ISLAMABAD: Islamabad and Ankara are working on a plan to protect the students of Pak-Turk Schools network in Pakistan and the two governments will ensure that their careers are not affected, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a press conference on Tuesday.

“Had both Turkey and Pakistan not been sensitive to aspirations of students and their families, these schools would have already closed down,” the Turkish foreign minister said in reply to a question about the fate of schools being run by a Turkish NGO in Pakistan.

Ankara believes that the schools are part of a network owned by Fetullah Gulen, a political rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and has called upon Islamabad to close them down.

Turkey has declared Gulen’s organisation a terrorist entity after the July 15 coup attempt.

Sartaj Aziz, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, also attended the presser, which was held at the Foreign Ministry.

The Turkish foreign minister said Pakistan was “fully cooperating” over the issue of Pak-Turk schools. However, he pointed out that there was a need to be “very careful” over the activities of these organisations since they could pose “a threat to the security and stability” of the host country.

Sartaj Aziz said: “We are going to protect the schools and students of Pak-Turk Schools as these institutions are being professionally managed and providing good education.”

He said efforts were in progress to work out an arrangement that would allow these schools to carry on working in Pakistan.

On the Kashmir dispute, the Turkish foreign minister said his country supported Pakistan’s stance and believed that the issue could be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy only, and not through war.

He said Turkey had called upon the secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to mobilise its Contact Group and send a fact-finding mission to India-held Kashmir.

FREE TRADE ACCORD: Mr Aziz said the signing of a free trade agreement with Turkey was expected within the “next few weeks”, expressing hopes that it would break new ground in business relations between the two countries.

He said Pakistan and Turkey were host to a large refugee population and called upon the international community to treat the issue as humanitarian, and not merely a political one.

The adviser expressed Pakistan’s unequivocal support to the leadership of Turkish President Erdogan and congratulated him on his success against the coup plotters.

“The sight of people taking to the streets of Ankara and Istanbul was a sight to behold,” Sartaj Aziz recalled.

The Turkish foreign minister said Pakistan was the first country he was visiting after the coup attempt and thanked the Pakistani nation and the government for their support.

He also thanked both houses of Pakistan’s parliament for adopting a unanimous resolution in favour of democracy in Turkey.

“The Turkish government is taking all necessary measures against the conspirators,” Mr Cavusoglu added.

He dismissed an impression that Turkey would slide into chaos and anarchy following the imposition of emergency and said the move was meant to “safeguard the state structure”.

Calls on President, PM: Mr Cavusoglu called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain earlier in the day.

The president and the prime minister reiterated their condemnation of the recent attempted coup in Turkey and lauded the Turkish nation for taking to the streets in defence of democracy.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2016

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