Statement by Presidential Spokesperson Ambassador İbrahim Kalın


Deputy Secretary General and Spokesperson of the Presidency Ambassador İbrahim Kalın held a press conference at the Presidential Complex.

Spokesperson Kalın stated:

“Especially during the referendum process and in its aftermath, incorrect assessments and deductions were made in some circles in Europe on how Turkey was divided.

When we look at the elections, held in Western democracies, we see that the turnout is not over 50, 60 percent. We have never had such an approach that ‘the turnout is very low, the legitimacy of these elections should be questioned’. We have always respected the results.

Expecting the same respect from our European interlocutors is our most natural right. For example; the first round of the presidential elections were held in France yesterday. The outcome has brought up a multi-piece structure. Now, should we say ‘France is divided into four-five pieces, let alone two’? Should we make assessments on the legitimacy of these elections based on the turnout? We do not want to resort to such avenues.

In this regard, we also witness tragic and alarming incidents such as a clear suggestion by a former French diplomat and international relations expert of assassination of Mr. President. Discourses such as ‘coup’, ‘assassination’, ‘dictatorship’ etc. are part of the same package. All these are nothing but a scenario, written and repeated by some circles, politicians, who do politics based on anti-Erdoğan discourse, members of press, activists and others as well as anti-Turkey illegal organizations such as the FETO and the PKK that side with them.

Even the most fascist and racist politician in Europe dares to question the Turkish people’s choice on the night of April 16th. First of all, I would like to underline that we will not allow such discourses to become normal and widespread, because this is an effort to lay the groundwork for something else. These are not political analysis or comments. These are matters, raised as part of another plan. In the name of democracy, national will, morality and conscience, we will mobilize all means and resources we have to make sure these fascist approaches are not seen as normal and legitimate. We will not tolerate such discourses.

Following the referendum, Mr. President will have a busy international schedule. Next month, Mr. President has 5 international visits and summits on his agenda. On Sunday, we will leave for India. On Monday, the 1st of May, we will pay an important visit to India. After that, we will go to Russia. Mr. President will have a meeting with President Putin of Russia. In mid-May, we will pay a visit to China. We will attend an international and multilateral meeting there. Mr. President will also have a meeting with President of China. A series of agreements are planned to be signed there. Preparations for that are underway. After that, Mr. President will travel to Washington, DC for his meeting with President Trump of the US at the White House. Following his visits to these 4 great countries, Mr. President will attend the NATO Summit, which will be held in Brussels on May 24-25.

On account that today is the 24th of April, events and commemorations are held on April 24th due to the incidents and relocation that took place during WWI. In recent years, Turkey has taken very important steps to establish a new, constructive, inclusive relation and dialogue with our Armenian citizens and Armenians across the world. We have made legal arrangements on returning the properties of Armenian foundations in Turkey. Good relations have been established with the Armenian community at all levels from the President to the Prime Minister, ministers, governors, mayors. Our efforts will be continued to maintain these relations and to not allow those who abuse history.

In this regard, Mr. President sent a message to the Armenian Patriarchate today. This message was shared by Reverend Patriarch Aram Ateşyan with our Armenian citizens at a ceremony at the church.

We have always expressed that we look at the incidents, known as the 1915 events, from a perspective of shared pain and fair memory. Within this framework, I would like to share a couple sentences with you from the message, issued by Mr. President: ‘Turks and Armenians, as two ancient nations of this region, have shared a common history and culture in this geography, where they lived side by side for a thousand years.

The Armenian community has made great contributions to the Ottoman Empire, as well as to our Republic, which is nearing its centennial, through the valuable generations it has raised. Armenians, as equal and free citizens, have important roles in the social, political and commercial life of our country today, as they did in the past.’

The 24th of April is also the 102nd anniversary of Çanakkale land battles this year. Çanakkale is a momentous epic, written by the Ottoman army and people from across the Ottoman geography. We once again wish Allah’s grace upon our martyrs, who lost their lives during the land battles of April 24-25. These lands have remained free thanks to their valor. That spirit will continue to live on.

Question: As also stated by the Justice Minister today, once the Supreme Election Council announces the official results of the referendum, there will remain no obstacle to Mr. President’s party membership. But what we really wonder is when he will become the chairman of the party? Have you made an assessment of this issue? And my second question is related to the attitude Europe has displayed toward Turkey throughout the referendum process. A response has already been given to this attitude at the highest level; yet, what will be the course of our relations with Europe from now on? Will Turkey impose any sanctions?

