A group in Germany conspiring against Turkey, says Erdoğan

A group in Germany conspiring against Turkey, says Erdoğan

Verda Özer / Vahap Munyar – NAIROBI
A group in Germany conspiring against Turkey, says Erdoğan

AA photo

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused a “German ecole” of spearheading a conspiracy against Turkey that also involves the country’s media.

While responding to questions over a June 2 vote in the German parliament, the Bundestag, that declared the 1915 killing of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as “genocide,” Erdoğan said the ruling “has no importance.”

Turkey has vowed to take action Germany over the vote, but has not yet specified their response.

“I have already said that the stance of some sections in Germany against Turkey is unacceptable. This ecole is pursuing some operations against Turkey. The German media is active in this issue. We have to examine all these matters well,” he said during a trip to Africa.

Erdoğan has previously criticized Germany, particularly during the 2013 Gezi incidents, in which he accused German organizations of supporting the protests.

The German Parliament has approved the motion concerning the 1915 incidents. You have said, “We should decrease problems; increase friends.” Following the last development in Germany, how will that be possible?

What is important is whether the intention and the effort are in this direction. There is nothing to do if the other side is insisting on not being friends even though your intentions and efforts are for this. We will expend efforts to maximize our friends; however, those who act adversely will lose an important friend of theirs. Why am I saying an important friend? Because we have more than 3 million people there. They have a very serious potential in the German economy. Well, the notes of the parliamentary debates, the speeches have not reached me yet. We will make an evaluation over these notes. As a matter of fact, that decision reached by the German Parliament does not count for anything.

With such a decision, is the Germany that perpetrated the Holocaust looking for a partner for itself? 

There is no resemblance between the Holocaust and the 1915 events. The judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about the 1915 incidents is absolutely clear. In the ECHR decision, it is clearly stated that the Armenian position was not the objective truth with absolute certainty and it could be freely debated; those views that question the Armenian position were absolutely under the protection of freedom of expression, and that there is no resemblance with the 1915 incidents and the Holocaust. These judgements are also legally binding. The ECHR is openly and clearly saying these.

Is it possible to interpret the German parliament’s decision as a counter-step against Turkey’s refugee policy?

Matters such as the Readmission Agreement and visa-free travel are matters concerning the EU. Our stance on these matters is known. I also explained this to Chancellor [Angela] Merkel during the World Humanitarian Summit. The two matters mentioned should be conducted simultaneously. If not done simultaneously, then we may not take the necessary step. In other words, the fact that the Readmission Agreement has been approved by the cabinet and the parliament does not mean that this business is over. It has to be separately approved by the Directorate General of Migration Management.

What kind of steps will Turkey take against the decision approved in the German parliament?

The decision of the German parliament bodes no good. First, we should make the necessary evaluations. It does not suit us to cut off our nose to spite our face.

Could there be economic sanctions against Germany?

It is too early to say; but there is an interesting thing here. There is a superior mind here also. Why would that be? Can you imagine, there is one rejection vote, one abstention vote and there are those who have not participated in the voting? Was this a national issue to this extent for the Germans? Last year was the centennial of the 1915 incidents. Why was such a motion not voted on last year but voted on this year? These are thought-provoking things indeed. Such an instruction must have come from the superior mind that they took such a step. Now I am wondering: How will the German officials be able to, after such a decision, face me in person and our prime minister? 

How do you evaluate Merkel’s lack of participation in the vote?

In the phone call a couple of days ago, she told me she would do her best. I have been in politics for 40 years. I fail to understand how the parliamentary group cannot be convinced. I wish she had participated and cast her vote.

Will the point Turkey-Germany relations have reached negatively affect Turkey-EU talks?

This matter should be regarded as an issue related to Germany. It would not be correct to regard it as a Turkey-EU matter. The EU instance should be evaluated separately.

Recently, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We are very close to a deal. There will be talks held in a European country next week.” Could you elaborate?

