Statement by Presidential Spokesperson Ambassador İbrahim Kalın

20.07.2017

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

Spokesperson Kalın stated:

“All our relevant institutions, including the Prime Ministry, Ministry of Family and Social Policies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior, organized commemoration events on the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt. The commemorations were held successfully with the contributions of the AK Party headquarters and party spokesperson Mahir Ünal with regard to coordination. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our presidential teams and all the relevant institutions for their efforts in organizing the commemorations. The anniversary of the July 15 coup attempt showed us once again our people’s resolve on the issues of human rights, rule of law and independence. Our people, who immediately rushed to the streets upon just one call on July 15, 2016, once again took to the streets exactly one year later and condemned this heinous coup attempt of FETO (Fetullah Terrorist Organization) proving to the whole world that they would unwaveringly fight for their independence and future. I hereby once again wish Allah’s mercy upon the July 15 martyrs and a speedy recovery to our veterans.

The second important item is the new cabinet approved yesterday by Mr. President. I wish the new cabinet to lead to favorable outcomes for our country.

There are many comments made on the new cabinet, which Mr. Prime Minister presented to Mr. President for approval following his consultations. ‘Continuity in change, change in continuity’ has been the basic principle Mr. President has observed in such revisions. As such, this cabinet can be seen both as a cabinet of change and continuity. This is a cabinet reshuffle intended to be a blood change which will enable the cabinet to render more effective services and allow the incumbent ministers to pass on their experiences to the incoming ones. We hope the policies to be followed in the run up to the elections that will be held in 2019, and more importantly this cabinet, to lead to positive developments for our country in line with our goals for 2023.

Meanwhile, as regards the homeland security, we have long been in an intensive fight against the terrorist organizations PKK, DAESH and FETO. Turkey is a much safer country today in comparison with July 15, 2016, as a result of the coordinated and self-sacrificing efforts of the Ministry of Interior, the Turkish Armed Forces and the judiciary. The fight against drugs is also one of the vital issues that should be addressed as part of this agenda. We have started to make progress in this issue, which has recently been taken again under close scrutiny upon Mr. President’s instructions. The government has implemented many measures to protect in particular the youth against drugs. Yet, for this measures to yield the desired results, it is necessary that families, the young, schools and other relevant institutions be vigilant and exert efforts. To this end, cooperation is of utmost importance. What is more, the issue of drug trafficking cannot be thought independently from the PKK terrorist organization. As you know, drug trafficking constitutes a major source of finance for the PKK. Heavy blows have started to be dealt to this source, though.

The world, especially the western democracies unfortunately continue to ignore the PKK terror, which keeps being a nuisance to our country. We have recently grieved over the death of Necmettin Yılmaz, a young teacher of ours martyred by the PKK. I once again wish Allah’s mercy upon him and extend my condolences to his family and wish patience to all of us. We have seen that western media and officials, who try to lecture Turkey about democracy, human rights and freedoms at every opportunity, have displayed a disgraceful silence in the face of this act of terror by the PKK. We see that they view it as a petty crime and try to cover it up. Turkish people do absolutely not forget this, clearly seeing who the true friends and foes are and who stands with or against Turkey. Our fight against such terrorist organizations as the PKK, DAESH and FETO will continue intensively. I would like to once again thank Mr. Gürsel Erol, a deputy of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and recall the phone call Mr. President had with him. The speech Mr. Erol made at the Parliament echoes the uncompromised, domestic and national stance Turkey should display against terror. Therefore, Mr. President called Mr. Erol to congratulate him on his speech. This presents an important picture for us to become ‘one’ against terror, setting aside our political identities. Mr. President’s resolute and uncompromised stance is already well known. I would like to reiterate our support to the works and efforts undertaken on this issue by our security units as well as by the Prime Ministry and the Ministry of Interior.

I would like to point out to another issue on the occasion of the anniversary of the July 15 coup attempt. As you know, we have implemented an important work to clear FETO-member coup plotters from our security units, namely the military and the national police force. While this cleansing operation was underway, we saw various speculations and news that ‘Turkey’s security would be compromised’ and ‘it would no longer be a trustworthy partner within the NATO’s security system’ being put into circulation by sources which are more or less known.

