Statement by Presidential Spokesperson Ambassador İbrahim Kalın

01.11.2017

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

Spokesperson Kalın stated:

“After a 10 year-period of preparations and implementation, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway was put into service in Azerbaijan as of yesterday with the participation of President Erdoğan. The 840 km-long railway will not only connect Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey but also put into service a brand new transportation network, stretching into the Central Asia, from Kazakhstan all the way into China.

Secondly, we, as you know, held our High Level Strategic Council meeting with Azerbaijan yesterday. It is also of importance that the meeting coincided with the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. We have very strong, comprehensive and excellent relations with Azerbaijan. Very significant progress has been made in recent years in almost all areas, including political, economic, commercial and cultural ones. It should be noted as an epitome of President Erdoğan’s close interest in the Turkish geography.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan paid a historic visit to Turkey last week. It is not only pleasing but also a sign of a new era in Turkey-Uzbekistan relations that nearly 25-26 agreements were signed and such a high-level visit took place after some 20 years. In this framework, President Erdoğan encourages our businesspeople and citizens to visit and invest in Uzbekistan. These are momentous steps in terms of Turkey getting closer to the ancient Turkish geography in Central Asia.

Another important topic on our agenda is the developments in Iraq. As you know, we hosted Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi here last week. We discussed the Turkey-Iraq relations. We also had an opportunity to thoroughly discuss the developments that took place in the aftermath of the referendum. We especially discussed in detail the incidents that took place in and around Kirkuk.

Our expectation is that the Erbil administration backtrack from this wrong step as soon as possible. The statements about freezing the referendum results are not considered to be sufficient. We would like to remind once again the expectation that it be completely cancelled and returned to previous status quo. In this process, we act in coordination with both the Iraqi Central Government, and other international actors and regional countries. Forming and putting into effect a new structure in Kirkuk that will embrace all the people there, Turkmens, Kurds, Arabs alike, is of great importance.

As you know, we have a special interest in the Iraqi Turkmens. In this regard, President Erdoğan received the Iraqi Turkmen Coordination Committee on October 29. It is a large committee, comprised of the Iraqi Turkmens living in Kirkuk and other Iraqi cities. In the meeting with this coordination committee, the situation of the Turkmens and the developments to take place in Kirkuk were discussed in detail. It is especially of great importance to us that Tal Afar is rebuilt and our Turkmen brothers and sisters, who escaped from there, return to their homes.

The population in Tal Afar was nearly 400 thousand now it has dropped to 15-20 thousand. Some of them were comprised of the Turkmens who came to Turkey and some of those who went to Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. After the order is restored there, reconstruction activities will begin there with our contributions and the Iraqi Central Government’s efforts.

We would like to underline in context of the Iraqi Turkmens, Kirkuk and the developments to take place in Baghdad that we by no means have a negative attitude toward or bias against any ethnic or sectarian group in Iraq. We always had very good relations with the Iraqi Kurds in the past. However, we all observe with sadness the outcome which was led to by the wrong step taken by the Erbil administration. Therefore, there is by no means a punishing attitude toward the Iraqi Kurds. I believe the most tangible sign of that is that we have not closed the Habur Border Gate. A welcomed development took place as of last night, –It is actually an ongoing process- the Ibrahim Khalil Border Gate, which is right across the Habur Border Gate, was handed over by the Erbil Administration to the Iraqi Central Government. It is pleasing that the hand-over took place. As a result of that, we will continue to keep open the Habur Border Gate. Humanitarian aid, commercial goods, people will continue to cross normally. However, the Iraqi Central Government will be in control of the gate.

I will touch upon another important issue within the context of Iraq and the fight against terror, and then will proceed to the issue of Syria. It is a welcomed development that Iraq has fully been cleared of DAESH. As we have previously noted, we have contributed to this process by providing training to the Mosul Volunteers at Bashiqa Camp. And now the issue ahead of us is the reconstruction of such cities as Tal Afar and Mosul. This is a huge responsibility. And now we have another target and a very crucial opportunity regarding the fight against terror.

We now have a great opportunity in front of us to completely clear Iraq of the PKK terrorist organization, just as it has been fully cleared of DAESH. Mr. President discussed this issue in detail with Mr. Abadi during his latest visit to Turkey. Our expectation from the Iraqi administration as well as from the international coalition in Iraq, and the U.S. is that this historic opportunity be seized and concrete steps be taken to completely clear the PKK from Iraq. That is because the PKK, wherever it operates -- whether it be in Iraq, Syria or somewhere else, -- poses a threat to the stability and security of not only Turkey but of the entire region. Therefore we reiterate our call.

