ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Kazakhstan will expel any Turkish teacher linked to an Islamic cleric Ankara accuses of engineering an abortive coup, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said after meeting his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey blames followers of the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen for trying to overthrow Erdogan on July 15. More than 240 people were killed and 2,000 wounded in the night of violence.
Gulen’s followers, who practice a moderate form of Islam, have opened an estimated 1,000 schools in dozens of countries, with a special focus on science-based secular education.
Before former allies Gulen and Erdogan publicly fell out in 2010, the schools were considered a key instrument in expanding Turkey’s clout overseas. They were active in Central Asia where several countries, including Kazakhstan, speak Turkic languages.
“It is not in our interest to do something against Turkey. We have reached an agreement,” Nazarbayev said at a news conference in Ankara. He is the first head of state to visit Turkey since the failed military intervention.
The Kazakh government will seek new teachers from Turkey to replace any it sends back, Nazarbayev also said. He stopped short of saying he would close the 30 Gulen-affiliated schools in Kazakhstan that educate 9,000 students.
About 90 percent of the teachers at the schools are Kazakh citizens, and 8 to 9 percent are Turkish nationals, he said.
Even before the coup, Erdogan had lobbied allies to shut Gulen-linked schools, a main source of income for the movement.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Tom Heneghan