Turkey is determined to strengthen its cooperation with African countries and regional organizations on the continent, said the Turkish foreign minister on Monday, visiting the West African country of Togo.

In a joint press conference alongside his Togolese counterpart Robert Dussey in the capital Lome, Mevlut Cavusoglu stressed Turkey’s diplomatic push in Africa over the last decade, saying it more than tripled the number of its embassies on the continent from 12 to 42.

Along these lines, Turkey will open an embassy in Lome, he added.

Underlining Turkey’s determination, Cavusoglu said Turkey will further develop its cooperation with African countries and regional organizations on the continent.

On trade between the two countries, Cavusoglu said the government will encourage Turkish corporations to expand their activities in Togo.

Partnership on counter-terrorism, education

Cavusoglu also pointed to schools in Togo linked to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group responsible for the defeated 2016 coup in Turkey.

Cavusoglu said he appreciates Togo handing over these schools to Turkey’s Maarif Foundation, a group Turkey set up to replace the administration of former FETO schools.

He said the Maarif Foundation has 333 schools in 43 countries and that with the schools’ handover, the quality of education in Togo will rise.

He stressed that the FETO terror group is not only a threat to Turkey but also poses a danger to every country where its members live.

He also said that the Turkish government will continue to give scholarships to Togolese students to study in Turkey.

The Turkish government set up the Maarif Foundation soon after the 2016 defeated coup to administer overseas schools linked to FETO.

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup in Turkey, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

FETO also has a considerable presence outside Turkey, including private schools that serve as a revenue stream for the terror group.

Joint fight against coronavirus

Highlighting the solidarity between the two countries, Cavusoglu said Turkey and its Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) continue to support Togo’s fight against the outbreak by sending medical supplies.

“Even today, we had the opportunity to bring medical supplies as the symbol of our solidarity,” he said.

Turkish Airlines flights to Togo

For his part, Dussey thanked Cavusoglu for being the first Turkish foreign minister to visit his country.

Dussey also said he hopes that after the pandemic, Turkey’s flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) will start direct flights to Lome.

On Turkey’s initiatives in the continent, he said Togo supports President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s African vision and appreciates his view.

On the fight against the FETO terror group, he said Togo has fulfilled its commitments to Turkey and will complete the necessary work as soon as possible and hand over the schools to the Turkish foundation.

Before the press conference, Cavusoglu and Dussey signed three agreements on establishing a political consultation mechanism, visa exemption for diplomatic passports, and cooperation among diplomacy academies.

Cavusoglu arrived in Togo Monday as the first stop on a three-nation West African tour, to be followed by Niger and Equatorial Guinea.

Under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey has pursued an unprecedented outreach to Africa based on the principle of win-win.

As part of the country’s cooperation with Africa, the Turkish government has donated millions of dollars for infrastructure development on the continent and sponsored hundreds of African students.

Turkey’s presence is felt across the continent, where there are a number of Turkish organizations including the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), Maarif Foundation, and Yunus Emre Institute, among others.

*Writing by Fahri Aksut

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