Statement by Presidential Spokesperson Ambassador İbrahim Kalın

17.08.2017

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

Spokesperson Kalın stated:

“Mr. President will pay a one-day official visit to Jordan on August 21 at the invitation of King Abdullah of Jordan. Bilateral relations will be discussed during the visit. Jordan, with which we enjoy good cultural, political and trade relations, is one of the important countries of the region.

Regional issues, especially Syria and Iraq, will also be on the agenda during the visit. The issue of Al-Aqsa Mosque is expected to be addressed in detail, as well.

Al-Aqsa Mosque and the properties of foundations in its environs, which are located in Palestinian territories under occupation, are managed by the Jordanian authorities in coordination with the Palestinians. We are working closely with the Jordanian authorities on this issue. All these issues, the fight against terror, Yemen and all the other relevant topics will be discussed during the visit. In our view, this visit is particularly important in that it reflects the broad perspective of Mr. President’s foreign policy engagement.

As you know, Mr. President received Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Mohammad Bagheri yesterday. It was the first visit at such a high level in a long time. The visit, hosted by Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar, was very fruitful and successful.

The fight against terrorist organizations, PKK and DAESH in particular, border security, military and political developments in Syria and Iraq, the Astana process and other regional issues were addressed in detail during Chief of Staff Bagheri’s visit, with high-level visits agreed to be held in the future as well. A series of actions will be taken for the purposes of further deepening of this military cooperation. You will be regularly informed by the General Staff on the issue.

Yesterday, Mr. President also received Prime Minister Jüri Ratas of Estonia, the term president of the EU. That is to say, on the one hand, we remain engaged in regional issues such as Iran, the Jordan visit and the Syria matter, and on the other hand, we maintain our contacts that prove Turkey’s continuing determination about the EU membership process. During the receptions yesterday, Mr. President voiced Turkey’s determination for membership to the EU as an equal and sovereign state. Mr. President conveyed to the Prime Minister Ratas of Estonia, the term president of the EU, Turkey’s condition that this should happen in line with the principles of mutual trust, confidence and interests and as well as equality.

There are of course important roles that should be played by the EU as well on this issue. As Mr. President has repeatedly expressed, it is absolutely not acceptable for Turkey, stalled at the EU’s doorstep for 54 years, to be subjected to such accusations as ‘Turkey is not doing its part.’

The objections voiced over and the artificial obstacles raised against, especially recently, the opening of new chapters or the updating of the Customs Union show that there is both a confusion and an increasingly-stronger negative attitude on this issue. We see that this situation is unfortunately closely related to the rising populism and the election schedule in Europe.

As Minster for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik expressed today at a press conference with British Minister Sir Alan Duncan, Turkey’s perspective on the EU membership is clear and evident. We maintain our determination for membership. Yet, for this to realize, important duties fall on EU institutions and bureaucracy, too.

Let me also add, regarding domestic politics, that Mr. President will be in Malazgirt (Manzikert) on August 26 to mark the 946th anniversary of the Battle of Malazgirt. All our citizens, especially our youths, are invited to Malazgirt for the commemorations. That is because Malazgirt is a historic victory of great importance that opened Anatolia’s gates to Turks. It is a moment of honor, a milestone in our history. Thus, it is of critical importance that this day be accordingly celebrated with a strong sense of history and a sound perspective of future.

Another issue high on our agenda is the fight against terror. All our relevant units, including the Turkish Armed Forces, Ministry of Interior, General Directorate of Security, Gendarmerie General Command, village guards, etc, are in an intensive fight against terror. Thanks be to Allah, they are waging this struggle in full coordination and cooperation.

Our security forces continue to fight against terrorist organizations with great sacrifices and patriotism. We have recently started to get results of this struggle. The border security-related troubles originating from Syria and Iraq which we previously experienced have largely been minimized. Our fight against terrorist organizations, including DAESH, PKK, DHKP-C, and the likes, will continue in a resolute manner.