As regards the Syria issue, as you know, the practice of establishing de-escalation zones is continuing in Syria. As such, this topic was underscored once again during the Astana talks’ 7th round that was concluded yesterday. We have further important works to do there. For instance, our military presence in Idlib is continuing. As you know, this is being implemented in accordance with the decisions taken in the previous rounds of Astana. One of our primary goals is to make sure that the ceasefire announced there is fully observed. We condemn that the regime violates the ceasefire from time to time.

Besides, humanitarian access to it must be facilitated. Idlib has now become a densely-populated province that is home to more than 2 million people. Turkey is doing everything at its disposal to meet the humanitarian needs there but we can say this is not enough. The international community, too, must share the burden. We will of course maintain this process within the context of Astana meetings as complementary to the Geneva meetings. Our expectation is to clear all the terrorist structures, including the DAESH, PYD, YPG, PKK, from there; launch a political transition process; and deliver, in the fastest way, humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.

Another foreign policy issue is Somalia. As you know, Mr. President received last week Mr. Prime Minister of Somalia at the Presidential Complex. This was Mr. Prime Minister’s first foreign visit in the wake of the heinous terrorist attack that was perpetrated last month in the Somali capital city of Mogadishu. During this visit, Turkey’s support and aids to Somalia were discussed in depth. As you know, some of the people wounded in that attack are currently under treatment in Turkey. Mr. Prime Minister of Somalia also visited them at the hospital. We will continue to provide humanitarian, military, political and economic assistance to Somalia.

The crisis in the Rakhine state of Myanmar is another important issue. The fact that it no longer finds its way into headlines doesn’t mean that this crisis has come to an end. The Rakhine crisis in Myanmar is still raging on despite all our efforts and some signals by the international community that suggest it is stepping in. This crisis has yet to be resolved. Over 600 thousand Rohingya Muslims were driven out of their homes, villages and lands within less than 2 weeks. And these people are still unable to return back to their homes. They are still fighting for survival, a great majority of them in Bangladesh, and some others in other countries such as Malaysia, India, etc. We call on the international community to immediately find a resolution to this ongoing crisis and to make sure that displaced people return back to their homes, villages and cities.

In the meantime, I also would like to share my notes on two recent developments. According to the official results that have just been announced, Mr. Abe of Japan has been elected as prime minister once again. We congratulate him. Mr. Abe’s term as the prime minister holds a very important place in terms of Turkey-Japan relations. We enjoy very good relations with Japan in a wide range of areas including the construction of the nuclear power plant, cultural issues, economy, etc. It is our strongest desire that these relations keep getting stronger during Mr. Abe’s new term as prime minister.

As you know, in addition to other major projects jointly undertaken by Turkey and Japan, we also founded Turkey-Japan Science and Technology University. Administrative and academic preparations regarding it will be completed soon as thus Turkey will have a higher education institute that is of crucial importance in terms of science and technology.

Another topic is the terrorist attack that took place in New York last night, which we condemn in the strongest possible terms. No matter in whose name it is carried out, such terrorist attacks have no place in the name of humanity and I would like to state that we condemn it in the strongest and unwavering way.

Having said that, I would like to express a warning of ours regarding the possible debates on the name and identity of the perpetrator, because when such attacks take place, if the perpetrator fits a certain profile, he/she is described as ‘lone wolf, a person with psychological problems’. However, if the perpetrator fits another profile, has a Muslim name, is from the Muslim world, terms like ‘Islamic terrorism’ or ‘radical terrorism’ are used, which we consider a grave mistake. It can only mean playing into the hands of terrorist organizations. One should be extremely careful about making analyses through profiling and stereotyping. Terrorism has no religion, language, race or geography. No matter where or who it comes from, it is a heinous incident that must be condemned.

I have a few notes on economy I would like to share with you. As you know, we have achieved a 5.1 percent growth rate in the first half of 2017, which is much higher than the average in Europe or the world. If I remember correctly, Turkey ranks 3rd after China and India in terms of growth rate. Similar or even higher rates are expected in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2017. Given the data, announced yesterday, Turkey’s export volume between January and September has risen by 10.5 percent in comparison with last year, which means we have achieved a truly good momentum in trade.

I would like to gladly express that there is also a serious increase in tourism revenues. There is a 37.6% increase in tourism compared to the same period of last year. And the number of tourists visiting Turkey is up 38%. The tourism sector is quite active. A tourism forum will be held at the Presidential Complex in a little while with the participation of Mr. President. We will seek ways to further develop tourism at the forum.

