Turkish Foreign Minister Visits Burma, Offers Assistance to Arakan State     

By Htet Naing Zaw 13 June 2016

RANGOON — Visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu thanked the Burmese government on Monday for its efforts to quell racial and sectarian violence in Arakan State, expressing a desire for mutual cooperation to resolve the issue.

“We would like to cooperate with the Union government to solve this problem, and we will support the actions of the Union government,” the Turkish foreign minister said at a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Minister Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw.

“As a result, there will certainly be peace and development [in Arakan State],” he said, adding that he admired, in particular, the citizenship verification process for Muslims in Arakan State, although some Rohingya Muslims have rejected this new verification exercise on the grounds that it omitted their ethnicity and religion.

“To solve the problems in Arakan State, the Burmese government should also work with international agencies like the UN, without discriminating on the basis of creed and color,” Cavusoglu said.

Cavusoglu and other Turkish officials were scheduled to arrive in Arakan State at noon on Monday and to meet with leaders of both Muslim and Buddhist groups at Sittwe Airport. Cavusoglu was also to join Muslims from the region in prayer.

“The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency [TICA] has been giving assistance without discrimination [in Arakan State]. TICA has offered new projects to local authorities, and it will give assistance to open clinics and fulfill other requirements. The Turkish government will extend similar assistance at the request of the Union government and the Arakan State government,” the foreign minister told reporters.

“We are working to improve the situation in Arakan State. I am thankful that Your Excellency [Cavusoglu] understands our delicate situation,” Suu Kyi said.

The Turkish foreign minister also invited Suu Kyi to visit Turkey to share his country’s experiences in the health, education, infrastructure and tourism sectors.

Cavusoglu said that his government expects to boost its trade value with Burma, which currently stands at US$38 million, highlighting an ambition to fly Turkish Airlines to Burma.

He also urged the Burmese government to open an embassy in Turkey, seeing as how the latter opened a Turkish embassy in Rangoon four years ago.

Suu Kyi said that Burma will make efforts to improve international diplomatic relations with Turkey and move toward relaxing entry visa regulations for Turkish nationals.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.