The talks with Israel have been going on for a long time. I was thinking that talks would conclude by the end of May. But there has been a delay due to certain developments. Now, relevant officials are following up. Our conditions on this matter are an apology, compensation [for the 2010 Mavi Marmara massacre] and the lifting of the embargo to Gaza. Following an apology and compensation, we are waiting for the clearance on how the embargo will be lifted. As you know, there is an energy problem in Gaza. Similarly there is a water problem. There are also hospitals, schools and issues about construction materials related to them. The Israel side agrees on the transport of food, construction material, et cetera to Gaza through Turkey. We had suggested solving the energy issue with a ship docking at Ashdod port, but it was not suitable for that ship. They suggested a different solution. We told them, “That could also work; it is no problem for us.” For the solution to the water problem, we suggested drilling or processing seawater. They said, “No problem.” Of course, the distribution systems of all these will also be built. All of these things are being worked on. Of source, it is also important how the new government will act regarding these matters. How will this situation be affected with [Avigdor] Lieberman appointed to the Defense Ministry? Did Netanyahu talk about these matters with Lieberman when he formed the government? In the talks to be conducted, I guess these matters will also be discussed.

You have been frequently using an expression nowadays about the Syrian topic. You were saying, “If the U.S. does not meet its commitments, then we will take matters into our hands.” What do you mean by this?

We should be conducting joint moves with the U.S. as NATO allies both in Syria and in Iraq. For instance, why did we go to Afghanistan? We went upon the invitation of the U.S. as a NATO member country, right? Moreover, we are among the four or five countries that continue to remain there. The same happened in Iraq. But in Iraq, for instance our presence in Bashiqa was made an issue. We went to Bashiqa to fight DAESH [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - ISIL]. This was after speaking with the central administration and the regional administrators. We have done this to help our brothers there in their fight against the terror organization. I have told all of this to Mr. [Barack] Obama. I told him there has to be joint acts. This is valid for Syria also. Their chief of General Staff and our chief of General Staff met. Talks are advancing positively. Lately there have been talks held on the removing DAESH from Manbij. There are about 2,500 Arabs in the Syrian Democratic Forces. It is being said that 450 YPG [People’s Defense Units] members are logistically supporting them. We have related our sensitivities and our determination as Turkey to our interlocutors. We do not want to experience a new problem in northern Syria. Our colleagues are meeting their U.S. counterparts during intense discussions. If needed, we will take matters into our hands.

What are the latest developments around Manbij?

According to the information that has reached us, 12 villages have been taken from DAESH. The advance is continuing with each passing day. However, Manbij does not belong to Kurds; it is a place where Arabs live. It would not be logical for Kurds to settle there. There is the east and west of the Tishrin Dam. We do not want the YPG to cross to the west. The U.S., on the other hand, is saying that even if they crossed for logistics, they will return. We are observing whether that will be so. But that place belongs to Arabs anyway. Thus, the Arabs also would not allow any adverse development.

Both Russian leader Vladimir Putin and yourself have issued positive statements on Turkey-Russia relations. However, other Russian officials are mentioning different things about Putin’s stance. How do you evaluate this?

I am of the opinion that Putin’s statements should be taken into account.

Can we positively evaluate yours and Putin’s statements in terms of the future of the two countries?

I don’t think it is right to have a negative stance. Good politics should be based on opening the way of relations between two big countries like Russia and Turkey, not blocking them. Thus, it is not correct to mention demands that would not happen. Everybody knows what has happened. The violations of our airspace were an issue we had been talking about beforehand. The incident happened as a result of planes of undetermined identity violating our airspace and not responding to our warnings. We believe that Turkey-Russia relations should not be sacrificed for such an incident.

With the new government, it seems the presidential system will be a top matter of debate. Is it the presidential system or a president affiliated to a political party? Which one is more probable?

There are certain priorities in the road map of parliament. They are telling me that the internal regulations should absolutely be changed. As a matter of fact, it was among my targets in the last five to six years of my term as prime minister, but while solving other issues, we were not able to change the internal regulations. I guess it will be changed at the first opportunity. Several incidents that have occurred in parliament stem from this internal regulation. There are times when 40 or 50 people use more time than 316 people do. Of course, everybody will have the right to speak but this should be within a logical procedure. Of course, I do not know what the attitude of the main opposition party and other parties will be on this matter. The presidential system and the party-affiliated president are actually not that different.

Is your final target the presidential system rather than a party-affiliated president?

As I said, it does not differ too much. This matter is not that black and white. They are not that far apart from each other. The whole issue is, for instance, how we are going to fill the content of the system of a party-affiliated president. What is important is filling the content in a just way, within the scope of the rules of a democratic state, of the rule of law.