By Nene Galleh Barry
In this maiden edition of The Diplomat’s View, our diplomatic reporter Nene Galleh Jallow made to the offices of the Turkish Ambassador,Ismail Sefa Yuceer in Brufut and engaged the diplomat on a range of issues: from the Turkish/Gambian bilateral relationship to the Muslim minority communities’ mistreatments elsewhere and the effect of the Syrian war on Turkey. Read on and be informed.
Responding to Turkish support to Gambia hosting the OIC Conference, the ambassador said just few years ago, when Gambia opted to host the OIC, Turkey was the first country to give moral support. He was also quick to say that the issues going on in the Muslim world such as those of Jerusalem and that of the Muslim minority in Myanmar who are subjected to mistreatments are cause for concern to Turkey and OIC.
“The OIC is playing a very vital role on the Muslim minority around the world for human rights violations and it is really a coincidence that at this time round with the new found democracy in the Gambia, the OIC will be hosted here.” This, according to the ambassador is a big difference from years back when Gambia was ruled by a dictator.
“The OIC shall look into other Muslim countries where democracy is a major issue and where the people do not have freedom of speech and movement so Gambia will be a good example to host the OIC for the first time as a democratic country.”
Turning to the history of OIC, the ambassador revealed that the body was formed in 1969 and since then, Turkey continues to play a vital role to see that Muslim countries have real democracy not only in Gambia or Africa but the entire Muslim world. “So that if there are problems we the Muslims countries can solve our own problems without interference of the Western powers; so is very important that all the countries have a policy that will control and see that democracy and human rights are respected.”
“Turkey as a Muslim country, we were the only country that was talking about the issues that the Muslims minority in Myanmar is facing. We forwarded the matter at UN and we also provided shelters in Bangladesh for over 300,000 refugees.” the ambassador remarked. He said the Turkey Red Cross established shelter and provided meals for those refugees and most importantly the Turkish government was in touch with the Myanmar government to try and solve the problems in their country. The Turkish government also consulted countries like the USA and the UK to play their role in solving the problem that is man-made. So the Myanmar government is under a real pressure to try and solve this problem happening in their country.
Switching attention to Gambia/Turkey relationship, he said the two enjoy good and strong bilateral relations and since 2017 Gambian government officials had many trips to Turkey; these include the VP Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang, the Foreign minister Mr. Ousainou Darboe, the Tourism Minister Mr. HamatBah, among others.
“The Turkish President also tried visiting the Gambia but we had a difficulty with his time schedule due to the problem in our regional area. However that was solved as we succeeded in getting the Gambian President to visit Turkey with a high-powered delegation.”
“The Gambian President’s visit was shared between two cities; one in Istanbul and the other in Ankara. In Istanbul the President with his delegation met with the Turkish airline because we want Turkey airline to have direct flights to the Gambia and it was a very successful meeting because after that the airline gave a strong promise that in two weeks’ time or so they will send both their technician and operation team to come to the Gambia and see whether they can have direct flights to Banjul or link with Dakar to Banjul.”
At a higher level, he said the two presidents of Turkey and Gambia already met face to face and discussed many important things. That Turkey has planned to build a hospital in the Gambia and Turkey will also build an annex for Gambia’s National Assembly Members as well as help the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital with some equipment. The Turkish President promised to help and support the Gambian government on the OIC meeting that is supposed to be held in the Gambia both in terms of financing and organizing, provision of security during the conference slated for next year.
He continues to reveal that a private energy firm in Turkey and Gambia’s NAWEC also held meetings and agreed on how the Turkish firm can help the energy sector of the Gambia. The Turkish private sector has an agreement with Gambian government so that every year they will help them with 30 to 40 MW generating capacity.
The ambassador observed that so many changes have already taken place in the Gambia which has interested many Turkish companies and have since started investing in the Gambia. This could not have happened before when the former president closed all doors to foreign business companies to invest in the Gambia. “That is why the Gambian economy was on one side, Jammeh controlled everything and nothing was transparent but now the Gambia is democratic and businesses are working and everything is transparent.”
Last year both countries had their fisheries and agriculture ministries signed a memorandum of understanding and they both promised to respect that memorandum to see that they work together smoothly for the benefit of both countries.
As to what effect the war in Syria had on Turkey? The ambassador acknowledged that the war in Syria has many negative impacts on not only the regional countries but mostly on the Syrian people who suffered a lot. “Because hundreds of thousands died, others internally displaced and thousands fled the country to neighboring countries and every day the problem is increasing and is all caused by the present regime and some foreign powers.”
“Syria has become a terrorist area due to the power vacuum which was left by the Central government as it was unable to control the Syrian territories that’s why you have the: ISI the PKK the YPG they are terrorist elements occupying some places in Syria trying to control the power vacuum.” According to him, last year the international community led by Turkish government started to fight the terrorist in Syria.
“In 2016 and 2017 alone Turkey eliminated thousands of terrorist in Syria because the terrorist have occupied 30% of the Syrian soil not far from our borders. So Turkey has so many casualties just because when the territories started in Syria it was Turkey that first fight against them so it affect us too but the last 43 days Turkey military alone kill over 2300 terrorist and Turkey is doing this because they want the people in Syria and Turkey to have peace and free from danger.”
Asked about Turkey and European Union (EU) relations the ambassador said EU was established in 1957 by six countries: Italy, Germany, Holland and other countries by then the United Kingdom and other EU countries did not join. “Turkey was one of the first applicant to the EU in 1963. Then our country was subjected to an association agreement and according to this agreement there were three phases”
“First phase was preparation; the second phase was the transition phase and the final phase. The preparation phase aims for Turkey to become a full member of the EU, and the transition phase was aiming to eliminate taxes and custom duties so that integration would be easy and the final phase aims at the free movement of labour free movement of capital free movement of services so that Turkey will be a full member of the EU but some EU countries were playing double standard against Turkey to be a full member of the EU.”
“Some countries in the EU that are full members are weaker than Turkey our economy is stronger than their economies but just because Turkey is a Muslim country that’s why they are playing hypocrisy,” the ambassador.
“What is expected of EU is to fulfill their promises between the two sides about what they signed in the association agreement. Turkey is not only depending on the EU alone, we have other alternatives because Turkey is a big country with 80 million people and more than 850 billion dollar value in our economy.” He said Turkey is among the first 20 biggest economies in the world “we are even ranked at 16 in the economic world ranking. We are also in the G20 group so this can tell you that Turkey is not only dealing with Europe but with the whole world.”