Spokesperson Kalın: Regarding your first question; as you know one of the articles of the constitutional amendment package, voted on April 16, is an arrangement clearing the way for the President’s membership to a political party. In fact, up until the 1960s, the Presidents in Turkey had been members of political parties. Their political party membership wasn’t an obstacle to their impartiality. This practice has many examples today in the countries governed with the presidential system across the world. When elected, presidents are not obliged to cut off their ties with their political parties. Likewise, our President, as well, has now obtained the same ability and right through this arrangement. As such, Mr. President’s membership application will be made following the Supreme Election Council’s announcement of the official results.

As you know, the issue of party chairmanship was also asked to yesterday’s ten-year-old President, to whom Mr. President handed over his seat on the occasion of the April 23rd National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, and both our incumbent President and yesterday’s President answered ‘Why not?’ Of course, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will make its assessments within this framework and the issue will be evaluated once a request comes from the party.

As regards your second question; Europe, especially in the last few months, has been experiencing an eclipse of reason. This might have a long historical background; however, this anti-Turkey and anti-Erdoğan attitude has recently gained momentum and turned into a political eclipse of reason, which is an issue we have been closely watching. Europe is in contradiction with its own democratic values first and foremost. For instance, many countries of Europe, even though they claim to be defending the rule of law, are opening their doors and providing direct or indirect support to anti-Turkey formations and organizations or turning a blind eye to these organizations’ acts of terror in their territories. It is impossible to explain all this with democracy and the rule of law. What would be Europe’s reaction if it were the other way round and Turkey harbored terrorist organizations or similar formations that targeted certain countries in Europe? We must think over this question seriously.

We also see that those doing politics based on anti-Erdoğan discourse are making some prophecies from time to time. Let me go even further and note that we frequently see some western intellectuals and politicians declare the end of some things. We are witnessing such a habit of declaring the end of history, politics, art, etc., which we can name as ‘endism.’ And in a similar fashion, we also hear some statements that suggest the ‘beginning of the end’ regarding some things in Turkey.

However, they should know that everything is just starting for us. A new page is being turned. Turkey is now working with full effort to become again an effective power both in its region and the world with its national means and resources and with the strength it draws from its people. This might be the reason why some circles are annoyed. This might be one of the reasons for their annoyance with the referendum results. Let me express it openly; since they couldn’t defeat Tayyip Erdoğan, they are now trying to gain ground through perception operations by making such discourses as ‘coup’, ‘assassination’, ‘dictatorship’ etc. normal and ordinary. Yet, no doubt they will fail in these efforts and thus their aspirations are to no avail.

We want to have good relations with Europe as a whole and with the European Union. The negotiations we are pursuing with the EU are of a partnership nature; we are conducting partnership negotiations. Therefore, these negotiations must be based on mutual respect, trust and interests, as the definition of the word ‘partnership’ calls for. It is out of the question for Turkey to accept any hierarchical imposition. They should know that such assumptions as ‘they issue orders and Turkey abide by’ have become a matter of the past. What we expect and what the definition of ‘partnership’ requires is to build a relationship on the basis of equality, mutual trust, respect and national interests. Those who think they can discipline Turkey by shaking finger from Europe are mistaken. And we are of the opinion that they must have already understood this fact.

What should be done concretely then? It is first of all Europe’s responsibility to meet the requirements of the Turkey-EU refugee deal signed on April 18 last year. We have been expressing this fact repeatedly for more than one year. As you know, this agreement has three main legs. The first leg is to open new chapters. Yet, no new chapter is being opened due to political blockages. This cannot be blamed on Turkey because it is the EU that is responsible to open new chapters.

The second leg is the issue of providing €3 billion in aid to refugees. This amount, which was offered by the EU itself, should have been paid last year. €1.5 billion of it has been bound by contract and just €790 million has been sent to Turkey so far. Given the amounts pledged and delivered, we see that the amount sent to Turkey is just €790 million. As we have expressed previously, this money is not for Turkey’s coffers; Turkey doesn’t need it. This is rather an opportunity for the Europeans to keep their promise.

And Turkey has done its part regarding the refugee deal. Refugee flow has been stemmed 99 percent. Human smugglers have been prevented from operating at seas; deaths on boats have stopped. We have fought against and eliminated networks of human smugglers with our own means and resources. We have stopped this flow. And let me underline once again that this money isn’t delivered to the Turkish institutions, but is channeled via EU NGOs. We agreed to this as well. May they just meet their responsibilities!

