Crimean Tatar leader presented with Order of the Republic by Gul

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Mustafa Abdulcemil KIrImoIlu, former leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis (assembly), was awarded the Order of the Republic Medal of Turkey in an official ceremony at the Çankaya presidential palace in Ankara on Tuesday.

President Abdullah Gul presented the prestigious medal to KIrImoIlu in a symbolic gesture to demonstrate Turkey’s deep commitment to the well-being of the Tatars, an ethnic Turkic minority on the Crimean Peninsula, as political turmoil and uncertainty continue to grip Ukraine amid signs of possible further Russian incursion into the eastern part of the country.

“KIrImoIlu carries the banner of the struggle for survival of the Crimean Tatars. His life is a summary of the suffering that the Crimean [Tatar] people have faced,” said Gul.

“Crimea occupies an important place in our hearts,” the Turkish president added.

The central reason that the Crimean Peninsula, which juts into the north of the Black Sea, is important to Turkey is its population of Turkic Muslim Tatars, who were exiled en masse in the 1940s by Soviet rule.

The Tatars have called on Ankara to play a more active role in the crisis however, Turkey has urged that diplomatic measures be used to resolve the standoff between pro-Russian groups in the restive eastern sections of the country and the interim government in Kiev. Ankara called on Moscow to exert the utmost efforts to ensure the safety of the Tatar community in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia after a referendum held in mid-March.

Turkey has also called for respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)