Erdoğan’s Africa tour kicks off in Sudan, boosting economic and political cooperation

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, left, stands next to his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum, Sudan, Dec. 24, 2017. (AA Photo)

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived in Sudan on Sunday marking the first time a Turkish president visited the country.

Erdoğan was greeted at the Khartoum International Airport by his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir.

At a joint news conference following a closed-door meeting with Bashir, Erdoğan said Turkey wants to boost the two countries’ bilateral trade volume.

“We need to raise our trade volume to $1 billion and then to $10 billion. We have to take appropriate steps for this,” Erdoğan said.

The current trade volume between Turkey and Sudan stands around $500 million, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat).

Erdoğan also said the two leaders agreed to set up a high-level strategic council to increase the economic cooperation between the two countries.

He said that his country was aware of the economic potential of Sudan. “We encourage businessmen to invest in Sudan,” he added.

Turkey’s exports to Sudan amounted to $328.5 million in January-October 2017, while imports from the country stood at $78.3 million.

Both countries Sunday signed 13 agreements pertaining to defense cooperation, mining, agriculture, forest, science, education, tourism, environment, support for mall businesses support and establishment of a strategic council.

Erdogan said he also spoke with al-Bashir on the issues related to Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is an issue that concerns all of humanity… We will continue to support Palestinians. The U.N. must monitor the issue of Jerusalem,” the Turkish president said.

On Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution on Jerusalem by an overwhelming majority, calling on the U.S. to withdraw its recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

Speaking to reporters at Esenboğa Airport in Ankara ahead of his Africa tour, Erdoğan said Turkey aims to further strengthen cooperation with Africa and discuss ongoing regional.

He said that the visit will aim to boost business ties and target the Gülenist Terror Group’s (FETÖ) exploitation of Africa.

Erdoğan noted that many African countries deported FETÖ members following the deadly July 15, 2016 coup attempt and transferred the control of FETÖ schools to Turkey’s Maarif Foundation, adding that he hopes more action will be taken against the group.

“We know very well that they are the volunteering subcontractors of the imperialists,” Erdoğan highlighted, as he expressed Ankara’s wish to increase the transfer of FETÖ-linked schools in Africa to Turkish authorities.

“We are determined not to let these murderers find shelter on the African continent. I think that this visit is also important from this perspective as well,” he said.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency (AA), Dr. İrfan Neziroğlu, Turkey’s ambassador to Sudan, said the visit will play a “remarkable role” in boosting the political and economic ties between the two countries.

Neziroğlu said the Sudanese government had decided to hand over two FETÖ-linked schools to the Turkish educational foundation, in line with a protocol signed earlier between Khartoum and Ankara, adding the demand for Turkish schools has increased recently.

“There is a very high demand for the Turkish schools. We’ll probably think about opening new schools,” the ambassador said.

Aware of the threat FETÖ poses to Africa, Ankara has been trying to replace FETÖ-run schools in the continent with state-sponsored schools.

The Maarif Education Foundation is a not-for-profit state-funded body that runs schools outside Turkey. It has taken over schools around the world previously run by FETÖ, which was behind last year’s defeated coup in Turkey, including 32 in Africa, according to figures released by Turkey’s National Education Ministry.

Likewise, Enver Arpa, an associate professor from Ankara Social Sciences University’s Eastern and African Studies Institute, said that the this visit will help Sudan.

“Acknowledged as a regional, and even a global actor, President Erdoğan’s visit to Sudan will boost the morale of the country, which has been exhausted from the international pressure,” Arpa said.

Sudan, once a unified country, was divided into two countries in 2011 after the Christian majority south voted in a referendum for secession, as part of the peace agreement signed in 2005, ending a civil war of more than two decades.

In the north, the population mostly consists of Muslims. During the conflict between the two parts, more than 1.5 million people were killed, and hundreds of thousands of people were forced out of their homes.

Arpa said that Sudan independent policies in the continent “angers the imperial powers” in the region, and added that Sudan is able to overcome internal problems if there are no international interventions.

Ahead of Erdoğan’s visit to Chad, the Maarif Education Foundation also signed an agreement with Chadian authorities to transfer the administration of five FETÖ schools and a dormitory.

Regarding the recent crisis regarding the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Erdoğan said that as the term chairman of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), he expected President Donald Trump to call him and discuss the matter.

He added that Turkey made its call to the U.S. and continues to do so, and will always seek dialogue to resolve the matter.

The president also noted that he is planning to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the situation of hundreds of civilians who need immediate humanitarian assistance in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta.

After Sudan, Erdoğan will fly to Chad’s capital N’Djamena on Tuesday. On the last day of the three-day visit, the president is scheduled to fly to Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia.

The visit will be dominated by business forums to discuss investment, and Erdoğan is expected to sign cooperation deals in each state. The visit demonstrates Ankara’s desire to strengthen ties with the three countries under its Africa partnership policy, a statement released by the presidency explained.


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