Turkey will fight terror but not for temporary solutions: Erdoğan
The president gave a lengthy address to Parliament on the occasion of the opening of the new legislative year. AA Photo
Turkey will not allow coalition members to use its military bases or its territory in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) if the objective does not also include ousting the Bashar al-Assad regime, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hinted on Oct. 1. His words came just a day before Parliament is set to vote on a mandate to allow the deployment of foreign troops on Turkish soil.
“We will never tolerate any terrorist organizations in our lands, in our region or indeed in the world. We are open and ready for any cooperation in the fight against terrorism. However, it should be understood by everybody that Turkey is not a country in pursuit of temporary solutions, nor will Turkey allow others to take advantage of it,” Erdoğan said in his lengthy address to Parliament on the occasion of the opening of the new legislative year.
His message was directed at the U.S.-led international coalition that was recently formed to destroy the ISIL militants in Iraq and Syria. The coalition is pressing Turkey for an efficient contribution to the fight, including opening its military bases, its airspace and pledging training and logistical support to moderate Syrian rebels. Turkey, however, stresses that the campaign should not be limited to the ISIL and should also target regime change in Syria.
“A decisive struggle against all terrorist organizations in the region should be achieved and Turkey’s proposals and warnings should be taken into consideration. Otherwise, tons of air bombs will only delay the threat and danger. This has been the case in Iraq so far,” Erdoğan said. “It is inevitable that temporary solutions will cause Iraq to face such interventions every 10 years. Similarly, ignoring Syria will also delay a proper solution.”
Ending ISIL threat, toppling al-Assad regime
“We will fight effectively against both ISIL and all other terrorist organizations in the region; this will always be our priority. At the same time, it will also be our priority that the refugees whose number has already exceeded 1.5 million in Turkey return to their country or are able to live safely in their country. Again, we will continue to prioritize our aim to remove the Syrian regime, to help protect the territorial integrity of Syria, and to encourage a constitutional, parliamentary system that embraces all the citizens in the country,” he added.
No eye on internal affairs
Having cited these points as priorities, Erdoğan stressed that Turkey has no “intention of intervening in the internal affairs of our neighbors or in any country in the region and nor does it have any plans or intentions for their lands.”
“Turkey is not a country that looks at its neighbors or countries in the region as a means of gaining unilateral advantages,” he said.
Erdoğan calls parties to endorse the motion
Recalling that Parliament is set to vote on a motion authorizing the Turkish army to conduct cross-border operations abroad and to allow the deployment of foreign troops in Turkish territories, Erdoğan indirectly called on all political parties to vote in favor of it, saying Turkey has “no luxury to adopt an indecisive attitude on regional issues.”
“It is unthinkable for us to be indifferent, hesitant or indecisive about which actions to take while complicated crises are happening in the region. All our Muslim brothers, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens on this side of the border, and our relatives on the other side are seriously affected by these crises. I believe that the memoranda which will be brought to the agenda of the Grand National Assembly will be taken into consideration by you in the light of this understanding,” he said.
Not a by-stander but a playmaker
The Turkish president also reiterated his criticism of the international system, saying it left the fate of millions of people to only five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. “Yes, the world is bigger than the five nations sitting at the U.N. Security Council. Necessary reforms to the U.N. Security Council cannot be delayed. Turkey will continue to stand by its arguments firmly at all costs,” he said.
Erdoğan described Turkey as a “great state” taking the initiatives in crises. “Turkey cannot be content with the current situation and cannot be a by-stander and spectator in the face of such developments. Turkey has risen to a position in which it is a playmaker, takes the initiative, struggles for peace and solidarity; Turkey is aware of its responsibilities and knows fully well that it has to take its goals further,” he said.
‘Objective’ attitude on 1915 incidents
He also emphasized that this year is the 100th anniversary of the First World War, a conflict that precipitated the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and led to the establishment of the Turkish Republic.
“Turkey cannot be indifferent to developments while the region where it is located is being reshaped and transformed after 100 years ... We stand against all forms of discrimination not only inside the country, but in the world as well. We adopt a totally humane, consistent attitude towards countries like Egypt, where the democratic demands of citizens are oppressed with methods supported by a military coup. We fight against all types of violence regardless of who is exposed to it, or who practices it. We adopt a totally objective, constructive and consistent attitude which is in favor of peace regarding the Cyprus issue, the termination of the occupation in the Azerbaijani territories, relations between Turkey and Armenia, and the 1915 incidents,” he said, referring to the massacres of Ottoman Armenians, which many historians say amounted to genocide.
Comparing what he called the “old Turkey” with the “new Turkey,” Erdoğan argued that a “’new politics’ is inevitable in the ‘New Turkey,’ free of polarization.”
“A politics that focuses on the growth of Turkey instead of terror, violence, weapons, street fights and abuse will elevate Turkey,” he said, calling on lawmakers to “represent the nation in the best way, negotiating in peace, respect, tolerance and empathy instead of fighting.”
“I would like to remind you once more that I will always be at the service of this great nation within the framework of my authority as the 12th President of the Turkish Republic, and as the 1st President to be elected by the citizens of the Turkish Republic. An elected president, an elected government, a constructive opposition will, hopefully, launch a fresh movement in Turkey, carrying the New Turkey to new goals,” he stressed.
Kurdish solution process, new Constitution, ‘parallel state’
Three other main messages Erdoğan conveyed to Parliament were on the continuation of the Kurdish peace process, the need for a new Constitution and the fight against what he calls the “parallel structure.”
“It is my greatest wish to see the peace process carried into the future with determination, courage and patience, as I have carried it with determination to these days, despite the political risks it inherently involves. This honorable nation stands behind the solution process,” he said.
He also accused the “parallel state,” a term used to describe officials in the state apparatus loyal to U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, of attempting to “destroy legitimate and democratic politics.”
“The New Turkey will never give credit to autonomous structures, gangs or mafia-like organizations within the state. Any attempt of such gangs to gain power, particular within the judiciary, or any attempts to design the judiciary and the whole of society will never be tolerated,” he vowed.
On the long-anticipated new Constitution, Erdoğan called on all parties to roll up their sleeves for the new charter to be written immediately after the 2015 parliamentary elections, slated for June 2015.