One year on, we see that this operation has not compromised our security forces, but on the contrary, the Turkish Armed Forces and the National Police have grown much more effective as they have been cleared of FETO-member traitors. In other words, our security units get back to their primary mission as they are cleared of FETO. And they are now putting up a heroic and self-sacrificing fight to maintain security.

Today, it is also anniversary of the July 20 Cyprus Peace Operation. We have just shared Mr. President’s relevant message. Similarly, Mr. Prime Minister is attending the commemorations on the island. Secretary General of the Presidency Mr. Fahri Kasırga is also participating in the commemorations. This is a memorial day we attach importance to since it marks the 43rd anniversary of the Cyprus Peace Operation. Our high-level participation in these commemorations is aimed at once again highlighting the fact that we stand with the people of Cyprus. As you know, the Cyprus Conference in Switzerland hasn’t yielded the desired results. Turkish officials have adopted a very constructive attitude on the issue from the very beginning, as attested by statements of the UN officials and all the international monitors. Since all the way back to the Cyprus Conference in Bürgenstock in 2004 and the referendum of the Annan Plan, Mr. President has been acting on a principle, which is that ‘we will always be one step ahead in Cyprus negotiations,’ a stance which remained unchanged for the past 13-14 years. However, despite our constructive attitude and our efforts to come up with constructive ideas for a solution, the desired outcome couldn’t be reached because of the Greek side’s unconstructive stance. Yet, this doesn’t mean that the Cyprus issue has been closed. We will continue to stand with the people of Cyprus. Despite the fact that it was the Greek side that rejected the Annan Plan in the referendum, the sanctions on the Turkish Cypriot side have remained in place. We have come back to the same point 13 years on. No result could be obtained from the negotiations yet again because of the Greek side’s uncompromising attitude. Nevertheless, the isolations and sanctions targeting the Turkish Cypriot side are being continued. Under the light of these facts, we call on the international community to lift these isolations and sanctions fully. The Turkish Cypriot side has adopted a very constructive attitude during the negotiations within the UN parameters. It has displayed an extremely constructive attitude on the topics of security, guarantees and others. Given all these facts, it is high time the isolations and sanctions against the Turkish Cypriot side were lifted. We hereby reiterate our call to the international community on this issue.

Another important item on our agenda is the liberation of Mosul from DAESH. An important development occurred last week in the fight against DAESH terror. The city of Mosul has almost completely been cleared of DAESH. I would like to reiterate our pleasure over this development. In a phone call yesterday, Mr. Prime Minister congratulated Mr. Abadi and underlined that Turkey stood ready to do its part in the reconstruction of Mosul along with the international community. As Mr. Abadi noted, a high level of international cooperation is needed for Mosul’s reconstruction and the restoration of security in the city. We conveyed that as Turkey we are ready to take part in this process. And Mr. Abadi, for his part, stated they would be glad. We will continue to be in close contact with the Iraqi authorities on these issues.

Tal Afar is another critical stop within the framework of the fight against DAESH terror. Currently Iraqi national forces are conducting operations towards Tal Afar. We would like to once again underline the importance of the Iraqi national forces entering Tal Afar and not letting Hashdi Shabi enter there.

Regarding Iraq, there is also the issue of the IKRG’s independence referendum. I would like to reiterate that the decision to hold a referendum is a wrong step which would lead to irrevocable results and that the IKRG administration should back down from this decision. Because, it is impossible for this referendum to yield any positive outcome either within the Iraqi context or regional and international context. We hope that the IKRG authorities reconsider this decision of theirs and back down from it so as to prevent any irreparable mistake or harm. Another important topic is the Gulf tour that Mr. President will go on this weekend. As part of the tour, Mr. President will meet with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

Turkey has adopted a constructive role since the onset of the crisis and called for negotiations towards a resolution through dialogue. Mr. President conducted a very intense telephone diplomacy back then, which has gradually started to yield results. It is a pleasing development that the 13-point list of demands has been mitigated to 6 demands and the closure of the Turkish base in Qatar has been removed from the list. Our works as to what possible steps might be taken in the future will continue. I would like to once again express that Mr. President attaches great importance to the special role the Saudi King assumes in the resolution of the issue. We also would like to highlight the precious mediation undertaken by the Kuwait Amir. Mr. President talked with the Kuwait Amir over phone a few times throughout this process and we will have a chance to address the issue in detail during our visit on Sunday. Mr. President and the leaders of the region will also discuss the bilateral relations and other regional issues such as Iraq, Syria, the fight against terror, Palestine, Al-Aqsa Mosque, etc.

