Turkey showed strength on table, field in 2019: Official
In 2019, Turkey has shown its strength both at the table and the field ground with three crucial moves, said the presidential spokesman on Dec. 29.
Appearing on a local TV channel for a live broadcast, İbrahim Kalın said the momentous moves were Turkey’s anti-terror operation in Syria, the drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and the recent military and maritime deal with Libya.
Kalın commented on Turkey’s foreign policy and global political developments that left their mark in 2019.
Addressing Operation Peace Spring, Turkey’s anti-terror operation in northern Syria, Kalın said it proved that no regional or international actor could set a game in Syria without including Turkey -- which borders Syria and currently hosts over 3.6 million Syrian people living in the country under the status of people under temporary protection.
He said the Ankara administration struck two deals with Washington and Moscow following Turkey’s military campaign in northern Syria, making its presence felt in the international community.
The Syria operation, launched on Oct. 9 east of the Euphrates River, aims to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
The operation has been paused following two deals with Russia and the U.S. to allow terrorists to withdraw from the region.
Kalın later discussed the Eastern Mediterranean, saying: "We have taken a crucial step regarding the Eastern Mediterranean [region] with seismic drilling activities."
He recalled that Ankara defied the notion seeking to confine Turkey to the Gulf of Antalya when it said: “we are also in the field.”
Turkey, as a guarantor nation for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), is currently carrying out hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean with two drilling vessels.
Ankara has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the TRNC also has rights to the resources in the area.
Turkey's military, maritime deal with Libya, repercussions in Middle East
On the deals with Libya, Kalın said: "The recent two agreements we have made [with Libya], our suggestions, perspective and political stance regarding the Libya crisis, 2019 was a year when Turkey was powerful both on the table and the ground."
On Nov. 27, Ankara and Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) signed two separate pacts, one on military cooperation and the other on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The maritime pact asserted Turkey's rights in the Eastern Mediterranean in the face of unilateral drilling by the Greek Cypriot administration, clarifying that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus also has rights to the resources in the area. It went into effect on Dec. 8.
Kalın stressed that a new civil war in Libya was inevitable if the international community did not stop the warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
"There might be a [coming] bloodier war there. The process resembles the situation in Syria three years ago. Anyone who sees a strategic gap enters there. Finally, Russia wants to be included in the process there," he said.
On the possible deployment of Turkish troops in Libya, Kalın said the parliament would discuss this issue as the GNA carried its demand.
"After evaluating all conditions, our president will make a final decision. Meanwhile, we will continue to support the GNA in political and technical aspects," he said.
Kalın went on saying that there have been various official and unofficial comments on Turkey's maritime deal with Libya.
"In fact, Egypt is really pleased with the maritime jurisdiction agreement reached with Libya as well. Egyptian officials said this. Their [maritime] area was expanded."
He said Cairo was aware of the fact that there can not be a regional plan in the Eastern Mediterranean without Turkey.
Kalın went on saying that Turkey sought to collaborate with Tunisia to ensure the conflict resolution in Libya, emphasizing the country also took side with the legitimate government of Libya, adding Turkey also planned to get in contact with Algeria.
Kalın underlined that Turkey's political moves regarding Libya were based on the demands of the country's legitimate government and Turkey did not aim to occupy the country, and argued that people did not question the presence of Russia, Italy, the U.K. and France.
The presidential spokesman said anti-Turkey rhetoric was used in the region to trigger Arab nationalism and Turkey was unjustly accused of reviving its Ottoman legacy in the region.
"Is it not clear that we do not move such motive? Which territory of Syria did we occupy?" he asked.
Referring to reactions by some Arab countries on Turkey's anti-terror campaign in Syria, Kalın said: "We are not establishing the safe zone for our sake but for Syria. That's a move that will secure our safety, but what's more important is that there are nearly 4 million Syrians within our country and at least 4 to 5 million Syrians have been displaced within Syria. We need to establish a region where they can live safely."
Kalın went on his 2019 review addressing global developments, calling the “trade wars” between the U.S. and China one of the significant. He also said the domestic issues of the U.S. and the "Trump effect" left their marks on the political environments in Europe, the Middle East, and many other regions.
Responding to a question on possible U.S. sanctions on Turkey, Kalın said the Trump administration was disturbed by this move but the Congress adopted this policy.
He went on arguing that the sanction bill was not just about Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile system and said the planned sanctions were the result of Turkey’s independent moves, such as Operation Peace Spring, clear stance in the Eastern Mediterranean, and support for the GNA in Libya.
He said Turkey would not be directly affected by possible sanctions even if they were ratified and the country would continue to find alternatives in the fields of economy and defense industry.
On Russia, Kalın argued that the rise of Moscow as a superpower continued with Kremlin's moves in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria as well as latest developments in Libya.
As for the Western criticism on Turkey about getting closer with Russia, Kalın said this was a natural result of the isolation policies imposed on Turkey which are visible in Syria, Iraq and Eastern Mediterranean as well as other regions.
He said that the sanctions threats were one of the factors accelerating the close relation process of Turkey and Russia.
Lastly, according to Kalın, the alliance within NATO was questioned in 2019 when the global uncertainty in politics peaked. He observed that this trend would probably continue in the coming year.