The Astana process as well as the issues of Idlib and Afrin, which you will probable ask about in the Q&A part, are the main items that should be addressed within the framework of these general measures for security. I would especially like to underscore that Turkey, using its own national means and capabilities, will continue to take necessary measures in order to ensure its national and border security.

Let me underline that the fight against terror is not an issue that can be undertaken by just one country alone. We should stress that in this age of globalization, the terror has also got globalized and been acting within a very complicated network structure. In this regard, such subjects as cooperation and intelligence sharing among countries are of critical importance. The understanding that ‘the snake which doesn’t bite me is not my problem,’ which is an approach that is adopted by some countries, is especially wrong, inaccurate and flawed.

That is because terrorist organizations to which you turn a blind eye today might easily hit you tomorrow. As a matter of fact, we have openly and clearly witnessed various instances of this situation in terrorist attacks that have been perpetrated over the last few years in France, Belgium and other European countries. Therefore, Turkey is doing its part related to coordination and cooperation in the fight against terror. We expect our allies to show the same sensitivity, too, and to continue to do so.

I would like to share a point from my notes regarding economy. Thanks be to Allah, Good news continues to come from economy. We welcome that the budget ran a surplus of 926 million Turkish liras in July. This is a very important indicator that reaffirms Turkish economy’s strong structure. What is more, the employment mobilization, launched upon Mr. President’s call, has started to yield significant results. The number of those employed in May increased 1.8 million, a remarkable figure that shows we are very close to the goal of creating 2 million new employments.

Turkish economy has come face to face with very serious challenges after the July 15 coup attempt; however, I can easily state that we have passed this test with great success. With a growth trend that is %5 or higher, Turkish economy has showed the entire world what a strong and solid ground it is based on. And there is currently a great deal of movement in tourism sector, as well, which can be called a boom. I can easily state that our tourism and service sectors, which suffered a lot last year and the year before due to acts of terror and other reasons, have been enjoying a very lucrative period this year.

Lastly, there were some speculations with regard to the expression the ‘Republic of Turkey.’ I already stated that the expression, the ‘President of Turkey’ had been used by former presidents, too, since the tenure of Cevdet Sunay. In fact, it is even possible to trace the usage of this expression back to earlier times. The expression, the ‘President of Turkey’ had been used by our Republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and İsmet İnönü, as well. Given all this, we find it inappropriate to speculate over the achievements of the Republic of Turkey over an issue like this.

The republic is this nation’s form of government; the form of state administration that guarantees this nation’s sovereignty, freedom and independence. It is out of the question to compromise or go back on it. Let me remind once again that it is important to use expressions in a proper manner in terms of both linguistics and historically established practices.

We can continue with your questions.”

Question: “As you have just stated, Iranian Chief of General Staff held talks in Turkey. More visits will take place in the coming period. Was any possible operation in the north of Syria discussed during the visit? As far as we know, the Russian Chief of General Staff is expected to come to Turkey soon as well. Are Iran and Turkey planning a joint operation on Qandil within the framework of the fight against PKK? Is such a joint operation on the agenda?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “Iran is absolutely an important border neighbor of ours in the region. It is a very important country with which we have relations dating back centuries. It is an important country with which we are in constant consultation not only on the issue of Syria or Iraq, but also on all other regional issues. We attach importance to the Iranian Chief of General Staff’s visit to Turkey because it is the first visit that has been paid at such a high level in a long time. We are glad to have seen during the visit that we are on the same page about fighting jointly against all terrorist organizations in the region, particularly the PKK and DAESH, and about the border security as well as the success of the Astana process, cessation of conflicts and detailed implementation of the de-escalation zones in Syria, achieving stability in Iraq, preservation of Iraq’s and Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to give operational details here. As we have previously laid out as a general principle, Turkey takes necessary measures whenever a threat arises against itself whether it be in Idlib, Afrin or in other border regions of Iraq and Syria. Our armed forces and intelligence organization as well as other relevant units of ours make their preparations, calculate various possibilities and take action accordingly against any threat.