However, even the number of refugees who have been sent to Europe voluntarily within the framework of the readmission deal is around 4 thousand. It is evident that the EU falls immensely behind in doing its part while we are struggling with the gravest refugee crisis of our age. We have opened our doors to and been hosting three million refugees in Turkey. Yet, we unfortunately cannot see the same stance from European countries, which always speak about human rights and dignity.

The third leg of the deal was the inclusion of Turkish citizens in the Schengen visa system. In fact, this is a right which the Turkish citizens should have obtained 20, 25 years ago. However, new obstacles have constantly been raised on this issue and thus the visa liberalization has been delayed under such pretexts as ‘Is Turkey a safe country?’, ‘Would this lead some other things?’ etc. It is the EU again who must take a step on this issue. If the conditions of this deal are met, Turkey-EU relations get back on track.

Another important issue is Europe’s direct or indirect support to terrorist organizations and anti-Turkey formations. This is an issue which has exceeded the limits of our toleration especially over the last years. If Europe is really sincere about democracy, human rights and the rule of law, it must first of all stand with Turkey in the fight against terrorist organizations. Instead of opening its doors to various organizations such as the PKK, FETO, DHKP-C, etc, and their extensions, Europe must take a clear stance against them on Turkey’s side.

This is actually what Mr. President said in his interview with CNN International. In the upcoming period, we will sit down and discuss these issues with the EU and European officials. If a joint will emerges regarding these issues, then let’s continue to walk together. If the EU leaders adopt a more constructive stance on these issues, Turkey-EU relations get back on track and advance on the basis of mutual trust, respect and national interests. But for all this to happen, the Europeans must do their part as I have previously stressed.

Question: The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will issue a decision regarding Turkey and there is a possibility for Turkey to be put on the monitoring status just like the 1990s. How would such a decision affect Turkey-EU relations? And my second question; it has previously been announced that the latest reports on the refugee issue will be released in May. Will there be any change in Turkey’s refugee policy in case of a negative response from the EU?

Spokesperson Kalın: Let me first of all note that Turkey is one of the founding members of the Council of Europe (CoE). We have always conducted a transparent and constructive dialogue with the CoE on every issue including the elections, the aftermath of the coup and the refugees. For example, in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt, high-level visits took place between Turkey and the CoE. In this period, we have also increased our cooperation with all the mechanisms of the CoE. In this regard, we also invited an observer delegation from the PACE to observe the April 16 referendum in Turkey. We invited them to monitor the referendum process and subsequently write their reports in an open and transparent manner since we had nothing to hide.

However, some members of the PACE observer delegation are openly PKK supporters. It is well known by all that these members in question have undertaken certain works and made statements in support of the PKK. Therefore, we already don’t expect the reports penned by these names to be impartial or balanced. In fact, they themselves already showed their true colors with the statements they made before, during and after the referendum. Some of them even openly joined the ‘No’ campaigns. Their relevant posts are still visible on their social accounts. Given all this, the PACE must first conduct a review of itself. Was it really necessary for it to assign such names to its observer delegation for a country like Turkey?

As regards Turkey being put on the monitoring list; we see that despite all our efforts for cooperation, some ill-intentioned circles are making certain attempts with political motives targeting us. This issue of putting Turkey on the monitoring list is being raised at the PACE assembly by certain circles. It is clearly a political operation. This has no legitimate or justifiable basis when you look at the past of Turkey’s relations with the Council of Europe, and with objective facts in Turkey. It is an operation by groups who are uneasy about seeing Turkey start to stand on its own two feet. Some reports have recently been released as well showing the efforts exerted in the background by some lobby groups for the PACE to issue such a decision. We hope they don’t make such a decision because we value our relations with the Council of Europe. Despite such perception operations carried out with political motives, we will continue to make efforts regarding democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the most transparent manner.

Question: Norbert Röttgen, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the German Parliament, made a statement and said ‘We do not give upon Turkey but we think relations with Turkey should be suspended as long as Erdoğan is in power’. How do you comment?

