Turkey will maintain its support for Somalis to live in peace and safety, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday in Istanbul during an opening speech at the sixth Somali Compact High-Level Partnership Forum (HLPF), which he is co-chairing along with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and U.N.'s Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliassoin.
Somali and foreign delegates from 51 countries have
converged in Istanbul for a two-day forum to discuss Somalia's reconstruction
process. "As you all know, Somalia is going through a critical period. …
On this rocky road, we need to support Somalia and never leave [Somalis] in the
lurch," Erdoğan said in his speech, referring to the country's political,
security and development agenda, focusing on terrorism.
Somalia's security needs are being addressed in efforts to
seek tangible solutions to fight al-Shabaab terrorist activities in the
country. Al-Shabaab is an al-Qaeda-linked militant group and was among the
topics covered throughout the forum.
"I believe that the improvements that we will make for
easing our Somalian brothers' daily lives and increasing their welfare will
also contribute to the country disposing of its terror problem. Essentially,
the thing that lies under the success of the Turkish model in Somalia, which
you all watch with interest, is our acting with this mentality. We also expect
international cooperatives to support Somalia with the same attitude,"
Explaining that Turkey shouldered the country's
reconstruction process through universities, orphanages, roads, hospitals and
even street lamps that are put into service through humanitarian institutions,
Erdoğan said: "We will continue our work until Somalia finds tranquility
and becomes a peaceful, stable country with the cooperation of the
international community and regional countries, hopefully."
He also said that Somalia has become the symbol of Turkey's
perspective on Africa and the relations that it wants to have with Africans.
Turkey's role in Somalia has gained significance since
Erdoğan's visit in 2011 as prime minister, the first head of the Turkish
government to visit Somalia.
Turkey's engagement in Somalia has made visible changes to
the country in many areas from health to infrastructure. Bilateral agreements
have also been signed, including treaties to train the Somali national army,
and Turkish Airlines has started flights to the capital of Mogadishu. Turkey's
efforts have paid off, and the increasing relationship between the two states
has brought attention to the region and many have started to question Turkey's
involvement in Somalia.
Turkey also provided Somalia with over $400 million in the
biggest aid campaign to the country in its struggle to fight starvation. Turkey
is set to open its first military base in Africa at which Turkish military
officers will train Somali soldiers and troops from other African countries to
fight al-Shabaab, military sources said in January.
Erdoğan also said that Syria has turned into a place with
terrorist organizations running wild:
"The chaos in Syria has provided an environment for
terrorist organizations such as DAESH, al-Nusra Front, the PYD [Democratic
Union Party] and YPG [People's Defense Units] to grow and disperse."
"All countries should adopt a common stance against
terrorism and countries that support terrorism. Saying 'but' in this matter,
making a differentiation between good terrorist and bad terrorist, and
overlooking the link [between terror organizations] seen before, is supporting
terrorism," he said.
Everyone needs to understand that with such a stance, there
can be no struggle against terrorism," he further added.
Erdoğan was referring to the U.S.'s stance defining the PKK
and PYD as two separate, unlinked organizations; whereas, a 2014-dated document
from the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), a U.S.
government organization, describes the PYD as the Syrian
affiliate of the Kongra-Gel (KGK), under which the PKK is also listed. The U.S.
does not consider the PYD and its armed YPG wing to be terrorist organizations,
despite Ankara's warnings.