Statement by Presidential Spokesperson Ambassador İbrahim Kalın

14.09.2017

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

Spokesperson Kalın stated:

“Mr. President participated in an important international meeting last week in the Kazakh capital city of Astana on the occasion of the 1st OIC Summit of Science and Technology.

Mr. President, as the term president of the OIC, gave messages on science, technology and education, and had a busy traffic in terms of bilateral meetings and the Rakhine issue.

We also paid an official visit to Kazakhstan on this occasion. As you know, our relations with Kazakhstan and Central Asia geography have gained great momentum recently. We will continue our contacts to further advance that momentum.

In this regard, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan is planning on paying an official visit to Turkey at the beginning of 2018. The next meeting of the High Level Strategic Council, established between the two countries, will be held in Turkey.

The meeting with the President of Uzbekistan, among other meetings, was of importance. As you know, relations between Turkey and Uzbekistan have gained significant momentum after a long interval. Mr. President invited President Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan to visit our country. The meeting with the President of Afghanistan was also of importance. Mr. President has taken a series of initiatives regarding the security problems there, aimed at overcoming the tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which will be continued.

One of the most important matters we raised over there was the humanitarian tragedy in Rakhine. As you know, Mr. President has conducted a busy diplomatic traffic since the incidents erupted there nearly 3 weeks ago. As a result of his calls, talks and contacts, we see that the international community has begun to take action. Mr. President also had raised this matter during his conversation with Mr. Trump while he was in Kazakhstan. We welcomed the subsequent statements by the US State Department and the White House.

As you know, the UN Security Council, yesterday, condemned the incidents in Myanmar and called for putting an immediate end to the violence. Mr. President will raise this matter during his address to the UN General Assembly and during his bilateral talks. But, that is not all. There is the previously established OIC Contact Group on Rohingya. We will hold an ancillary event there upon this structure’s invitation. We plan on inviting leaders of members and non-members of the OIC to the event and discussing Rakhine, Myanmar and matters related to the solution of the issue in detail.

We, as the Turkish Red Crescent, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Presidency of Religious Affairs, have launched an aid campaign to the Rakhine state at the instructions of Mr. President. We call on all our citizens to support the campaign.

As you know, this matter has been on our agenda since 2012. I mean the Rakhine issue is not a new issue. This is an issue that unfortunately has been going on for 50-60 years in Myanmar. We have delivered a significant amount of humanitarian aid to the Rakhine state since 2012. Aids continue to be delivered in the Rakhine part of Myanmar by the hand of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA). We reiterate our call to the Government of Myanmar to act with common sense on this issue. We especially expect them to provide the necessary convenience in delivering humanitarian aid.

As you know, Mr. President had a busy diplomatic traffic here in the last couple of days. Yesterday, he received the Prime Minister of Kuwait. The crisis in the Gulf was discussed in detail with the Kuwaiti Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. The Kuwaiti Prime Minister and Foreign Minister conveyed in detail the point the process had reached. What could be done with Kuwait and other Arab countries, matters related to overcoming the crisis were discussed in detail.

In this regard, the Qatar Emir will pay a visit to our country this evening and have a meeting with Mr. President. Bilateral matters, the Gulf crisis and the UN agenda will be discussed thoroughly there.

Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim’s visit will be his first foreign visit since the beginning of the crisis. Therefore, an important message is being given on Turkey’s role in this process by paying his first visit to Turkey.

We support the resolution of the Gulf crisis through brotherly dialogue between the countries in the region, because such tensions will only contribute to the enemies of the region, make them happy. Restoring stability and peace in the region is of great importance to both the region and us.

Another important topic on foreign policy is the ongoing independence referendum process in Northern Iraq. As you know we have made numerous statements on that matter. I would like to reiterate for the record: We expect the IKRG, Erbil to backtrack on this wrong decision as soon as possible. This decision will not resolve the problems they are faced with but further complicate them and push them toward greater isolation, because, as you see, there is not a single country or international organization except for Israel that has supported the independence referendum so far. The decision, the Iraqi Parliament took the previous day, is of importance in this regard and it states that the referendum is against the constitution and it should be backed down from.

We have always had good relations with Northern Iraq. We intend and want to continue the relations with the Iraqi Kurds in the same manner. However, the Northern Iraqi Administration should immediately refrain from steps that will overshadow or undermine that. They also need to contribute to this process.

