The issue of Kashmir is as important to Turkey as it is to Pakistan, Turkey’s president said on Friday.
“We have never forgotten and will never forget the help which the Pakistani people extended by sharing their own bread during our War of Independence. And now, Kashmir is and will be the same for us.
“It was Canakkale [Gallipoli] yesterday and it is Kashmir today, [there is] no difference,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament during his official visit to the country, referring to a pivotal battle in the Turkish War of Independence.
Erdogan also told how Turkey raised the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly last September, in the wake of a lockdown in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
He said the suffering of the Kashmiri people had worsened in recent years due to the taking of “unilateral steps.”
“This approach, which aggravates the current situation and revokes the freedom and vested rights of the Kashmiri people, benefits no one,” he said.
“The Kashmir problem can be solved not by conflict or oppression, but on the basis of justice and equity.”
His remarks come some seven months into a lockdown on Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian-administered section of the disputed Kashmir region, a move widely decried by human rights groups as well as the global Islamic community.
Jammu and Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965 and 1971 – including two over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.
Turkey shares grief of Muslims
In his record fourth address to Pakistan’s parliament, Erdogan also addressed the situation in Idlib, northwestern Syria, saying that Turkey is working to protect millions in the province’s de-escalation zone from Assad regime barrel bombs.
“The goal of the steps we’ve taken in Idlib in recent days is to prevent four million oppressed people from dying under the barrel bombs of the [Assad] regime. Turkey’s top priority is to stop the bloodshed, demolition, oppression, and tears in all conflict zones from Libya to Yemen,” Erdogan said.
Pakistan stands with Turkey’s righteous cause, he said – referring to Turkey’s anti-terrorist Operation Peace Spring, launched last October, in northern Syria – despite others who work to protect terrorists.
Erdogan said no boundaries and no distance can drive a wedge between Muslims.
“Wherever they are in the world, it is our duty to share the grief of our Muslim brothers and sisters and stand by them if they are persecuted. Because oppression includes giving consent to oppression, regardless of its origin,” he said.
During its 2016-2019 presidency of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Turkey actively engaged in all matters concerning the Islamic community, he said.
“We showed a very honorable and stable stance against the attacks of Israel on Jerusalem,” he added.
Deal of Century ‘an occupation plan’
On the so-called Deal of the Century on Jerusalem, announced on Jan. 28 by U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House to widespread condemnation, Erdogan blasted the plan as “an occupation project.”
“By saying that Jerusalem is our red line, we declared to the whole world that we will never leave the first qibla Jerusalem to the mercy of the invading Israeli state,” he said.
In the plan, Trump proposed a patchwork Palestinian state, severely hemmed by illegal Israeli settlements, as well as recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank and Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital.”
The so-called peace plan unilaterally annuls previous UN resolutions on the Palestinian issue and suggests giving Israel almost everything it demanded.
Turkey to support Pakistan’s counter-terror efforts
“Pakistan continues to make progress on the path of development and prosperity. Undoubtedly, economic development cannot be achieved within a single day. It is necessary to work hard for this to act in a planned way with perseverance, faith and confidence. Stability and trust are two indispensable conditions for development,” Erdogan said.
He said Pakistan’s efforts in cooperation with legislative, executive, judicial and military institutions as well as its steps to improve business and the investment environment “will make Pakistan a more attractive country in the eyes of investors.”
“We appreciate Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism,” he added.
“Pakistan is a country that has suffered from instability, terrorism and conflicts in its region. As a country that has been fighting separatist terrorist organizations including Daesh [ISIS], the PKK and [Fetullah Terrorist Organization] FETO for 35 years, we understand the challenges Pakistan faces and we will continue to support Pakistan in its efforts against terrorism.”
The YPG/PKK has taken some 40,000 lives in its 30-year terror campaign on Turkey, and FETO infiltrated national institutions to launch a defeated coup attempt against Turkey in 2016.
Turkey stands with Pakistan in FATF
Erdogan also said Turkey would support Pakistan against the application of political pressure by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
FATF, an international watchdog against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, has put Pakistan on its grey list for jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies.
Turkey, Malaysia, and China are the three main countries pushing to remove Pakistan from the grey list.