We have seen many examples of this in the recent period. We have seen its examples in the Operation Euphrates Shield and in the operations carried out against the PKK inside Iraq. We have seen its examples against terrorist threats of the PYD, YPG and DAESH originating from Syria. Necessary steps and measures are taken on this issue. You sometimes see these measures in the form of movement at the border, or sometimes in the form of political or military visits and talks. I can assure you that all the necessary measures are taken in a way that leaves no room for hesitation.

Our Chief of General Staff is in close contact with not only his Iranian and Russian counterparts, but also with his American counterparts and other leading members of the international coalition. Within this regard, the US Defense Minister is also expected to pay a visit to our country in the coming period. The measures, which the interests of our country and our region require, are, and continue to be, taken with a 360-degree perspective in engagement with all actors.

The Astana process; especially the cessation of conflicts, is of importance. Our primary stakeholders here are Russia and Iran. It is quite natural that this consultations continue at various levels. Likewise, there are both the DAESH terror and the PKK terror in Iraq. What possible actions can be taken against them? What steps can be taken in intelligence sharing and in other areas? Details of these issues are being discussed, as well. Yet, as I have stated, our first priority is the preservation of Syria’s and Iraq’s territorial integrity, security and sovereignty.”

Question: “German Chancellor Merkel made some statements yesterday. She said they wouldn’t pursue an update of the Customs Union with Ankara as long as tension doesn’t ease. However, she also stressed the need for the continuation of dialogue with Turkey. Mrs. Merkel stated that %50 of the Turkish people voted no in the referendum on the constitutional amendment, and that those naysayers had an expectation from them. How do you evaluate these statements of Mrs. Merkel’s?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “These are unfortunate statements. We think, we want to think, that these statements were made under the ongoing election atmosphere in Germany. Let me firstly say the following: It is extremely unfavorable and against democratic principles to classify Turkey like %50 is there %50 is here and to make such political comments from the outside. I wonder what Mrs. Merkel’s reaction would be if we made a similar analysis with the same logic. I assume they wouldn’t welcome it if we were to make such remarks as ‘60-70-50 percent, or whatever it is, who haven’t voted for her have expectations from us’. They probably wouldn’t be pleased by such remarks. Therefore, we consider them to be evaluations made under the election atmosphere and, frankly speaking, don’t think they should be taken seriously at all.

As regards the issue of Customs Union, as our EU Minister expressed earlier in the day, it is, above all, not right for an EU member state to display an attitude as it was giving instructions to the EU institutions. Turkey’s relations with the EU date back 50 years, with economy being one of the most important legs of these relations. As you know, the Customs Union agreement was signed in the 1990s and Turkey is the only country that signed the Customs Union agreement but couldn’t become an EU member. This Customs Union agreement was signed on a win-win basis. In other words, we are speaking of a relationship in which both Turkey and the European countries win. Therefore, it is not only Turkey, but also the European countries that will get harmed when this is hampered, postponed or cancelled.”

Another important aspect of this issue is, as Mr. President has expressed, that using economy like a tool of political blackmail is not compatible with state seriousness. International firms operating in Turkey didn’t fall for this game and expressed willingness to continue their operations in Turkey’s safe environment. We have started to see the results of this willingness. New investments continue to come to Turkey. As such, a joint Turkish-German consortium won a tender for wind polar with the highest bid. These will continue. We believe that the business world has the right sensitives on this issue. I would like to stress that our relevant units and ministries are in close contact with these firms and are playing a facilitative role providing them with every convenience.

German authorities’ efforts to spread the tension between Turkey and Germany to entire Europe actually show how desperate they are. Let me say something first: we do not want to experience any tension with Germany or any other European country. We also have a few words to say when asked ‘what are the objective reasons for that?’ I mean, if there are certain matters they voice, we should express that Turkey has very legitimate, rightful security concerns and demands regarding this matter.