Another sensitive topic for us is the inclusion of Kirkuk in the referendum. Kirkuk is not a part of the said Kurdish region. The attempt to create such a de facto situation is surely unacceptable. I would like to express that we are against and will not remain silent in the face of any step that will overshadow the historical and cultural identity of Kirkuk and alter its demographic structure. Our Turkmen, Arab and Kurdish brothers and sisters there need to act in cooperation in order to live in peace. However, it is out of the question that we condone the creation of a chaotic climate there as a result of the personal dispositions of this political party or that governor.

It was breaking news just now that the Iraqi parliament voted to remove Kirkuk governor from office. It is a decision, taken by the Iraqi government, state and parliament. However, when we look at the policies, the Kirkuk governor has followed so far, his attitude on the PKK presence there, the Turkmens and the referendum, it is safe to say that he is directly responsible for the outcome. To reiterate, our call is that they backtrack on the referendum decision immediately and take steps aimed at resolving problems between Baghdad and Erbil within the territorial integrity of Iraq.

Another topic, as you know, is the nearing elections in Germany, which will be held on September 24. We have been observing especially in the last month how the German domestic politics and election atmosphere are virtually locked onto Turkey and Mr. President. We totally and categorically reject the unfounded attacks, ugly allegations and slanders against Turkey in the person of Mr. President. Taking on a country like Turkey by making it a material of domestic politics is to the benefit of neither the German politics nor the German state. We hope that the German politics will once again act with common sense after the election process, and they will not have to be faced with a situation like losing an important country like Turkey. I would like to take this occasion to reiterate Turkey’s rightful and legitimate security demands and concerns in the context of Germany.

It is unacceptable that all anti-Turkey illegal organizations, including the PKK, the DHKP-C and now the FETO, find a shelter, a place in Germany –it is not new, it unfortunately has been going on since September 12 [1980]- and conduct anti-Turkey activities by easily abusing the system, collect money and recruit militants.

We have told this to German authorities many times and we will continue to tell them. Therefore, if Germany truly believes in principles like the rule of law and democracy, it will not allow terrorist organizations like the PKK, the DHKP-C and the FETO, which work to destroy these principles, to operate on its soils. That is our expectation from a serious, democratic state based on the rule of law.

Another important topic is Mr. President’s remarks on the S-400 deal on his way back from Kazakhstan. It appears to have led to speculations, rumors, unfounded and empty discussions among certain circles, which we are now accustomed to. Those, who question it by saying ‘why is Turkey making such a decision?’, or try to interpret it as ‘Turkey is drifting away from the West. It is no longer a reliable ally in the NATO’, begin to make noise both at home and abroad.

First let me underline that Turkey will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure its national security within the framework of its sovereign rights without consulting any country. Turkey is a strong ally the NATO and its place in the NATO is very-well known. We have welcomed the remarks yesterday by the NATO Secretary-General on the S-400s. Mr. Stoltenberg’s remarks that it should be respected within the framework of sovereign rights is indeed the most accurate remarks, which in our opinion should put an end to the debates. Making unfounded allegations and speculations on Turkey’s use of its sovereign rights even after these remarks by the highest-ranking official of the NATO means simply creating an artificial agenda.

Turkey is following a multi-directional foreign policy. Foreign policy is never a zero-sum game. As per its geography, national interests and world perspective, Turkey aims to develop good relations with all regions in the world, including the East, the West, the North, the South, Europe, Central Asia, North Africa, Latin America.

When we even look at Mr. President’s recent schedule, the British Home Secretary is being received by Mr. President. I just came out of that meeting. In the afternoon, the French Foreign Minister will be here. Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Kuwait was here. The Emir of Qatar will be here in the evening. Before that, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, and the Foreign Minister of Qatar were here. Yesterday, the Moldovan Parliament Speaker was here. I mean we can go on and on. No one can say ‘Turkey is focusing only on a single region’ given this busy traffic. Our foreign policy, which we conduct on the basis of a 360 degree perspective, necessitates that we develop good relations with different countries, actors and regions.

Therefore, the good relations, Turkey has developed with Russia, are not an alternative to its relations with the West, the NATO, Europe or the US. It is of a complementary nature. We would like to express that we have welcomed the remarks by France in this regard. They said it was Turkey’s most natural right as per its national sovereign rights.

Another topic on our agenda is related to our domestic politics and security, the debate on UCAVs. It is unacceptable that this debate, launched in a very unfortunate way, is presented in a way that encourages the terrorist organization and its supporters. Mr. President made remarks on this matter, I believe it was the previous day. The Turkish Armed Forces also made a statement on the issue. Let me underline that the UCAVs are used solely and only to eliminate terrorists and ensure our country’s security.

