Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday his country has the full cooperation of its staunch ally Pakistan on taking all “necessary measures” against the terrorist organisation led by Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric blamed for the recent failed coup attempt in Turkey.
Gulen’s organisation runs dozens of schools in Pakistan and hundreds worldwide, and the Turkish authorities have been urging Pakistan to shut down all of its Gulen-run schools in the aftermath of the attempted coup.
The Turkish Foreign Minister reached the Pakistani capital on Monday and held talks with Pakistan’s foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz at the Pakistani foreign ministry on various bilateral, regional and international issues. Later, he also met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
According to a statement issued by his office, the prime minister said Pakistan and Turkey enjoyed fraternal ties, which were based on common and shared bonds of history, culture, traditions, religion and social values.
He congratulated the Turkish leadership and people for their triumph against the assault on democracy on the night of July 15. He also appreciated Turkey’s steadfast support for Pakistan’s quest for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
The Turkish Foreign Minister expressed gratitude for the solidarity shown by the Pakistani leadership with the government and people of Turkey during the attempted coup, the statement said.
Pakistani officials said that the Turkish Foreign Minister discussed a host of issues with Prime Minister Sharif and his foreign policy adviser Aziz but the focus of his visit, which was his first trip to any nation in the wake of the failed coup bid, was on educational institutions run by the Gulen organisation.
The latest situation in Afghanistan, strengthening bilateral ties in the fields of economy, commerce and counter-terrorism were also reported to be on the meeting's agenda.
Pakistani authorities said Cavusoglu's visit reflected the nature of close ties that the two countries share.
Addressing a joint press conference after their formal talks, Cavusoglu said it was not a secret the Gulen organisation is a terrorist outfit and it had a presence in the form of institutions in Pakistan, among other countries.
Closing down schools
Pakistani officials said the closure of Gulen's schools was very much a part of Cavusoglu's agenda and detailed discussions over it took place, even though Cavusoglu did not specifically request it.
A Pakistani diplomat, requesting anonymity, said the Turkish foreign minister sought Pakistan’s support against Gulen’s organisation and the Turkish authorities are asking his schools be closed.
Both sides, he said, discussed ways to resolve the issue and Pakistan’s suggestion was that these schools be handed over to Turkish authorities and they commence running them.
He said Pakistani diplomats told Cavusoglu thousands of students studied in those schools and their closure would cause them immense suffering.
“The Turkish Foreign Minister seemed to have liked the idea of the handing over of these schools to Turkish authorities but discussions would continue further on the vital matter,” the official said.
During his visit, Cavusoglu said Turkey was taking all the necessary and required legal measures against those who plotted the coup.
He stated Gulen’s organisation had a global network of schools, business associations and cultural centres, and that they had had a hidden agenda and they were trying to take over Turkey.
He also thanked the government and people of Pakistan for extending full support in the wake of the coup attempt in his country. He said that the people of Turkey considered Pakistan their second home.
In response to a query on the Kashmir problem, the Cavusoglu said his country fully supported Pakistan's stance on the issue. He also asked for the mobilisation of the OIC Contact Group and for sending a fact-finding mission to Indian administered Kashmir to monitor the situation.
He said the Kashmir issue should be resolved through dialogue and not through violence.
On bilateral ties, he said both sides would strengthen their economic and commercial ties. He said hopefully a bilateral free-trade agreement would be signed this year.
Cavusoglu added he had apprised Pakistan’s foreign policy adviser on how his country was normalising ties with Russia and Israel.
He said they also had discussions on important regional issues, including Afghanistan. According to Cavusoglu, his country would continue to support the war-torn country.
Author: Shaiq Hussain