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DIPLOMACY >Turkey ups aid efforts for Rohingya Muslims

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Turkey will provide 10,000 tons of aid to help Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated on Sept. 6, calling on world leaders to do more to help. 

Earlier on, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Erdoğan held a phone call to discuss the plight of nearly 150,000 Rohingyas who have fled northwest Myanmar to Bangladesh since violence broke out on Aug. 25. 

“I spoke with the president [Aung San Suu Kyi] yesterday. They opened the doors after our call,” Erdoğan told a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara, adding that the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) will deliver 10,000 tons of aid after delivering the initial 1,000 tons. 

“The second stage is 10,000 tons. Aid will be distributed,” he added.  

During his speech, Erdoğan said that his wife Emine Erdoğan, his son Bilal Erdoğan, Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, AKP Deputy Chair Ravza Kavakçı Kan and senior Turkish aid officials will head to Bangladesh to visit Rohingya refugee camps on Sept. 7 and 8. They will oversee the delivery of aid by TİKA and Turkish Red Crescent. 

“There is also the United Nation General Assembly approaching. It will start on Sept. 19. This issue will be a significant agenda point in our meetings there,” he said. 

While noting that some of the footage, pictures and news reports regarding the Rohingya “have nothing to do with reality,” Erdoğan said “there is the reality that causes the victimization of millions of people.” 

“We will activate all international mechanisms in order for the Rohingya Muslims to not become victims of regional calculations,” he said, adding that he had spoken on the phone with nearly 30 leaders to find a solution. 

According to the latest estimates issued by United Nations workers operating there, arrivals in just 12 days stood at 146,000. This brought to 233,000 the total number of Rohingya who have sought refuge in Bangladesh since last October.

Çavuşoğlu, meanwhile, said Ankara wants a “lasting solution” for the plight of Rohingya Muslims.      

“God willing, together with the international community, a lasting solution can be found,” he said during a press briefing on the sidelines of a meeting of the foreign ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia in the Azeri capital Baku on Sept. 6, before travelling to Bangladesh. 

The minister said Turkey will also deliver ambulances to Bangladesh to help it cope with the refugee flows, adding that Ankara was determined not to “abandon” Rohingya and said his visit would help determine steps that can be taken to improve their conditions.

“Not only the Islamic world, but also the entire international community should be sensitive to the mass killings. Unfortunately we haven’t seen that sensitivity. There is a human tragedy there and it is unfolding in front of the eyes of the whole world,” Çavuşoğlu said. 

Earlier in the day, Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Çavuşoğlu said President Erdoğan, who is also the current term president of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has been discussing the issue with several Muslim leaders to find a solution.        

As uncertainty and security concerns continue in the region, the aid will be distributed to conflict areas via military helicopters in coordination with the Rakhine state government, he said.    
    
“The helicopters will land on the ground and the distribution will be done from the ground. We will supply vital needs to 100,000 families,” he added.      

Meanwhile, Myanmar said on Sept. 6 it is negotiating with China and Russia to ensure it blocks any U.N. Security Council censure over the violence.

In a statement, Suu Kyi blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” on the strife in the northwestern state of Rakhine but made no mention of the Rohingya who have fled.

She has come under increasing pressure from countries with Muslim populations, including Indonesia, where thousands led by Islamist groups held a rally in Jakarta on Sept. 6, to demand that diplomatic ties with Buddhist-majority Myanmar be cut.

In a rare letter to the U.N. Security Council on Sept. 5, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern that the violence could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

He warned there was a risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar that could destabilize the region.

Myanmar National Security Adviser Thaung Tun told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that Myanmar was counting on China and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, to block a U.N. resolution on the crisis.

“We are negotiating with some friendly countries not to take it to the Security Council. China is our friend and we have a similar friendly relationship with Russia so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward,” he said. 

The surge of refugees - many sick or wounded - has strained the resources of aid agencies and communities already helping hundreds of thousands from previous spasms of violence in Myanmar. Many have no shelter, and aid agencies are racing to provide clean water, sanitation and food.

“People have come with virtually nothing so there has to be food,” a U.N. source working there said. “So this is now a huge concern - where is this food coming from for at least the elderly, the children, the women who have come over without their husbands?”

In a statement issued by her office on Facebook, Suu Kyi said the government had “already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible” and warned against misinformation that could mar relations with other countries.

Suu Kyi has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution, and some have called for the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 as a champion of democracy to be revoked.

September/06/2017

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