Foreign Minister has Mevlut Çavuşoğlu has said increasing pressure on Crimean Tatars is unacceptable. Speaking at the 24th African Union Summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, he said Crimean Tatars have been facing pressure since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Çavuşoğlu's comments come after Deputy Chairman of the Crimean Tatar parliament Ahtem Ciygoz was taken into custody on Thursday by the Russian Federal Investigative Committee on suspicion of organizing "mass disorder" in front of Crimea's parliament.
Simferopol witnessed clashes on Feb. 26, 2014 when Crimean Tatars and other pro-Ukrainian activists clashed with pro-Russian demonstrators. A referendum on the status of Crimea was held on March 16, 2014 in which a majority of the Crimean population voted to become part of the Russian Federation. The U.S. and EU denounced the referendum as illegitimate as the region was occupied by Russian soldiers at the time.
Although Turkey is among the countries opposed to Russia's annexation of Crimea and one that defends the territorial integrity of Ukraine, it did not implement the EU and U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Russia. Çavuşoğlu said Turkey had aired problems related to Crimean Tatars to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Ankara on Dec. 1, adding that the Turkey "did not see any positive developments in this regard." Russia had previously said that it is ready to grant ethnic and cultural rights to Crimean Tatars. "I hope these pressures will end and that Crimean Tatars will be given the rights that have been violated so far," Çavuşoğlu said.
According to the Foreign Ministry, there are 280,000 Crimean Tatars in Crimea, about 13 percent of the total population.
Over 35 African leaders met on Friday in Addis Ababa for the 24th Ordinary Session of the African Union's Heads of State and Government Summit. The two-day summit's theme was "Year of Women's Empowerment and Development toward Africa's Agenda 2063." Çavuşoğlu held a bilateral meeting with his Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus about regional and international developments. "Together with China and India, we are one of the three strategic partners of the African Union," Çavuşoğlu said. Turkey has been an observer state in the African Union since 2005 and has also been considered a strategic partner for the union since 2008.