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PM Erdogan: Somalia real test for civilization

Friday, August 19, 2011

Accompanied by a large delegation, PM Erdoğan (R) and his wife tour a camp and a field hospital built by Turkey in Somalia. AA photo
 Accompanied by a large delegation, PM Erdoğan (R) and his wife tour a camp and a field hospital built by Turkey in Somalia. AA photo
The world’s response to the Somali crisis is a chance to prove that modern values are not empty, PM Erdoğan says in Mogadishu

The deadly famine in Somalia presents a litmus test for the world to prove that it possesses the humanitarian values to aid a country in desperate need, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Friday during a news conference in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

“The tragedy in Somalia is testing modern values. What we want to emphasize is that the contemporary world should successfully pass this test to prove that Western values are not hollow rhetoric,” said Erdoğan at the conference that also included Somali President Sharif Ahmed.

The Turkish prime minister landed in East African country Friday, becoming the first major leader in 20 years to visit the country. He was accompanied by four ministers as he toured Mogadishu, which has been devastated by war and famine.

Erdoğan addressed the conscience of people around the world, demanding that they take action for the Somali people, especially its children.

“Mothers and fathers in Somalia are deeply grieving. It is in fact possible to put out this fire. As Turkey, we are not waiting for what the other countries will say,” Erdoğan said.

“I am recommending them to come to Somalia and see the situation here,” said Erdoğan, referring to those who have criticized him for not working for the poor people of Somalia instead of those in Turkey.

Turkey will facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid to Somalia thanks to a planned new embassy in the famine-hit East African country, Erdoğan also said. Security was tightened in Mogadishu, a city that has been battered by a bloody insurgency as al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabab rebels fight to unseat the Western-backed Somali government.

Erdoğan visited a camp for the displaced and a hospital in Mogadishu, which more than 100,000 people have recently fled to seek relief from the drought. He said Turkey would establish a field hospital in this area within a short period of time and also instructed officials in Turkey’s Red Crescent to provide water so that refugees can bathe.

Passengers on a plane carrying a delegation that was to accompany Erdoğan had a narrow escape when they landed at Mogadishu airport as the right wing of the aircraft scraped the runway. No one was injured among the delegation, which included business leaders, lawmakers, musicians and security guards. Stray dogs walking across the airport were cited as the cause of the near accident. Turkish Airlines has sent another plane for the return of the group.

The visit follows Wednesday’s meeting in Istanbul of members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, who pledged to donate $350 million to assist drought- and famine-stricken Somalis. Turkey alone has already donated $150 million in the aid campaign for Somalia. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said there was no reason that Somalia could not recover from its problems.

Turkey’s official visit and aid work in Somalia should be a beacon to the world, Davutoğlu said along with Deputy Somali Prime Minister Said Korshel, adding that people should come to Somalia and help the country recover. With the steps it took and with its visit, Turkey has changed the perception that nobody can come to Somalia, Korshel said, thanking the Turkish government, its people and Erdoğan for the visit.

Relief agencies have boosted aid delivery to the affected population, but insecurity in one of the world’s most dangerous countries is hobbling wider distribution efforts.

Compiled from AA and AFP by the Daily News staff.