What is interesting is that whenever Turkey makes progress in the fight against terror, such matters are raised in an effort to overshadow the success. Today, the Turkish Armed Forces, the Turkish National Police, our Interior Ministry, the Gendarmerie General Command, our guards, all our security forces are working heroically with great dedication for the security of our country. Everyone should refrain from such statements that may break or overshadow their resolution. All our security forces exercise due diligence to avoid civilian casualties. We cannot ignore that such irresponsible remarks also encourages supporters of terror.

Another topic on our agenda is the incidents that took place at the funeral of Hatun Tuğluk, the mother of Aysel Tuğluk. On behalf of the presidency, I would like to express that we condemn that incident in the clearest way possible. It is impossible to condone such an inhumane act. It is against all our religious, cultural and civilizational values. It is an ugly approach. Showing respect for the departed is one of the most fundamental elements of our belief and civilization. We condemn such incidents at a funeral. The legal process regarding the matter has been initiated.

Lastly, some significant and positive news came on the economic front. The growth rate was announced to be 5.1%. It reaffirms how strong the Turkish economy’s structure is as opposed to expectations of certain circles and credit rating agencies. Given the average growth rates of 2-3% in Europe, America and Asia, I would like to express that 5.1% growth rate offers a very promising picture in terms of the future of Turkish economy. Steps taken on investments, foreign capital, tourism, exports etc. have contributed to this positive outcome. However, let me say that even 5.1% is not enough for us.”

Question: “Mr. President will soon go to the U.S. to attend the U.N. General Assembly. However, a legal case has been opened against the Turkish bodyguards over the incidents that took place during Mr. President’s last visit to the U.S. Yet, I want to note that among the bodyguards about whom this legal case has been opened are also the ones who were not even present at the scene of the incidents in question or who have never been to the U.S. And another legal issue is the arrest warrant issued by the U.S. for former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan. During his last visit to Kazakhstan, Mr. President had a telephone conversation with U.S. President Trump. In this regard, will Mr. President have a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Trump during his upcoming visit to the U.S.? In what way will all these issues be addressed?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “Let me first of all state that Mr. President will have a meeting with Mr. Trump on the margin on the U.N. General Assembly in New York. The date and time of the meeting is currently being determined. As regards the cases, it is very clear that these are politically-motivated cases. We all were there in person while these incidents were taking place in Washington. We personally lived them. The security gap caused by the Washington police, U.S. security forces or the secret service, whatever it is, is unacceptable anywhere in the world. It is unacceptable that these protestors, these persons in question, were able to approach as close as 10 meters to Mr. President and throw water bottles, etc., let alone chant slogans, while they were actually supposed to be kept 30-35 meters away according to the U.S. laws.

It is unacceptable that a lawsuit is opened against our security guards just because they were fulfilling their duty while there was such an undeniable security gap. Before all, the security personnel in Washington D.C. and those who filed this lawsuit should first give an account of this security gap. If Mr. Trump paid a visit to our country, would we allow such an incident to take place? No, as a country that is aware of its responsibility, we would do everything in our power to prevent it and, thank Allah, no such incident has occurred in Turkey so far. A lot of heads of state and government pay visits to the U.S. but these incidents were caused by the security gap in Washington. Adding insult to injury, they are trying to conceal their faults and weakness with this lawsuit.

Another important issue, which is in fact a scandal, is that 4 persons from our security and protocol staff, who were not even present at the scene of the incidents, were included in the indictment. This is unbelievable. They were not present there physically. This fact manifests how unserious and how politically-motivated this case is.

We are of course closely following this legal process via our ministries of foreign affairs and justice as well as our embassy in Washington, DC. Never do we approve that any single member of our delegation or any of our bodyguards or citizens is subjected to such an unjust treatment or is accused or included in such an indictment. As such, we will continue to make the most effective use of every legal remedy.

The inclusion of former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan in the case of Reza Zarrab, namely the case about the Iran sanctions evasion, is a politically-motivated decision as well. That is because there are questions of critical importance that should be asked legally. First of all, how the so-called evidences and wiretap recordings, cited in the indictment in question, passed into the hands of the U.S. prosecutor. Who gave these to them? These questions should be asked.