Spokesperson Kalın: This is a statement by a German Parliamentarian, a CDU member. It does not reflect the views of the German government. We have not received such a statement or information from the German government officially. In general, we see it as one of the manifestations of the eclipse of reason in Europe I just mentioned. I mean, then, we should ask ‘Is the thought of a Turkey without Erdoğan behind these remarks?’ Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the president of this country, elected by popular vote. How can they disregard that? What kind of a Turkey do they picture? What kind of a Turkey do they want to establish relations with? With whom they will have relations? These are surely interesting questions. This is like we saying about a president we do not like in Europe ‘We do not want to have relations with him but with others through official channels at a governmental level’. It is coming apart at the seams.

Question: In a recent TV interview, Mr. President said ‘the Operation Euphrates Shield is not our last operation but the first one’ and indicated that it would be continued. There are certain activities in the Sinjar region of Iraq that the PKK is trying to gain control of the area. The activity in Manbij still continues. Does Turkey have plans for a new cross-border operation in the upcoming period? Has this plan been begun to be shared with international partners? I ask this question particularly with regard to Iraq.

Spokesperson Kalın: As you know, we have been conducting an intense fight against terror both within and outside our borders. Our Interior Ministry, Police Force, Gendarmerie, soldiers, guards, all security units are selflessly putting up a great struggle day and night across the country. As you know, we had launched the Operation Euphrates Shield last August. We have concluded it recently and cleared an area of over 2 thousand km2 of terror. Similarly, the Turkish Armed Forces from time to time conducts operations in Iraq against the PKK terrorist organization.

When there is a development threatening our national security, when a dynamic emerges, Turkey responds without hesitation. It is a right given by Article 51 of the UN Charter and also a responsibility we have to protect our national interests. As we have expressed before, the Operation Euphrates Shield comes to an end but as long as there is an ongoing terror threat, Turkey is always in preparation for a new operation. It would not be right for me to go into operational details. However, I would like to express that we are always on alert against developments in Sinjar, other locations in Syria or in Iraq that pose a threat to Turkey’s national security.

Question: Our relations with EU countries are declining. On the other hand, Mr. President will pay visits to India and China. What do you expect from these visits? What kind of a reflection it will have on Turkish foreign policy? Can you elaborate a little?

Spokesperson Kalın: We will pay a visit to India at this level nearly after 10 years. We attach great importance to this visit in terms of further strengthening our relations with India. There is significant preparations underway. Our colleagues continue to work hard on agreements and meetings. I know the Indian side also highly values this visit. After both the July 15 coup attempt and other terrorist attacks, Prime Minister of India called us to convey their condolences to Turkey. Therefore, our visit to India is very important with regard to our good friendly relations. A number of agreements will be signed there. There is important work we can do with India in the areas of trade, economy, tourism and IT. Also, India is of great importance to our relations with other countries in that geography on account that it is the biggest country in the Indian Subcontinent.

Secondly, our meeting with Russia should be as a continuation of the ongoing dialogue process and high-level traffic between Turkey and Russia. As you know, our Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister were in Russia last week. They worked hard to lift the sanctions, to iron out the last remaining problems in the spheres of tourism, economy, trade etc. We will discuss bilateral relations from defense industry to trade and tourism at this meeting and we will also have a chance to review in detail regional issues, Syria in particular. The invitation for this visit to Russia came from Mr. Putin himself. Therefore, we think he also probably has prepared an agenda. We will discuss them there at our meetings in the beginning of May.

The visit to China is of paramount importance. China is a very important trade partner of ours. We have a lot of important work to do with China especially in economic area. We will also attend an international conference in which nearly 30 heads of state and government will partake. China’s One Road, One Belt project is a modern, updated version of the Silk Road. The State of China attaches great importance to this project and Turkey will take part in it, too. I do not want to give any details at the moment but we are making preparations for a very important agreement. When concluded, it will provide great means and opportunities in terms of Turkey-China relations and also economic investments in Turkey. On the sidelines of this international meeting, Mr. President probably will have –we are working on it at the moment- many bilateral meetings and also a bilateral meeting with Chinese President.

The topics on our agenda during our visit to the US are bilateral relations, Syria, Iraq, the fight against terrorist organizations such as DAESH and the PKK, FETO leader’s extradition, steps that can be taken regarding FETO’s network in the US. All these topics will be discussed in detail. This invitation also came from President Trump of the US, himself. In their last phone call, he said ‘Please, let’s discuss these matters in detail at the White House’. There is an agenda we have prepared upon that. We will make a joint review with their agenda. We hope to have a productive meeting.

