The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) will leave its mark through rural development projects at a critical point in the Colombian peace process, said the agency’s local representative Friday.
Speaking exclusively to Anadolu Agency, Mehmet Ozkan, TIKA’s Colombia and South America coordinator, touted the agency’s work building schools in Orejon, in the Antioquia region, starting in June, saying, “I hope it will be finished in November. Orejon has been cleared of mines, and the success of the peace will be tested there. TIKA’s contributions will leave Turkey's mark on a key point of this process."
Ozkan said the 52-year conflict between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had finally ended in a fruitful peace process, when a definitive bilateral cease-fire took effect on Monday, after nearly four years of talks.
Asked to compare the past peace process in Turkey to Colombia’s, Ozkan pointed to the presence in Turkey’s parliament of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with the PKK terrorist organization based in the mountains around the southeastern border, saying, "The group [PKK] in Turkey has both political and armed wings and has been playing a double game."
FARC is not represented in Colombia’s parliament, he said, and added:
"There were similarities once in terms of the underdevelopment regions. However, over the last 15 years, Turkey has developed the southeastern regions [where the PKK has its strongholds]. In Colombia, the basic infrastructure needs such as electricity and water have not been developed yet."
Projects in Latin America
Ozkan said TIKA is supporting the peace process with especially rural development projects, such as school construction.
Stressing TIKA's technical and developmental support for Latin American countries, Ozkan said that in addition to Colombia, TIKA has been implementing projects in Guyana, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia.
Pointing out TIKA's equipment support in the fields of education and health, Ozkan said, "We take the teams in the region to Turkey to train them. We will have more projects in the continent during the months and years to come, because they just have to know TIKA. They have been trying to get familiar with TIKA’s fast-moving system. We always hear them saying, 'We also want to use TIKA’s model'."
The long-running Colombian conflict has, since 1964, caused the deaths of 220,000 and displaced 5.7 million others.
Peace talks that began in 2012 addressed the issues of agrarian reform, political participation, illicit drugs, victims of the armed conflict, transitional justice, and how to end the conflict.
*Reporting by Lokman Ilhan; Writing by Sibel Ugurlu
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