President Erdoğan to embark on Gulf tour in bid to ease row between Arab neighbors
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he is planning to embark on a tour of the Arab Gulf in a bid to ease dialogue between Qatar and Saudi Arabia-led states, after the former rejected implementation of the 13-article conditions imposed by its neighbors amid rising tension.
“I may have special [diplomatic] traffic after July 15. I want to visit the region once again. We might contribute to the re-establishment of dialogue with a visit to the region. We are planning to visit Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in particular,” Erdoğan told journalists accompanying him on his return from the G-20 Summit in Hamburg.
He stated that he discussed the Gulf crisis with U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and stressed to all the leaders he met at the summit the need to find a solution through dialogue.
He said his planned visit to the region should not be considered as an effort to “mediate” between the two parties.
“Kuwait has undertaken the role as the mediator. We support Kuwait’s mediation efforts. What I mean [by this visit] is to contribute to the re-establishment of dialogue between the parties,” he said.
Turkey has openly stood with Qatar in the crisis in the Gulf region, blasting the four Arab nations for imposing a harsh economic and humanitarian siege on their neighbor. One of the conditions that the Saudi-led Arab nations have imposed on Qatar is the closure of a Turkish military base in its territory.
Afrin and de-conflict zones
Meanwhile, Erdoğan also said he discussed ongoing efforts to create de-conflict zones inside Syria, as well as Turkish security concerns over the presence of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) along its border, during his meetings with Putin and Trump.
“We have discussed the issues of Afrin and the de-conflict zones with both leaders in a comprehensive way. We also discussed the Astana and Geneva processes,” Erdoğan said, referring to recent meetings aiming to find a solution to the long-running war in Syria.
Cooperation against FETÖ with the West
Another issue that Erdoğan said he raised during his meetings with his counterparts was Ankara’s request for better cooperation in the fight against what the government calls the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), hoping for better judicial cooperation for the extradition of FETÖ members, especially from European countries and the U.S.
“All our counterparts tell us they will perform the necessary follow-up on this issue but sometimes they bring the judicial dimension to the fore. They tell us, ‘We’ll look into it but we need evidence.’ From this perspective, it’s of utmost importance that judicial processes are concluded and courts deliver verdicts,” Erdoğan said.
“I am of the opinion that our hands will be eased when we approach these countries with court rulings,” he added.
Turkey demands the extradition of the Pennsylvania-based Fethullah Gülen and his close aides, as well as hundreds of FETÖ-linked military personnel who fled to various European countries after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
‘Anti-FETÖ fight to continue with determination’
Recalling that Turkey will soon be marking the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, Erdoğan vowed that efforts to “fully clear Turkey and its institutions of FETÖ members will continue without any stops.”
“We have to clear the virus. Their crypto members are identified through the ByLock app, Eagle and other communication lines. We do whatever is necessary when we find these viruses,” he said, referring to the ByLock and Eagle communication programs used almost exclusively by the members of the Gülen network.
“How will we be able to keep our state alive if we can’t clear our institutions from this virus? That’s why we pledge no concession on this. We’ll continue with determination,” Erdoğan added.
Amnesty International officials
He also responded to questions on the recent arrest of human rights activists in Turkey, including senior representatives of Amnesty International.
“Taner Kılıç of Amnesty International was arrested because it was found that he had the ByLock application on his mobile telephone. It is necessary to wait on how the justice system will judge the arrested human rights activists, Erdoğan said.
“It’s my wish that the process is speedily concluded regarding the arrest [of human rights activists at a meeting] in Büyükada. The issue is about justice, so we have to wait for the decision,” he said.
Germany, Norway questioning Deniz Yücel’s arrest
Erdoğan noted that “a number of Western countries” rapidly organize and take action in certain cases, like that of the arrest of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel. Turkey arrested journalist Deniz Yücel in February on terror-related charges.
“They asked questions about this Deniz [Yücel] during our press conference in Hamburg. [German] Chancellor [Angela Merkel] asked, Norway did the same. They are all follow it in a very organized manner,” he said.
"Killing of pregnant Syrian woman is perversion"
Erdoğan has described the brutal murder of a pregnant Syrian woman and her 10-month-old baby in the northwestern province of Sakarya, which has shocked Turkey, as a “perversion.”
Erdoğan also rejected suggestions that the crime could be linked to last week’s tension between the Turkish and Syrian communities in Sakarya.
“This incident about our Syrian sister is intolerable. What kind of remorselessness is this? What kind of atrociousness is this? Those who have committed this crime have nothing to do with humanity,” he told reporters while returning from the G-20 summit in Hamburg late on July 8.