Another topic on the agenda is to create employment. All of our relevant institutions and economic bodies are working intensively to cut down unemployment to single-digit figures. The working-age population is also on the rise, naturally. However, over the last one year, namely the period between October of last year to this day, additional employment has been created for 1.122 million people. This is good news and we will continue to work on this issue.

We also continue to work intensively to bring down inflation. A delicate balance is being observed, paying regard to fiscal discipline, investments, import, export and all the other elements. The Central Bank will release its relevant report later in the day. The details on the inflation outlook can be followed from the report. However, we can say that inflation will start going down starting from the first half of 2018. The Central Bank preserves its determined stance within the framework of inflation targets. These joint efforts will continue.

Another important aspect of this issue, as Mr. Prime Minister expressed yesterday, is that our medium sized enterprises and merchants are supported with loans, and investments and employment are boosted in this regard. Our efforts to that end will continue. Our goal is to achieve an inclusive growth in line with Turkey’s growth targets and in a fashion that will respond to the needs of our citizens.”

Question: “If the IKRG does not cancel it as you said it should, what kind of steps will Turkey take or what kind of sanctions will it impose? Also, Nechirvan Barzani is reported to have asked for an appointment from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. And it is also reported that Mr. President has not granted his request. Is there any truth to these reports? Another question; President Erdoğan met with Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi recently. Cooperation against the PKK was highlighted. Will the Turkish Armed Forces and the Iraqi Army conduct a joint operation against the PKK in the upcoming period?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “Everyone -Turkey, the Iraqi Central Government, Iran and other countries- expects the Erbil administration to pronounce this referendum null and void and move on. How will they formulate it and explain it to their public? Well, it is their problem. At this point, the referendum is actually null and void.

About Mr. Nechirvan Barzani’s request for an appointment, President Erdoğan had received Mr. Nechirvan Barzani on various occasions in Mr. Barzani’s capacity as the IKRG’s Prime Minister. A new landscape has emerged after Mesud Barzani’s tenure was not extended and his powers were transferred to him. Surely, Mr. President will evaluate these requests and if he deems it appropriate, such talks can be held whenever and wherever he sees fit. However, the Erbil administration should first take certain steps.

In reply to your third question; it is surely a pleasing development that Iraq has been completely cleared of DAESH. Our expectation is that the PKK be also completely cleared from Iraq, whether it be Qandil, Sinjar or other cities. We have conveyed our demand for a decisive and joint fight against the PKK. I know the Iraqi administration has a positive view but they have their own priorities and problems. We will continue to work closely with the Iraqi authorities. No matter where they are whether it be in Iraq, Syria or inside our borders, our fight against the PKK will continue in a determined way.”

Question: “What is Ankara’s point of view regarding Russia inviting the PYD to the Astana process?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “Yesterday, our colleagues conveyed that there was something like an imposition on that matter. We immediately took action and conveyed our reaction. It is totally impossible for us to accept that. As we have always said about Syria, we have no issue with inviting Kurds who were not members of the PYD/YPG but the PYD/YPG is an offshoot of the PKK terrorist organization. Its invitation to any meeting, Astana, Geneva or any other meeting is unacceptable. We can never accept giving a place to a terrorist organization, which has reached a certain point by creating de facto situations, terrorizing the people there and gaining ground under the disguise of fighting DAESH, at an international platform like Astana. I believe, with our colleagues’ intervention, the problem has been mostly resolved. I also had talks yesterday with our Russian counterparts and stated our position very clearly. I would like to reiterate that it is impossible for us to welcome such attempts.”

Question: “There were news reports yesterday stating that Mr. Prime Minister would pay a visit to the U.S in the next few days. When will the visit take place?”

Spokesperson Kalın: “A visit by Mr. Prime Minister to the U.S. is currently being planned; yet, it would be more appropriate if the details of the visit are announced by the Prime Ministry. As regards the visa issue, talks have been going on for the last two weeks. A delegation from the U.S. State Department came to Turkey and they then returned back to the U.S. after the issue was discussed. We also had other talks at various levels in the meantime. We expect this issue to be resolved without delay. In fact, this is not a complex issue that necessitates such complicated and long negotiations. It can rather be resolved swiftly if the determination and the will to do so is displayed. We hope this issue is resolved as soon as possible because we are now faced with a situation which actually punishes and causes trouble to citizens. It is not a nice picture that this issue casts a shadow upon our relations while we are speaking of strategic partnership, NATO alliance and joint struggle in a wide range of regional issues. We hope that necessary steps are taken without delay to overcome this issue.”