Despite warnings by the Turkish government and pledges by Macedonia to fight FETO, the Balkan country announced funding for a FETO-linked newspaper in Skopje.
Last year Macedonia announced its support to Turkey in its fight against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization, or FETO, the group behind the defeated coup of July 15, 2016.
On Monday, however, the Macedonian government said it approved payments for 11 newspapers in 2018, which included Zaman Macedonia, a FETO-linked publication.
Zaman Macedonia has received €14,700 ($16,795).
FETO’s coup attempt left 251 people dead and nearly 2,200 injured.
Turkey’s Embassy in the Macedonian capital Skopje and Macedonian politicians of Turkish descent immediately condemned the funding.
“We call the government of Macedonia, to whom we have given support in various fields since its independence, to take necessary steps in the light of the friendly and brotherly relations between the two countries,” said the Turkish embassy.
The decision of funding the FETO-linked daily was announced by State Minister Robert Popovski during a press meeting on Monday.
Macedonian State Minister Elvin Hasan, who is of Turkish descent, said that the government had decided to support the ailing print media in the country last year.
However, he said the government had asked the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) to decide which newspapers should be funded by the state.
Hasan said AJM took this decision after consulting with The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organisations.
He said his ministry will notify all bodies of the government about criticism of the decision from Turks in the country and that it will do its best to reverse the decision.
FETO in Macedonia
Despite strong support in Turkey’s fight against FETO, Macedonia has been allowing FETO-linked schools and organisations to run.
FETO has an international network of supporters running a smear campaign against Turkey and has been using Macedonia as a transit country for its most wanted members.
The terror organisation began to spread outside Turkey in the early 1990s, opening schools across the world where it cultivated support among the students.
It also opened several media organisations abroad that disseminate anti-Turkey propaganda.
The FETO-linked Zaman now operates from the headquarters of Alsat-M, Macedonia’s state broadcaster.
Since the July 15 coup attempt, Turkey has informed several other countries about the negative consequences of FETO activities.
Turkey has contacted various countries on several occasions to share vital information and intelligence on FETO, according to the figures on the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
During a visit to the Macedonian capital of Skopje, Turkey’s Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin warned all Balkan countries of how the presence of FETO can threaten them.
“We call upon all countries who are our friends and allies, especially in the Balkans, to work closely with Turkey against FETO,” Kalin stressed.
Kalin said FETO members masquerade as philanthropists and educators but can be involved in betrayal and murder.
Macedonians of Turkish descent
Enes Ibrahim, a lawmaker and the president of Party for the Movement of Turks, expressed his disappointment and said that they have already started fighting against the move.
“We will put our full strength to cancel this payment to FETO newspaper,” Ibrahim added.
Beycan Ilyas, president of the Turkish Democratic Party, also blasted the decision and said that he will talk to the prime minister and convey his concerns as soon as possible.
“It is unacceptable to fund FETO newspapers with our taxes,” Beycan said.
Beycan added that fight against FETO is their red line and the main reason for their participation in the coalition government.
Turkish National Unity Movement leader Erdogan Sarac also condemned the government’s decision and called it “hypocrisy” against brotherly country Turkey.
Husrev Emin, the leader of the Association of Turkish Civil Society Organisations, insisted the government to stick to its promise made to Turkey by fighting the terror group.
“We expect our government to side with Turkey against FETO, which killed 251 civilians and wounded more than 2,200 in a bloody coup attempt,” Emin said.
Emin reminded the Macedonian prime minister had called FETO a terrorist organisation in 2017 during Turkish language festivals.
On his recent visit to Ankara, Foreign Affairs Minister of Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov has also supported Turkey’s fight against terrorism.