Turkey's special relations with Africa will go down in history as an excellent example of cooperation, first lady Emine Erdoğan said.
Speaking to the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) General Coordinator Burhanettin Duran during an interview with Turkish political magazine Kriter, Erdoğan evaluated Turkey's humanitarian foreign policy regarding Africa.
"When we look at Africa today, we see that many countries are there with different motivations. However, Turkey has an active, multidimensional, enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy," she said.
Underlining that the Turkish presence continues on the continent with strong and active agencies and organizations such as the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), the Maarif Foundation, the Yunus Emre Institute, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), Erdoğan said: "These institutions do not only provide grants or donations, they work for the development of the continent, that is, for it to stand on its own feet."
The first lady noted that Turkey's Africa initiative started in 2005 and adopted a partnership policy in 2013. "This policy is the product of a holistic understanding that covers the activities of public institutions, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian aid organizations. Our main goal is to contribute to the peace and stability of the continent, and to support its economic and social development," she explained.
"Our bilateral relations are developing on the basis of equal partnership and mutual benefit. Therefore, Turkey's African motivation enables us to be a friendly and brotherly country with all African countries," she also said.
The first lady noted that Turkey's embassies rose from 12 in 2002 to 43 today and African countries' embassies in Turkey rose from 10 in 2008 to 37 today.
"Our airlines fly to 40 countries and 60 destinations on the continent. All these are indicators of how much our mutual relations have developed," she said.
She also said that the 3rd Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit will be held in Istanbul on Dec. 17-18 and expressed her belief that a great synergy will emerge from this meeting, as has been the case in all the other summits. "We will meet with the first ladies, with whom I have a special friendship, and we will talk about new projects," the first lady added.
Erdoğan highlighted that Turkey's foreign policy looks at the world from a different perspective and embraces all of humanity.
"For example, I will never forget our visit to Somalia in 2011. While the whole world gave up on the people there, our country stood by Somalia. It is justice not to turn your back and walk away when one of the greatest humanitarian disasters the world has ever seen is happening. Starting on an individual basis, people have needs that must be fulfilled by the state," she said.
Also commenting on the continent's future, Erdoğan said: "The change in African geography will not happen overnight. But the seeds planted over the years are bearing fruit, so I believe that with its rich potential, Africa will overcome the past dark days and become one of the greatest powers of this century."
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last month once again reaffirmed that Turkey’s approach in its ever-growing relations with African countries is based on equal partnership and a win-win principle, emphasizing the strong will to further develop commercial ties.
Turkey’s engagement with the African continent has been gaining pace over the years. Since taking office nearly two decades ago, first serving as prime minister, the president has been fostering ties with Africa, presenting Turkey as a fairer player than the continent’s former colonial powers. Ankara has been stressing the desire to advance relations with the continent on the basis of a win-win relationship and equal partnership while observing mutual respect. Both sides have been vowing to tap into their greater potential when it comes to further expanding and deepening relations.
Having adopted a one-dimensional foreign policy shaped by its relations with the West for decades, Turkey has shifted its direction to a more diversified, multidimensional and independent foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Turkey's opening up to Africa dates back to the action plan adopted in 1998 but took real shape in 2005, which was declared the “Year of Africa” by Ankara. Turkey was accorded observer status by the African Union (AU) the same year. In a reciprocal move, the AU declared Turkey its strategic partner in 2008, and relations between Africa and Turkey gained momentum when the first Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit was held in the commercial capital Istanbul with the participation of representatives from 50 African countries that year.
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