkey’s Africa outreach initiative and partnership policy.
Turkey declared 2005 the Year of Africa and later the African Union declared Turkey a strategic partner of the continent, Cavusoglu noted.
- Development projects
Pointing to development aid projects in Africa from the state Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), he said: “Turkey and TIKA don’t insist on doing any projects in African countries.
“On the contrary, we want African countries and their local administrations together with central governments to propose projects, and we’re realizing projects which the African people want.”
Also speaking at the conference, Olivier Nduhungirehe, minister of state at Rwanda’s Foreign Ministry, hailed the partnership between Turkey and Africa.
“The partnership between Turkey and Africa is successful. I believe this conference will also have concrete outcomes,” he said.
“Turkey has growing importance in the development of the African continent,” he added.
Thomas Kwesi Quartey, deputy chair of the African Union Commission, also said the African Union must design their own destiny by themselves.
The Turkey-Africa 2nd Ministerial Review Conference, with the attendance of 19 African countries, is being held nearly four years after the November 2014 Africa-Turkey Summit held in Equatorial Guinea.
The ministerial meeting in Istanbul is a precursor to next year’s Third Turkey-Africa Summit, setting the tone and agenda of deliberations for that meeting.
Since 2004, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has paid official visits to 24 African countries accompanied by ministers, bureaucrats and businessmen and spearheaded the signing of many bilateral pacts between Turkey and African countries.
Turkey currently has 41 embassies in African countries, up from only 12 in 2009. There are 33 African embassies in Ankara. Turkey aims to open embassies in all 54 African countries.
Since 2009, Turkey has also provided the African Union annual support of $1 million.