There is also a principle that has been clearly set out by all the U.S. legal experts, which is that this is outside the jurisdiction of U.S. judiciary; in other words, this is a matter of authority. In our opinion, it amounts to a legal scandal to overstep this authority and issue such an indictment against an economy minister of Turkey. What is more, as you know, the U.S. has lifted many of these sanctions as a result of its nuclear agreement with Iran. And we are referring to a period during which we maintained our trade activities with Iran in line with our national interests. The fact that some circles make all this a matter of lawsuit to smear and criminalize Turkish government and officials manifests how politically motivated the issue is.

Let me also remind that the prosecutor of this lawsuit has already been removed from office by Mr. Trump. The names who were appointed by this former prosecutor are currently hearing the case. The political attitude of these justices who are hearing the case manifests itself in their remarks and statements. In other words, this is a case that is being handled with political motivations not with the principle of the superiority of law or legal impartiality. The same goes for the inclusion of Halk Bank, one of the most powerful and successful banks of the region and the world, in the indictment. It is very clear that the objective here is to launch an operation against Halk Bank. Our legal units are following the issue.”

Question: “The Astana process has started as of today. You made a statement on the issue back in June, saying that Turkish and Russian troops would be deployed to Idlib, with its technical preparations ongoing. Will these technical preparations be finalized in Astana? When will Turkish troops be deployed to Idlib? Will a military base be established in Idlib? Another question: The Turkish Armed Forces’ military shipments to the border are ongoing. What everybody wonders is the timing of a possible operation into Afrin. Can you share your thoughts on this issue?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “As you know, the 6th round of the Astana talks will start tomorrow. This is an important process we have launched with Russia which was later on joined by Iran and then by other countries as well. The Astana process is not an alternative to, but a complementary of the Geneva process. Our goal in Astana meetings is to put an end to conflicts across Syria, but especially in four regions that have been designated as de-escalation zones, to deliver humanitarian aid and, in parallel with it, to enable a political transition period.

Since Idlib is very close to our border it is of direct concern to us. In this regard, if you remember, the Russian Defense Minister came to Turkey last July and we had extensive talks. Our MİT Undersecretary, Foreign Minister and we conducted intensive contacts. This issue will be discussed in detail in Astana. Our friends have already prepared their position papers and gone to Astana. We are also following the talks from here.

Our expectation is for Idlib to be turned into a zone where conflicts come to an end and humanitarian aid is easily accessible like other de-escalation zones across Syria. Turkey, of course, will not refrain from fulfilling any duty that falls on it. Details concerning the operation will take form in the next days. We will put it in a framework following consultations with Russia, Iran, opposition members, those in Idlib, provincial council members and other actors.

As regards the movement at the border, these are the steps we should take vigilantly given the realities of the region. We are making our preparations in a way that will allow us to duly respond to any necessity, including border security or cross-border operations. Turkey will continue to take all necessary steps as a preventive measure against threats wherever they originate from including Syria, the PYD regions or anywhere else, as we have been doing so far. We haven’t allowed a terror corridor, a PYD corridor in that region so far, and likewise, we won’t allow it in the future.

On this occasion, let me also underline the following: There are some people who come out and present these measures of Turkey’s as ‘Turkey is doing this or that against the Kurds.’ We don’t have any problems whatsoever with our Kurdish brothers and sisters in Syria, Iraq or anywhere else. All of our measures are only against terrorist organizations. In fact, Turkey should eliminate these terrorist organizations for the future, peace and wellbeing of Syrian Kurds, too. That is because in fact everybody knows but nobody wants to explicitly voice the fact that it is not only the Turkmens or Arabs that the PYD persecutes, but also the Kurds under its control.

There is an ongoing self-censor in the U.S. because of the U.S. support to the PYD. The international media is knowingly and willingly refraining from raising this issue. However, we are all aware of what is going on. In other words, the reason why they are refraining from talking or writing about this issue, although there are lots of stuff to tell and write, is their unwillingness to cast a shadow over the support being provided to the PYD. Yet, the independent and impartial press’ responsibility is to report to the global public the human rights violations that are taking place in there. We have been stressing this point at every opportunity. Given all this, it is to the benefit of the Syrian Kurds as well to oppose to the emergence of such formations as the PYD-YPG, extensions of the PKK, in that region. As such, our fight is against terrorist organizations, not the Kurds by any means.”

Question: “European Commission President Juncker said yesterday that Turkey had been taking giant strides away from the European Union for some time, claiming that President Erdoğan insulted EU member states by comparing their leaders to fascists and Nazis. What is your thoughts on these remarks?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “We keep our position unchanged and it is rather some EU members that are actually taking strides away from this position with their statements and attitudes. The EU itself is moving away from European values. How can you reconcile the rising racism, hostility towards refugees, xenophobia, Islamophobia and aiding terrorist organizations with the European values? They are irreconcilable with Europe’s values. I wonder which European values, which they boast of so much, do their double standards and attitude towards Turkey reconcile with? Europe’s situation is evident.