Another issue high on the agenda is the incidents around Al-Aqsa Mosque. Let me note that these are extremely disturbing developments for us. It is unacceptable to try to surround Al-Aqsa Mosque or Haram al-Sharif on security grounds, install metal detectors, and block Palestinian Arabs or other Muslims from entering there.

We consider these developments to be part of an attempt to change step by step the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque, as has been the case with Al-Khalil Mosque from 1994 onwards, and we are gravely concerned by this. Preservation of Al-Aqsa Mosque’s current status is an inalienable right of the Palestinians emanating from the international law and it is out of the question to take a step back from it. The people of Palestine are not alone. Al-Aqsa Mosque is not alone. It is not Israel’s property. It belongs to the Palestinians and all Muslims.

Such restrictions on the entry and exit of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram Al-Sharif are unacceptable in terms of the freedom of worship and the international law. We should imagine what the reactions of Western countries would be if the same restrictions were to be imposed on the entry and exist of Jewish or Christian sanctuaries in any Muslim country. Therefore, we are of the opinion that European countries and the US should no longer remain silent. Because, never do we want the outbreak of new clashes there tomorrow during Friday prayers. It is an inhumane situation that Mr. Ikrima, aged over 70, one of the leading religious scholars and muftis of Al-Quds, suffered rubber bullet injuries two or three days ago. These people don’t have weapons in their hands. They are not going there to fight a war or to clash. They just want to get to their sanctuaries and worship.

We call on all sides, the Arab world, Europe, the US and the international community to raise their voice on this issue. We call on Israel to put an immediate end to these policies. However, I also should add that it is very saddening for the Islamic countries to waste their energy over disputes among themselves related to other issues while such incidents occur in Palestine.

I also would like to briefly touch upon the relations with the EU. As you know, a roadmap was drawn up as a result of Mr. President’s talks in Brussels for the revival of Turkey-EU relations. Within this framework, possible steps regarding this roadmap will be discussed at a Turkey-EU summit at the ministers and commissioners level on July 25. Our relevant friends will attend this summit and seek ways for progress in the EU process. A delegation from the EU came to Turkey for the preliminary preparations of the summit. We see full membership to the EU as a strategic goal. We cannot accept any alternative other than full membership. And to this end there are steps the EU should take as well. I would like to state that we especially expect the EU to display a more constructive and supportive stance toward Turkey’s security concerns.

We can continue with your questions.”

Question: “German authorities reacted to the arrests that came after the investigation in Büyükada, and Turkish Foreign Ministry responded to these reactions. However, a statement came from the German Foreign Minister today, which contains harsh remarks. He views the arrests as pre-planned and says ‘We have exercised a lot of patience, which was not easy. We need to redefine our policy on Turkey”. Regarding the relations with the EU and expansion of Customs Union, he says they do not know how these negotiations will continue and that they may update the warning for Germans about travelling to Turkey. How do you comment?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “First of all, we believe those unfortunate remarks are investments for internal politics in the upcoming elections in Germany. Unfortunately, it has become a trend in Germany. Those, who saw animosity, bordering paranoia, towards Turkey and President Erdoğan in particular began to earn credit in German politics, are now trying to score points by getting on this wagon. I think they need to save themselves from this eclipse of reason and think in a more rational way.

Look, there are many investigations, conducted into our citizens in Germany. Many innocent citizens of ours have been treated as spies. Many civil society organizations, established according to German laws and have served for years to the German society there as much as the Turkish community, have been subjected to unfair treatment. No light have been shed on the NSU murders for years. On one hand, they are talking about a state of law like Germany, and on the other hand, they are in an endeavor as to how to sweep the NSU murders under the rug for over 10 years.

