Interview Of El-shark With Ambassador Erciyes

Beyrut Büyükelçiliği 19.08.2016

Lebanon’s security is part of Turkey’s security

Turkish Ambassador to Elshark: “What interests us is Lebanon’s unity, security and stability. We are also concernedby the fact that a President is not being elected and we hope that his election will be made by Lebanon. Lebanon’s security is part of Turkey’s security”.

"A cease fire should be implemented immediately in Aleppo and we support the countries that are fighting against terrorism”

Turkish Ambassador: “We are fully aware that Gulen’s group has infiltrated within the state and its institutions and perpetrated the coup of July 15.”

First of all, what about the outcome of the Turkish-Russian summit?

The summit between Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has been prepared in Sochi by Foreign Ministers of both countries who met before the failed military coup that took place on July 15.

The visit to St. Petersburg was indeed the first visit of the Turkish President abroad after the coup attempt.The meeting was deemed necessary between the two countries especially after the deterioration of the relations after the downing of the Russian aircraft which were damaging the interests of both countries.

Russia is an important country for Turkey and Turkey is sofor Russia.

For example, the trade exchange between the two countries was around 35 billion dollars last year. This figure has dropped to 25 billion dollars this year due to the crisis between the two countries.

The two Presidents decided during their meeting to normalize and further develop the relations between the two countries. They also agreed on increasing the volume of bilateral trade to 100 billion dollars. This is reaffirmed as a common objective of the two countries.

The relations between Russia and Turkey is not a substitute to the relations between Turkey and the Western countries.

Yet some international media outlets gave a false and unclear picture of the recent visit of President Erdogan to Russia. Our goal was to normalize our relations with Russia.As any member of NATO, this is normal.

What is the outcome of this summit in light of what is happening in the region, in Syria?

There is no change in the official Turkish stance towards Syria, but we can say that the Syrian situation was a big part of the talks between the two presidents, given the fact that there was no dialogue about Syria during the strained relations over the last 8 months.

A Turkish delegation composed of foreign ministry, army and intelligence officials will visit Russia in the coming days to discuss the situation in Syria.

The solution in Syria can only be political. Regarding the Syrian issue, we agree with Russia on some points and disagree on others.

We agree on the fact that the solution in Syria can only be a political one and that Turkey would like to see the implementation of the UNSC resolutions and that the negotiations should resume as soon as possible between the regime and the opposition, this time directly between the two parties without the need to an international mediator.

An immediate ceasefire should be imposed in Aleppo and all Syria due to the deteriorating humanitarian conditions experienced by the Syrian people in the light of the continuing clashes. Humanitarian aid should be delivered unconditionally as soon as possible. Bombing and targeting hospitals, schools and civilians should be stopped. Talks in Geneva should be resumed by focusing on a political transition.

Do you agree with the international observers that the battle of Aleppo is the decisive battle of the war in Syria and the region?

We, in Turkey, call not only for a cease-fire in Aleppo but also to stop the war in all Syria. We consider that a political solution cannot be reached in the absence of a ceasefire. We support all countries in the fight against terrorist organizations, particularly against Daesh and Al Nusra but the bombing that is allegedly targeting Al Nusra is indeedtargeting civilians and we object to that.

If the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and the neighboring region persists, there might be more than a million of new refugees heading towards the Turkish border. The international community should not remain indifferent to this humanitarian tragedy.

Can we understand from what you are saying is that the solution in Syria is not close and that things are going toward more escalation?

We all hope that the Syrian crisis will be resolved soon but there is no indication that this could happen soon. There is no glimmer of hope seen at this moment. It is the neighboring countries of Syria Which are most affected by this war and its negative repercussions. Turkey has welcomed nearly 3 million Syrian refugees that are registered. Turkey has spent 12.5 billion $ on the refugees in the past 5 years, the Turkish civil society organization have also spent 7.5 billion $. The total is equivalent to 20 billion $ during the five years.

Yet the humanitarian aid sent by the donor countries to Turkey was only so far around 400 million$. No additional amount from the European countries has been delivered so far including3 billion euros promised for the Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Likewise we understand and support Lebanon in addressingthe challengesof the Syrian refugees.

But this problem constitutes a major crisis in Lebanon?

We always support the Lebanese Government at the international forain solving the problems of refugees. We acknowledge that the problem in Lebanon is bigger in terms of the number of refugees per capita.