We don’t accept this kind of attitude which views the EU as the sole criterion of absolute truth and goodness and which constantly decries and accuses Turkey. These are the orientalist and euro-centralist attitudes of the past. The Europeans should first look at the mirror. They should make an extensive analysis of their current situation. Mr. President’s warnings to the EU leaders are actually nothing but reminding them of their own values and history.

If we are talking about democracy, pluralism and rule of law, then why are you shelving them when it comes to Turkey? As I have just expressed, how come countries like Germany, Austria, Belgium, etc. can allow such formations as the PKK, DHKP-C, FETO, etc. -- organizations which disregard the superiority of law and aim to eliminate democracy in Turkey -- to be active on their lands? What would the Europeans’ reaction be if Turkey allowed such organizations to engage in activities within its borders against Germany, Belgium or Austria? We should talk this openly.

Therefore, all the calls and warnings Mr. President levels should be taken heed of by the Europeans. However, since they get disturbed by the image they see on the mirror, they prefer to attack the person that holds mirror to them. We advise EU leaders and institutions to correctly analyze the ongoing process and come up with an answer to the question of who actually has been making Turkey wait at the doorstep for some 50 plus years.

Look, when the full membership negotiations kicked off in 2005, Mr. President was prime minister back then and he brought the negotiations to this level with highly intensive diplomacy and energy. An appointment had been made for 2004 and official negotiations started in October of 2005. 12 years have passed since then and only one chapter could be opened and closed in the meantime. As long as I remember, some 14 chapters have been opened and not been closed. And we are talking about some 34-35 chapters in total. This many chapters have been imposed on no other country. 12, 14, 17, etc. chapters have been imposed for other countries but it is some 30 plus chapters when it comes to Turkey. Let’s say okay to this, as well, why have they been waiting for 12 years? Many chapters related to economy, environment, security, etc., which have nothing to do with politics, should have easily been opened and closed. The Europeans are occasionally speaking of an enlargement fatigue. They complain that the EU has enlarged too much. However, this issue comes to the fore when it is Turkey that is in question. Therefore, we are of the opinion that the EU officials should thoroughly analyze these statements by taking their image on the mirror into account.”

Question: “Does Turkey have any new attempt for mediation in the ongoing crisis between Qatar and other Gulf regions? And my second question: Is Turkey planning to impose any sanctions on the Kurdish region related to the independence referendum?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “There is an ongoing process with regard to Qatar crisis. As you know, lastly, Qatar Emir and Saudi Crown Prince spoke on the phone. However, the following press releases showed a disagreement. They are now working to overcome it with Kuwait Emir’s mediation, a process we are supporting. Turkey will continue to support this process.

Mr. Prime Minister of Kuwait came here yesterday with an invitation from Mr. Emir of Kuwait for Mr. President. This shows the importance Kuwait attaches to its bilateral relations with Turkey and to the role Turkey plays in the solution of this crisis. We will make the necessary planning for this visit in the next days. What is more, we will also continue to discuss this issue with all the relevant counterparts at the U.N. We expect this crisis to be settled without delay in line with Qatar’s territorial integrity and sovereignty rights, with the blockade against it being lifted.

As regards the issue of referendum, we desire to preserve our good relations with Arbil and Baghdad. However, a referendum decision will absolutely have outcomes. Therefore, our expectation from Arbil is that they take heed of our warnings.”

Question: “How do you evaluate German Foreign Minister Mr. Gabriel’s remarks that arm sales to Turkey have been put on hold and Mrs. Merkel’s following remarks that she is against a total embargo?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “Such contradictory statements show the inconsistency within the German administration. They are coalition partners and it is naturally not possible for us to know what they are talking or not talking among themselves. However, I have to note that they are trying in vain if they are planning to use this issue as a means of blackmail against Turkey. Turkey is not dependent on solely one nation or source in any field. The efforts we have been exerting for years for Turkey to develop multilateral and multidimensional relations and policies have always been aimed at multiplying Turkey’s alternatives and options in many fields whether it be in defense industry, economy, etc. Turkey is never without alternatives on this issue. Such populist remarks delivered in the election climate give harm to such countries as Germany rather than Turkey. We call on them to be more prudent and sensible.”