Turkey still wants to be in Europe’s ‘first division,’ PM’s adviser says
ISTANBUL – Agence France-Presse
Prime Minister Davutoğlu's Chief Adviser Etyen Mahçupyan.Turkey’s leaders are committed to EU membership and still aim to play in the “first division” of Europe despite a bitter row over a crackdown on the media, a top adviser to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said.
Turkey’s aspirations to join the EU received a serious setback when the latest police swoop on media linked to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s number-one foe, Fethullah Gülen, led to an angry episode of mud-slinging between Ankara and Brussels.
Etyen Mahçupyan, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who was named chief adviser to Davutoğlu in November, blamed the dispute on a lack of understanding about Turkey in the West.
But he told AFP in an interview that despite the sometimes tough rhetoric, Ankara had no intention of giving up on its decades-old bid to join the 28-member bloc.
“The AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] absolutely, 100 percent, wants to join the EU and demonstrate its own power in Europe,” he said. “An enthusiastic and self-confident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cannot dream of a Turkey which plays in the second division. He wants to play in the first league, but as equal partners.”
Mahçupyan, however, criticized the West’s “negative” approach and what he said was its failure to understand the government’s war against the Gülen movement, which Erdogan has accused of orchestrating a plot to bring him down when he was prime minister.
“The Western world is unaware of what’s going on in Turkey. They do not understand and they are not very much willing to understand,” said Mahçupyan.
Erdoğan has blamed the Gülen movement of concocting a corruption scandal last year that rocked his government and has purged thousands of his followers from the police and the judiciary.
A Turkish court has issued an arrest warrant for the U.S.-based Gulen, but the EU was particularly concerned by raids earlier this month that targeted pro-Gülen media.
“It is very clear that the Gülen community [cemaat] attempted to topple the government and particularly to create a period without Tayyip Erdoğan,” said Mahçupyan, adding that it was an “abortive” initiative without military involvement.
Mahçupyan said the Gülenists established a “hierarchy” in key state institutions in charge of policy-making and the “coup” was staged by that “core group,” estimated to number between 5,000 and 10,000 out of up to 3 million sympathizers.
“I cannot say all are involved,” he said, adding that most Gülenists only heard about what happened from the media. “As far as I can see, Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP are trying to explain this as much as they can and convince them to part ways with Cemaat of their free will, so that the government can deal with the remaining core group.”
Mahçupyan likened the ruling AKP, co-founded by Erdoğan, to a “pendulum swinging between authoritarianism and democracy” and said the party showed a reflex for tougher measures whenever it saw a threat to its survival. “I can say it is a party closer to democracy... It is a very suspicious party which thinks the rug under its feet could be pulled at any moment.”
Mahçupyan said Erdoğan and Davutoğlu had similar ideas and their differences in style were complementary.
“Tayyip Erdoğan is the man who clears bushes in a wood with a sword in his hand. He does not stop. If he stops, there’s a threat. He always moves forward just in case,” he said.
“Davutoğlu is the man who will install tiles on the road. If Tayyip Erdoğan does not open that path, Davutoğlu cannot furnish that path. They complement each other,” he said.
Turkey, Armenia should leave genocide row 'to coming years'
Regarding the Armenian issue, Mahçupyan said Armenia should not expect to resolve a long-running dispute over the mass killing of Armenians in World War I on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy in 2015, a top adviser to the prime minister said.
Armenia and its diaspora want Turkey to recognise the mass killings of Armenians in the final years of the Ottoman Empire from 1915 as genocide, something Turkey has so far vehemently resisted.
According to Mahçupyan, 2015 would be a "tough year" because of the anniversary and major breakthroughs would have to wait for later.
"I believe symbolic steps could be taken this year and a more emotional relationship could be established," he said.
"But I believe more political or historical issues will be left to the coming years and then it will be easier," he added.
Erdoğan offered an unprecedented expression of condolence for the massacres in April when he was still prime minister, describing the killings as "our shared pain."
But this went nowhere near far enough for Armenians, who want the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million people recognised as a campaign of genocide ordered by the top security leadership of the Ottoman Empire from 1915-1916.
Mahçupyan, one of very few Armenians to have held a government post, said the priority for the future should be establishing relations with Armenia as well as the millions-strong diaspora, many of whom harbour a deep hatred of Turkey.
"I don't think we need to hurry 100 years on. What happens later on should proceed more healthily," he said.
Armenia will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the massacres on April 24, the date when in 1915 hundreds of prominent Armenians were rounded up and later massacred in Istanbul marking the start of the killings.
Pointing to the striking "rapprochement" in relations between Russia and Turkey over the last months, Mahçupyan said Moscow could play a role "that facilitates this issue," he said.