Everyone knows the PKK and FETO’s organizations in Germany. They clearly state this themselves in the reports, issued by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. We have shown them to German authorities again and again, and said ‘these are reports, prepared by your own authorities’. In these reports, they state themselves how the PKK’s organization expanded and deepened in the last 10 years. Germany still continues to be one of the top places, where the FETO fugitives, traitors who betrayed to this country and then fled FETO investigations go to. How can German authorities turn a blind eye to them? When we voice our objections and put our files regarding these matters in front of them, they say ‘there is judicial independence here’, and we respect that. Well, why don’t they respect the judicial independence in Turkey? They want the judiciary in Turkey to be an institution which constantly takes instructors and they want to be the one that gives the instructions. First of all, this is disrespectful to the Turkish judiciary. This is disrespectful to a country like Turkey that will not share its independence and sovereignty with anyone else. First, they will respect the judiciary here on this matter.

Secondly, we strongly condemn the remarks that German citizens travelling to Turkey are not safe, and that German companies’ hesitations and concerns are right. Such a thing is out of the question. During our meeting with Mrs. Chancellor in Hamburg, Mr. President and our relevant ministers stated that German investments in Turkey are safe. To us, Germany is an important trade partner. There are thousands of Turkish companies in Germany and 6-7 thousand German companies in Turkey. These are major actors that have been reciprocally strengthening economic relations for years. Has there been any investigation so far into a German company in Turkey? Has there been any unfair treatment? Now, bringing up such a thing when there is no such thing is sacrificing these relations, which we can never accept. Trying to overshadow economic relations for small political calculations on elections and Germany’s domestic politics and trying to raise doubt in the minds of German investors in Turkey is unacceptable. I believe it was yesterday, there were a couple of similar reports in a German newspaper. Regarding that, our Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Mehmet Şimşek immediately spoke with those persons this morning. Those companies also expressed that there was no such thing and that they felt very safe. Therefore, it is not possible for us to accept remarks made with political motives to blur the economic area. We hope they give up them as soon as possible.

German citizens have been coming to Turkey for years for tourism, trade, education and other reasons. And we do not have any problem about them. They are our guests here and we want to see more German tourists here. The safety of their lives and properties are entrusted to us.

Who are those persons, investigated, arrested and now involved in the judicial process? When we look at them, they are, as far as the police and the judiciary have discovered, engaged in certain illegal and shady activities. How many are they? They are 3-5 people. Putting them in the same equation with the people who come to Turkey for normal, legitimate tourism or trade, etc. and giving a message that ‘it is not safe to go to Turkey’ is, above all a great political irresponsibility. We do not accept such a thing. We have always had good relations with Germany, and we want to do so. However, as we have always said, it should be based on mutual respect and interests.

No one should shake their fingers at Turkey from Europe or somewhere else and try to bring Turkey into line. Our country have its own rules and laws. We have our own security concerns. As I have said, if Europeans see Turkey’s security as part of their own security, they would do a better and more rational thing. We all know how structures of anti-Turkey organizations in Europe have deepened for years, how particularly the PKK terrorist organization have collected money there, propagated, recruited new members, and trained them in Iraq, Syria and other places and had them attack Turkey. As I have said, these points are in Germans’ own official reports. Therefore, what they should do here is to address these real problems, resolve them, and put Turkish-German relations back on track as opposed to overshadowing Turkish-German relations with these populist outbursts.”

Question: “The US State Department issued a report. They included Turkey in the Country Reports on Terrorism 2016. They especially mentioned the Fetullah Terrorist Organization. Our 250 martyrs and over 2 thousand veterans in the July 15 coup attempt were in the report. What is interesting is that The FETO was in the report but not included in the terror list. How do you comment on this conflicting report, issued by the US?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “Actually, you summarized the situation with one word? It is a conflicting situation. It is important that the FETO, even though it was indirect, was included in the US State Department’s report. We value that. However, we should say here that this is an assessment that does not fully identify the nature of the terrorist organization. Trying to subjectify it by saying only the Turkish Government sees it so means steering away from objective facts. Because, what this terrorist organization has done in Turkey is clear and well-known. The July 15 coup attempt and the FETO’s activities in its aftermath is obvious. What makes us sad is that: The FETO terrorist organization is at the moment engaged in activities against Turkey by using Europe and Germany, the means and opportunities there, and even by using American taxpayers’ money and manipulating the system. Our expectation from the European and American authorities is that they extradite all militants, members –overt or covert-, agents, spies of the FETO, the FETO terrorist organization’s leader Gulen in particular, to Turkey in line with the law and investigate them there.

