İhsanoğlu slams AKP’s foreign policy, urges 'silent diplomacy' to get results

İhsanoğlu slams AKP’s foreign policy, urges 'silent diplomacy' to get results

Serkan Demirtaş ANKARA
İhsanoğlu slams AKP’s foreign policy, urges silent diplomacy to get results

Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu visits the grave of former Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, July 21.

With less than three weeks to go to the polls, presidential candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu continued his criticism of the government’s foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, arguing that the language used in foreign policy should be distinct from that used in domestic policies.

“Foreign policy language should be different from domestic policy rhetoric. The rules of silent diplomacy should be implemented to get results. Addressing the people in one way and then making a different statement on other grounds would create problems,” İhsanoğlu told Ankara bureau chiefs of media outlets on July 21.

İhsanoğlu increased his tone against the government, complaining of what he calls unfair and untrue accusations regarding his opinions about developments in the Middle East and on his performance as the secretary general of the Islamic Cooperation Organization (OIC). Both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu have recently targeted İhsanoğlu for saying that “Turkey should be neutral in the Israel-Palestine row.”

“I have never said this. I have never said that Turkey should be neutral. What I have said is that ‘Let’s not take sides in an internal fight between our Arab brothers.’ I still say the same thing,” he said, complaining that his statements are frequently distorted by certain media outlets.

He added that Turkey had played a positive role in mediating between Israel and Palestine until 2010, but should refrain from taking sides in internal fights between Arab countries and Arab sovereign families.

“To understand today’s fight; you should know the reasons and background of historical fights between the different sovereign families. You have to have sociological and political background knowledge on these issues. The issue should not be oversimplified. Foreign policy is currently being made by simplification and stereotyping,” İhsanoğlu said.    

Erdoğan recently told the media that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told him that the Order of Merit given to İhsanoğlu was "routine" and all retiring international civil servants were decorated with this merit. İhsanoğlu said that such a disclosure, if it indeed happened, would not be statesman-like.

“I am not aware of what the two statesmen discussed. I do not know what Mr. Abbas told Mr. Erdoğan but if I disclosed what Mr. Abbas told me [about the Turkish government and Erdoğan] in different times it would be shameful,” he said.

He also underlined that the Palestine Order of Merit was not something given to civil servants and that he received it for his efforts to promote Palestine in international circles and for the reunification of the Hamas and Fatah.

When asked about Israel’s ground operation into Gaza, İhsanoğlu said it was not the first and probably would not be the last Israeli offensive, as the U.N. Security Council was blocked. He recalled that he initiated the U.N. Human Rights’ Committee to send a fact finding mission to Palestine after Israel’s attack in 2010, which submitted a report outlining war crimes committed by Israel.

“This can be done. As Palestine has had a status at the U.N. since 2012, it can also take the case to the International Criminal Court,” he said.

‘Kirkuk and Kobani same to us’

İhsanoğlu also touched on ongoing tension in northern Syria, where jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are attacking Kurds in the Syrian town of Kobani, right on the Turkish border. “For us, the problems of Kirkuk, Telafer and Kobani are same. We feel equally sorry for the situation in Kobani as we do for Gaza and Kirkuk,” he said, adding that he would visit Diyarbakır and Şanlıurfa this weekend.

Recalling his desire for a stable and peaceful Middle East on the grounds of "mutual benefit for all countries," İhsanoğlu said this objective could never be reached through sectarian, ethnic or ideological approaches.

‘Weird election’

İhsanoğlu repeated that the presidential election campaign was not being conducted in free and fair conditions, because Erdoğan was using the state’s apparatus for his benefit and the campaign period was too short.

“I often hear about the American model [over the presidential system]. Is the president elected there in one month?” he said, adding that he wanted to "refrain from quarreling" with his rivals and he always promoted a "respectful election process."

However, this gentlemanly rule was not applied when it came to answering a question from a pro-government newspaper who attempted to expose him as an "elitist" by asking him how much a loaf of bread costs.

“Do you, yourself, know it? If you do not, I will say. One lira for normal bread, 60 kuruş for the bread sold by the municipalities ... But you can write whatever you like. This is already something you are doing every day,” İhsanoğlu said.