Büyükelçi Ahmet Demirok'un "al Sharq" Gazetesine Verdiği Mülakat
Doha - Al-Sharq newspaper
Thursday, February 18th
Interview with H.H. the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the State of Qatar, Ahmet Demirok:
Qatar and Turkey’s relationships are characterized by an open dialogue
Concerning the last visit of H.H. Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to Ankara, how are the Qatari-Turkish relations, and what is the extent of agreement on the issues currently on the table, such as Syria, Iraq and Palestine?
Turkish Qatari relations are simply excellent both on bilateral and regional issues. On all areas of interest, we enjoy an open dialogue as part of our strategic cooperation. In all areas of interest, we have an open dialogue between us in the framework of strategic cooperation. On Palestine, both countries are active in assisting Palestine in every way possible. This includes technical development and humanitarian aid, reconstruction of Gaza and, at a more political level, supporting the Palestinian cause on every international fora. On Syria, we have a joint stance and an active cooperation. On Iraq, both Turkey and Qatar work for stability in this country. Both Turkey and Qatar believe that sustainable peace and stability can be achieved only by the removal of the Assad regime and the establishment of a new administration which will embrace all segments of Syrian society. We are also a part of anti-DAESH coalition and working with Iraqi authorities to wipe out terrorism in Iraq.
Does the last visit of H.H. Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to Turkey, is it linked to the interfering in Syria, or are there others axes?
The visit by HH the Emir to Turkey last Friday enabled Turkey and Qatar to discuss their bilateral relations and the latest developments in the region. HH the Emir separately met with HE President Erdoğan and HE Prime Minister Davutoğlu.
The bilateral ties connecting our countries are getting stronger and they are stronger than before. In every sector; economic, cultural, social, military and politics, our strategic partnership is intensifying.
During the meetings, regional issues including Syria have also been discussed in detail. Turkey is a frontline country receiving most of the negative results of the Syrian crisis. To effectively deal with Syria-originated challenges, we give importance to consultations with brotherly countries.
It became clear that there is a Qatari- Turkish- Saudi alliance. What are the priorities of this alliance at the moment?
The current regional dynamics and the threat of terrorism dictate regional powers to work in cooperation. Turkey and Qatar are members of the international coalition on counter-terrorism and they are combatting against DAESH from the very beginning.
Lately, Saudi Arabia also took the decision to join the coalition and sent fighters to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
We should note that Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are three brotherly countries. They aspire for stability, progress and peace in our shared geography.
For a long time, we have struggled terrorism but we were one against the other in this region. I see this new dynamic as a glimmer of hope for the region. I believe that, as three important countries of the region, increasing dialogue among them will set an example and help the peoples and countries of the region to understand the value of being and working together.
People of this region have been suffering from delivering their problems to other countries for a solution. However, we have come to a point that we should produce our own solutions to our own problems.
How is the Turkish-Saudi relations, especially after King Salman leadership to the Kingdom, and what are the agreed and disputed issues?
Historically, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have good relations. Our cooperation with our Saudi brothers has been intensifying lately on all areas.
King Salman’s ascend to the throne obviously facilitated this process. We have very similar views on many regional issues. Particularly over Yemen and Syria, the two countries are closely cooperating.
With regard to the Turkish issue, where did the confrontation with terrorist groups “PKK” and “PYD” also have reached?
PKK and its affiliates are terrorist organizations recognized by all important actors of the international community. Turkey worked hard to put an end to this conflict through a solution process. Unfortunately, PKK chose to rekindle violence in parts of Turkey, mainly in the southeast areas. They moved the fight from rural areas to inside cities which resulted in the disruption of daily routine of these cities. Turkish Governments have provided democratic and ethnic rights of our citizens of Kurdish origin within the reform process.
These people who noticed the main purpose of the PKK terrorist organization have distanced themselves from PKK and sided with the Government.
Actually by carrying out these terrorist attacks within cities, I think PKK has targeted its own support base. Our forces are continuing the fight now and I hope that in a short time they will finish this scourge. We are hearing that some cities have been completely wiped out of terrorists.
Meanwhile, let me add that PYD in Syria is an affiliate of PKK, thus a terrorist organization. They have the same ideology, same leadership cadres and same targets. It would be a mistake to support a terrorist organization, just because it is fighting to another terrorist organization.
What is the vision of Turkey to resolve the Syrian issue, and how Turkey treats the Syrian refugees there, and do they represent a burden on the state?
