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Turkish FM: Relations with Russia won’t Change our Stance on Assad | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. AFP

Ankara- Since the July 15 attempted coup, streets and airports have been crowded. Nothing in Turkey reflects the imposed state of emergency.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu lived the moments of the failed coup like many other politicians, describing them as insane. But he had no doubt the coup would fail because Turkey has changed.

The interview with Cavusoglu was carried out in English.

“Where do you see Turkey to be heading following the failed coup attempt?” asked Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

“The Turkish leadership and nation rejected the coup and this is a sign of strength. Of course, we will be fighting this terrorist organization (Fethullah Gulen’s group) as well as others like ISIS and PKK. But meanwhile we will continue to reform Turkey. There is a normalization process in the country and also a reconciliation; parties may have different ideologies but this is democracy and that’s why we have different parties in the parliament. Yet, I think this reconciliation will be helpful in politics, stability, democracy and economic growth,” replied Cavusoglu.

Asharq Al-Awsat asked, “How do you assess Western States’ dealing with the operation? In your opinion, is the international concern over freedoms in Turkey justified?”

Cavusoglu replied: “I can’t say that we got enough support from European and Western countries. After few words supporting the Turkish democracy, they started criticizing or expressing concerns.”

“Regarding the plotters, what else can we do? Shall we let them stay in the military, judiciary and other state institutions to carry out another attempt? Our obligation is to enhance public order; otherwise this nation will never forgive us. This nation rejected the coup and 240 lives were lost for this sake. If our EU friends visit us and give constructive criticism then they are more than welcome. But without any dialogue, making such statements, preaching Turkey or threatening it is rejected. They are not our leaders, they have to understand this,” continued Cavusoglu.

“Did Turkey adopt a new foreign policy in the wake of the failed coup attempt?” asked Asharq Al-Awsat.

Turkish FM said, “We are part of Europe even though they don’t want to accept this fact. We are founding members of many European and regional organizations. If they don’t want to have us as a member of the EU, it is their problem. But we want to be equal members, first class members”.

Asharq Al-Awsat asked, “How do you evaluate Arab States’ reactions to the developments in Turkey?”

“We got firm support from many Arab countries and particularly from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and many heads of states who carried out phone calls, including Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz,” the minister replied.

“What about the relations with the United States? Do you confirm allegations that some of its departments played a role in the coup attempt?” asked Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said, “The leader of this terrorist organization has been living in the United States for a long time. We asked the U.S. to expatriate him to Turkey, in its turn, the U.S. asked for evidence that proves he is behind the coup and we are working on this. As politicians, we never said that the U.S. or somebody else is behind the coup attempt, we never take these kinds of rumors seriously. But this perception will remain in Turkey as long as the U.S. doesn’t expatriate Gulen.”

“How would you deal with Washington’s refusal to hand over Gulen to the Turkish Judiciary?”

“I don’t want to get into different scenarios but I repeatedly underlined that our relations will be affected because in any kind of relations, public opinion is decisive. Yet, we see signs of cooperation.”

“Where do you see the relations with Russia to be heading? What would be the effects of the improvement of those relations, specifically on the Syrian file?”

The minister replied, “Our relation before the aircraft incident was good but we had different opinions towards the Syria crisis, particularly Assad. Despite all these agreements, we had great bilateral relations based on mutual trust; now we are doing our best to restore these days.”

“Regarding Assad, we believe he should leave as soon as possible. There can’t be a real transition with Assad, but Russians think otherwise. We asked Russia once again to focus on ISIS and terrorist organizations and to resume the talks in Geneva,” the FM continued.

“Is there a new Turkish policy regarding Syria?”

“We support political transition, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state. We need to eradicate the terrorist organizations on the ground. Our stance on Assad will not change because our approach is realistic and not personal; he killed more than 600,000 people.

“So Assad must leave first?”

“I believe Assad must leave first and nobody should be excluded in the next government; it should be an inclusive one.”