Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Turkish Deputy PM: Fears of Sectarian Sykes–Picot Agreement | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkey’s Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman (L), Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar and Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus (R) attend a funeral ceremony for police officers in Ankara, Turkey, July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

London- Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş says the geographical position of Turkey has always been a sword of two edges. Kurtulmuş told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Turkish border is the reason behind the formation of strategic alliances that contributed to the country’s development and the economic renaissance.

“However, this placed Ankara in the frontline of the battle against extremism, terrorism and regional troubles taking place in the Middle East; this actually raised concerns of a new sectarian Sykes–Picot Agreement,” said Kurtulmuş.

Speaking of the future of EU-Turkish relations, Kurtulmuş said that Ankara managed to maintain solid relations with the European Union since 1993 “but, unfortunately, throughout this long-term relationship Turkey witnessed some biased stances that were taken by the EU. For example, the union offered Turkey a unique partnership but not a membership of the union. “

On whether the suggestion for Turkey to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) might hurdle negotiations with the EU and increase tension between the latter and Turkey, the deputy PM said that this is unlikely because Turkey enjoys several strategic, cultural and geographic features. “SCO is not an alternative for the EU,” he added.

Commenting on Russian-Turkish relations, Kurtulmuş stressed his country’s keenness to establish stable ties with Russia, the EU, the U.S. and other countries. “Sometimes, excellent relations might stumble and this is normal in international relations,” he said.

Kurtulmuş said: “We support the Syrian people and the moderate opposition and we call for removing power from Bashar al-Assad. However, we kicked off negotiations with the Russians to reach a rational solution to the Syrian crisis since this would introduce the region to a new phase of stability.”

The deputy prime minister added that the Syrian people, who were oppressed by the Assad regime, have the right to determine their fate.

As for the new U.S. administration, the deputy PM told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the new U.S. administration has two options either to support the Democratic Union Party (Kurdish) or to back 80 million Turkish citizens. We hope that Trump’s government chooses to defend Turkey in its war against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the armed Kurds in Syria. I am optimistic in this regards.”

Speaking of Saudi-Turkish relations, Kurtulmuş said that the region is currently facing the threat of a potential second Sykes–Picot Agreement and that should compel us to unite as Islamic countries to combat the division of countries on sectarian grounds.

“Saudi Arabia has an active role in this field; we are now at a crossroads: to surrender to Sykes–Picot Agreement or to unite against sectarianism”, Kurtulmuş added.