Turkey to attends OIC-organized Mali conference
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is set to attend a ministerial meeting organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah on Monday, over the current situation in war-torn Mali. A Foreign Ministry statement released on Sunday announcing the visit to the Jeddah headquarters of the organization said that Turkey and Mali share historical bonds and that Turkey has always paid great importance to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political stability of the West African country. Monday's meeting will be the first by a contact group established within the OIC regarding the situation in Mali. Discussions on establishing a ministerial contact group for the situation had been led by Turkey during the 12th Islamic Summit of the organization held in Cairo in February. A declaration accepted after the OIC summit has also invited its member states to provide logistical and financial support to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) and those suffering in Mali. "The meeting will be a means to evaluate the developments in Mali and to determine common steps that could be taken [for the situation,]" the official statement noted. The statement also pointed to the high-level contacts between Turkey and Mali, recounting an action plan foreseeing the development of bilateral relations in every field, which was agreed upon between the two countries during Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly's visit to Turkey in April. The conflict in Mali began when Tuareg rebels launched an uprising early last year, driving Mali's army from the north as the rebels sought to establish a separate state they called "Azawad." Their revolt was swiftly hijacked by better armed extremists, including al-Qaeda's North African wing, an Arab-dominated group that has operated in northern Mali for a decade. Many of the country's black African majority now blame the Tuareg and Arab groups for the violence that has threatened to tear apart their nation of 16 million people. A French-led offensive started in January of this year and largely unified the country, killing hundreds of rebels and leaving pockets of fighters scattered in the deserts.