If we are talking about the rule of law and independence of the judiciary, the rulings of the Turkish courts are open and clear. Our expectation from the European and American authorities within the framework of the extradition treaty is that they extradite members of the FETO terrorist organization to Turkey. Otherwise, letting this guy continue to run a criminal empire from Pennsylvania is a great contradiction in terms of the fight against terror and also a situation that unfortunately overshadows, undermines the claim of having a strategic relation of alliance with Turkey. Our expectation from the European and American authorities- the same also goes for Germany- is that they act without hesitation and delay and cooperate with us in bringing these criminals to justice.”

Question: “During the handover ceremony yesterday at the National Defense Ministry following the cabinet reshuffle, National Defense Minister Fikri Işık, who was handing over the office, made a statement, and talked about forming a special unit within the Turkish Armed Forces within the scope of fighting the FETO. What are the details of this special unit? What can you share with us?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “That is an ongoing effort. When completed, our relevant units, the Turkish Armed Forces, the National Defense Ministry will share it as they see fit. But, let me say that our Turkish Armed Forces and other security units are conducting committed, intense, detailed efforts on the fight against the FETO. Our struggle will continue until this threat is completely eliminated.”

Question: “The Anadolu Agency issued a report recently, detailing the US bases and troops in northern Syria. A statement came from the Pentagon. They say ‘We would be very concerned if officials from a NATO ally would purposefully endanger our forces by releasing sensitive information’. They also say such reports would place American troops and the fight against DAESH in danger. How do you comment?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “Let me say this first; this is a report, prepared by the Anadolu Agency within the frame of its own news network. It is out of the question that the government has given any information or steered it in any way. The Anadolu Agency, as a news agency, may have put the matter on its agenda and reported it. We saw it after it had been published. As Turkey, we can never have the idea or the intention to put the lives of any of our allies’ troops or officials in danger in Syria, Iraq or anywhere. And we expect the same from those countries. We expect them to avoid any conduct or behavior that may put the lives of our troops, officials across the world in danger. It is something we already implement reciprocally. We have always expressed Turkey’s sensitivities about the support given to the PYD/YPG. We have and will continue to express that this policy is wrong, because you cannot eliminate a terrorist organization through another terrorist organization. We hope that American officials evaluate where the weapons, training, propaganda and media support, political support, given to the PYD/YPG, will lead to. At least from our perspective, no one can deny the outcome that they support and strengthen the PKK.

When we look at the PKK terrorist organization’s approach, we see their attitude that ‘Yes, we have gained the support of the US under the pretext of fighting DAESH. Therefore, we can act as we want in the field’. Who gives that courage to this terrorist organization? On one hand, you call the PKK a terrorist organization –as some European countries do- and on the other hand, you open up a vast area to them. If there is going to be a consistent fight against terror, it should be done according to certain rules. I also would like to underline another point; when does terror begin to be defined as an international and urgent threat? When it targets western interests, such as the DAESH or Al Qaeda terror. However, for example, when it comes to the PKK terror –it is a terrorist organization, uses the same methods, has the same approach, kills people, attacks innocent people. It is a brutal, blood-thirsty terrorist organization that killed a young teacher, Necmettin Yılmaz, recently and many other teachers, guards, policemen and citizens-, they seem to put it in a different category. Why? Because, it does not target western interests. There is such double-standards here. Terror, if it is terror, is terror everywhere. And everyone should fight against it. When you look at situations through the logic ‘let sleeping dogs lie’, those dogs will bite you eventually. We have seen a small example of this during the anti-G20 and globalization protests that reached the level of vandalism in Hamburg. We have all seen how a group, carrying YPG and PYD rags, tried to march there and went up against the German police. That is exactly what we are talking about.”