For example; the terrorist organizations and their extensions, operating in Germany –we have been talking about it for years-: the PKK terrorist organization, the DHKP-C terrorist organization and the FETO terror has been added to the list recently. Taking them under wing, opening all kinds of doors to anti-Turkey groups and persons, treating them with respect cause great question marks. It leads to questions like ‘what is Germany trying to do?’ among Turkish people. What the German authorities need to do here is to take steps that will correct these mistakes as opposed to questioning, accusing Turkey or trying to punish Turkey through certain economic measures. Our expectation is, as Mr. President has said, that everyone sit down and think with reason after the election process is over and reassess the medium and long term dimensions of the relations so that we will have a chance to rebuild the model and frame of our relations on the basis of mutual trust and interests.”

Question: “In a program you attended yesterday, you said the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (IKRG) should back down from the referendum on independence, planned to be held on September 25. However, the IKRG has printed ballots, showing it has not backed down. You also made a statement and said ‘if they do not back down, the consequences will be heavy. What kind of a step will Turkey take if they hold the referendum on independence?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “Thank you. I would like to reiterate our call here. The referendum decision will resolve the problems of neither the IKRG nor Iraq. We know there are a series of problems between Erbil and Baghdad. There are certain political, economic, border, territory, security and other problems. And we have been in contact with both Baghdad and Erbil to play a facilitating role here.

Surely, it would be helpful if Baghdad takes certain steps that may relieve Erbil. There is an ongoing traffic on this matter, conducted between Erbil and Baghdad this week. However, if they disregard these initiatives, and embark on this path by saying ‘the only solution now is referendum’, Erbil will put itself in a difficult position. The outcome of the referendum –no matter what it will be- will put the Erbil administration in a difficult position. Because, they will have held the referendum in a certain region in a way that does not embrace all Iraqi people.

Another important matter to us is that Kirkuk has been included in the areas where the referendum will be held and voting will take place, which is legally and constitutionally not right. It also has a distinct importance to us, because Kirkuk is a Turkmen city. Yes, there are Kurds and Arabs there but its main characteristic is that Kirkuk is a Turkmen city. They have also been making statements; it is highly likely that Turkmens and Arabs will boycott the referendum. Therefore, the legitimacy of the outcome will always be questioned. And the climate of safety and peace will be imperiled.

Once again, our call is that they back down from the decision. Such decisions may be taken in their own parliaments, ballots may be printed but what matters is to think with commonsense and take the right step. Surely, there are steps both the Baghdad administration and the Erbil administration should take on that matter. We will try to do our due in consultation with regional countries. Iran, the Iraqi Central Government, many European countries, the US and other Gulf countries have voiced their sensitivities about the referendum. I hope the Erbil administration will give an ear to that and back down from this mistake soon.”

Question: “Can you give any detail about the extradition request in case Adil Öksüz is in Germany?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “Yes, as you know, the issue has been conveyed at the beginning of this week to German authorities by our Foreign Ministry. Yesterday, German Foreign Minister made a statement that he saw the news in Turkey but did not know whether it was true or not. Our expectation is that German authorities investigate the issue in a very serious manner. Because, we know that our intelligence organization is in close contact with the German authorities, and briefing them on a regular basis. First of all, our demand is, of course, that the German authorities start the necessary procedures to extradite that person to Turkey from the moment that he is found to be in Germany. This morning, Our Justice Minister had a talk with his counterpart, the German Justice Minister. We can say that, in general, it was a positive talk. It was agreed upon that our justice ministries work closely on not only about this matter but also our extradition requests. But, more efforts are needed.

Friends, let me try to explain it with a contrary example. If there had been a similar incident, a coup attempt in Germany, and hundreds of coup-plotters, let’s say suspects had come to Turkey by taking advantage of legal loopholes, stayed here for months, walked free here, engaged in anti-Germany activities, and if we, as the Republic of Turkey, had opened them ground, doors, gave them credit, hosted them here, how would Germany or any other country have reacted?

To us, it is that clear and simple. We are not talking about anything illegal here. We demand that persons, about whom arrest warrants have been issued following indictments and trials be extradited to our country through legal ways within the framework of the extradition treaty. It is a very legal demand. It is a very legitimate demand in a legal process.”