Afterward, Mr. President will attend the NATO Summit, which will be held in Brussels on the 25th of May. We will have a chance, as a NATO member, to discuss many matters. We probably will also have bilateral meetings with other NATO member countries attending the summit. In a period during which NATO’s mission is questioned –there is, as you know, a questioning going on for a few years- we, as the second largest country in NATO, will share our views on what kind of an approach NATO should take in the face of new challenges and threats. We will share our views that NATO should be further strengthened, more efficient and also our opinions on other activities it can perform in other areas as well as the fight against terror.

Question: Since we are on the subject of visits, I especially would like to ask about Russia. Yesterday, Defense Minister made a statement at the reception and pointed to this visit regarding the purchase of S-400 missiles. He said some points may be clarified during this visit and documents may be signed. Is this the case and what kind of an agreement will it be? The Defense Minister said two batteries would be purchased…

Spokesperson Kalın: This matter about the S-400s should not be seen as a part of our cooperation with Russia in defense industry. That is not all. We target cooperation in other areas, as well. Our priority here is to quickly establish a defense system within the framework of Turkey’s national interests. There were, if you recall, 3-4 criteria. We had started to work on purchasing a defense system based on 3 criteria. When Mr. President was Prime Minister back then, he gave an instruction as the Chair of the Defense Industry Council. Proposals were received from the US, Russia, China, and France-Italy partnership. It has very objective criteria; price, delivery date and joint production, in other words technology transfer. They are graded and the party with the highest-score is given the bid.

The negotiations went on for a long time, because it had many technical aspects. In conclusion, we got near with China. It almost happened but it did not. Then, talks were held with the France-Italy partnership, but it was not concluded due to some developments on their end. Finally, this matter was discussed with Russia. Surely, this matter will be brought up at the meeting in Sochi, Russia. Our Undersecretariat of Defense Ministry continue to conduct talks in this regard.

I would like to underline something here: when it comes to cooperation with Russia in defense, some circles say it cannot be accommodated to NATO and that it is another example of Turkey drifting away from the West. In all our relations, we do not regard foreign policy as a zero-sum game. These relations are not alternatives to one another. Just as European countries, the US or other countries can engage in foreign policy in many places across the world and do not feel the need to explain it, Turkey, as a sovereign state, can engage in relations with many countries based on its national interests. It is only natural.

It is unacceptable that they raise matters, they do not raise for themselves or others, about Turkey as if it was an accusation. We make an assessment here by taking into consideration Turkey’s national defense interests and needs. Therefore, if we can do it with a NATO member, we will do it with it. If we can do it with Russia, we will do it with it. If we can do it with China, we will do it with it. Because, what matters is quickly meeting our national security needs. The war in Syria, right next to us, has been going on for 6 years. We are faced with many security threats and risks. We are fighting against many terrorist organizations at the same time. Therefore, there is nothing odd here.

Arguments are being raised that these, as systems, cannot be made up for. Let me express that they are not technically correct. These are defense systems. They do not pose a threat to any country. On the contrary, they are planned on being set up to eliminate threats against us. Therefore, our negotiations are underway. I do not think it is likely that it will be concluded before the meeting in Russia, because some technical negotiations are still going on. However, I believe the process will gain a new momentum there.

Question: The Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor of Ankara has launched an investigation today into the remarks by French political scientist that suggested the assassination of President Erdoğan. Mr. President has filed a complaint. Is there any detail you can share with us?

Spokesperson Kalın: Yesterday, that French professor, former diplomat made an apology, but of course we do not find it sufficient. He said that his remarks went beyond his purpose, and that they were inappropriate. He apologized. This is the first step. All legal experts agree that this is a matter of a criminal case. The Turkish Lawyers Association in France filed a complaint. We hope it will not take long for the French authorities to take action.

Secondly, Mr. President filed a complaint here via his lawyers. As I said, this matter can by no means be underestimated or regarded as criticism, even insult. If someone says ‘the only way is assassination’ about the elected president of a country, and if he says it on TV, there are legal consequences he will have to suffer. Therefore, we will follow closely the legal process.

The details regarding the complaint have been shared with the press and the public. Anyone who wants can read the details. Why the complaint has been filed is explained with very convincing reasons. Let me reiterate what I have said in the beginning; we will never allow such fascist discourses to become normal and legitimate. Everyone must have a very clear attitude regardless of their political views when there is such an assault, such a call against the President of the Republic of Turkey. People, who truly believe in democracy and the rule of law, must give the harshest response to such fascist approaches not only in Turkey but in Europe as well. I think this is also a test for Europe, too. Let’s see how they will react.”