From the very beginning, Turkey’s policy on Syria is simple and very straightforward. Turkey seeks for a solution in this country that would serve the interests of its people. Syrian people wants a decent life as any other people would ask for. They want a climate of stability within democracy and their basic rights to be protected. This is a very civil demand that should be supported by the world. Turkey supported the Syrians so far and will continue to do that. We employed an open door policy for our Syrian brothers and sisters because they were innocent people running from violence. To show our sincere hospitality, we do not call Syrian citizens who came to Turkey as refugees; we define them as our guests (misafir in Turkish language). For now we have more than 2.5 million refugees or asylum seekers in Turkey. Just for Syrians in the camps, Turkey spent more than 9 billion US dollars. We expect the international community to be more involved and share this burden.
The Russian bombardment on the border areas with Turkey cause the exodus of the Syrian families. In your opinion, why this intense bombardment at this time, is it for having more refugees in Turkey or what?
Unfortunately yes it does. People run away and try to save their lives from the Russian bombardment. The Russians say they are fighting against terrorists but 90% of the areas bombarded are either civilian-populated or in possession of moderate opposition. It is widely accepted that Russia is running a war for Al-Assad. Is Russia intentionally hitting the border areas to stimulate an exodus to Turkey? I do not know the answer. Yet, this is the result. The exodus of Syrians to Turkey brings financial and social burdens for sure; yet, continuing a war against a people will bring much more burdens to its perpetrators. Actually, the main burden is on the shoulders of the innocent Syrian people. They have been suffering from a human tragedy. Material loss can easily be compensated within time, but it is impossible to bring back beloved family members, relatives.
Why Russia is hostile to Turkey, is it because of her position regarding the Syrian situation, or there is an ideological conflict between the two countries?
I do not think there is an ideological aspect to that. Turkey and Russia have different priorities with regard to Syrian issue, as I mentioned, Turkey’s main priority is to have a peaceful and stable Syria, however Russia is struggling for a regime in Syria at all costs that would ensure and consolidate Russian interests.
Turkey and Russia enjoyed a great deal of cooperation over the last decade. I hope they will be able to restore this valuable relationship. States can take different positions on foreign policy issues and that is normal. But they have to refrain from being aggressive in their demands so as to find a middle ground and not to harm others. Russian actions on Syria are harmful for Turkey and for the region.
Saudi Arabia has announced its plans to intervene military in Syria with a Qatari-Turkish support. Are the objectives of this intervention to overthrow Assad, or in response to the Russian intervention?
Well, I am not the one to answer this question. Honestly I have no information about a military intervention in Syria. Moreover, the latest meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) in Munich last week, hinted on no such intervention. The statement of the meeting pointed out ensuring humanitarian access inside Syria, achieving a nationwide cessation of hostilities and advancing political transition. We hope that ISSG’s efforts will bear fruit and solid steps towards a negotiated resolution could be taken.
What are the main problems that Turkey is facing?
I think of Turkey as an island of stability in such a volatile surrounding. Not only Turkey but the region as well is facing many threats such as terrorism, instability in the region, economic hardships and social problems. It is now high time to put aside differences and work for a common future.
Concerning the Turkish-Egyptian relationship, is it possible to witness a convergence of viewpoints between Egypt and Turkey in the coming days?
Egypt is a key country in this region. It has a huge historical and cultural impact. We care for stability and democracy in Egypt. Egypt and Turkey are two main pillars in our region. Given the regional volatility, they will be much stronger if they work together rather than sitting apart. Both Turkey and Egypt right now, face common threats; that is why cooperation between these two countries will serve their interests.
Supporters ofthe Palestinian people
How do Turkey see the Palestinian situation?
Turkey shares a centuries-long history and has close cultural and social bonds with Palestine. We are a steadfast supporter of the Palestinian cause. Turkey supports a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolutions. We support the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map that would ensure two states living side by side within secure and recognized borders.
We are concerned with the ongoing division in Palestine. We encourage and support efforts for national reconciliation. Qatar is one of countries leading the process for a reconciliation and we are in close consultations with Qatar on the issue.
Turkey and America
Recently, it was observed that there is a tension in the Turkish-US relationships, can you clarify to us how are they in this moment and are they as good and strategic as before, or what?
We have a strong, strategic, functioning and time-tested relationship with the US. We are allies in NATO and we are supportive of each other on many regional and international issues. We have a solid partnership in the global fight against terrorism. From an historical perspective, I can say that our relations are multidimensional and based on mutual interests and respect. We cooperate on a broad geography from Central Asia to North Africa. As allies, we coordinate regional issues as well. It is quite normal to have some differences of opinion. I believe that in such volatile regional circumstances, the US will know better the value of its allies in the region.
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