We understand Lebanon’s situation as we are also experiencing same problems and we continueto support the Lebanese government in this respect.

Some Western countries are accusing Turkey of deporting refugees to their territory. Are the borders under control?

A coordination between the Turkey and the European Union is underway and a readmission agreement was signed to stop the illegal migration to a large extent. Yet Turkey is awaiting the EU to fulfill its obligations towards Turkey in connection with the implementation of this agreement, namely the financial commitments to Turkey and exempting visa requirement for the Turkish citizens. These commitments are yet to be fulfilledand we are still waitingfor that.

The readmission agreement requires EU to send a refugee who entered illegally into its territory to be exchanged with a legal refugee from Turkey.

Is Turkey still insisting on joining the European Union?

Yes. Indeed Turkey's bid to join the EU started50 years ago. It was started in 1963 We had a long-term engagement period, but the marriage didn’t effectively occurred.

Did the Syrian crisis affected Turkey’s entrance to the European Union?

Opinion polls conducted in 2005 and 2006 in Turkish public opinion was in favor of Turkey’s membership to the EU at around 70 percent.

Today, this number has dropped to less than 50% as a result of the European policies .The Turkish Governmentis still seeking to join the EU as a member of NATO, OSCE and the Council of Europe.

Turkey is geographically located at the crossroadsof continents. Turkey considers herself as a Middle Eastern,European and Balkan country at the same time. Therefore we are following a foreign policy that maintains the stability and security in these areas.

You are in Lebanon for almost one year, you met people from various political parties. How do you assess the relations between the two countries?

Lebanese-Turkish relations are very strong and distinctive being linked by cultural, social, economic and political ties. Lebanon's security is part of Turkey's security.

Lebanon is a brotherly and friendly country for Turkey andthe Lebanese unity, territorial integrity security and stability concerns us. I can say that Lebanon’s security is part of Turkey's security and Lebanon’s stability is Turkey’s stability as well. We do not differentiate the different sectors of the Lebanese society. We support all of them.

As for the file of the Presidency, we also regret very much that the Lebanese are not able to elect a President until today and we hope that this election would take place as soon as possible.

As Ambassador of Turkey to Lebanon, we support all efforts to elect a President as well as the national dialogue in Ain El Tineh and the dialogue sessions between Hezbollah and Future movement. We hope that the solution to the Presidency will be reached by the Lebanese parties rather than coming from outside.

Don’t you think that the solution to the Presidency is related to the regional situation and to the settlement in the region?

The countries in the region have an impact on the election of the President. We urge all regional and international parties to support the election of a President by the Lebanese, and we are working in this direction.

Is there a certain Turkish mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia?

There is no official mediation role played by Turkey for this purposeYet, Turkey has always played a positive role between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As for Lebanon in 2009, it succeeded in this role. Since, Turkey has good relations with these two countries, we will continue in this direction. We also emphasizethese countries to approach their views with regard to Lebanese file.

Don’t you think that in the absence of Saudi - Iranian accord, there is no solution in the region?

We wish and hope for good and positive relations between all countries in the region. That will create a conducive atmospherein order to establish peace and stability in the region.

Is Turkey still on its position regarding the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad?

Turkey has not changed its policy towards Syria, we support a peaceful and political solution in Syria, and that talks begin between the conflicting parties to move towards a political transition of power.

How would you see the situation in Turkey today after the last military failed coup? Do you think that the security situation has become more secure?

Definitely. The military coup attempt that took place on July 15 was a shock to the Turkish people. It was not expected at all. The perpetrators of the coup attempt wasa small group within the Turkish Armed Forces.

The Turkish people as a whole, decisively stood against the putschists and was able to stop this coup attempt. I would like to mention that the people who went to the street and stood against the coup were not only the supporters of the Government, butthe Turkish people as a whole.

All the political parties, civil society and media stood against the coup and faced it within 24 hours.

Who is behind this coup and what are the objectives?

We are certain that Fethullah Gulen and his supporters who secretly infiltrated the state and its agencies has carried out this coup attempt.

Gulen’s organization was founded in the late seventies and later infiltrated the state institutions secretly. FETO claimed to have been representing then moderate Islam, but this was a disquieting and that its agenda was not so. Hisorganization has established schools all over the world,It has opened many schools, companies and banks in Turkey.After 1980, Gulen tried to direct young minds who had been educated and specialized in his schools to infiltrate in state institutions with illegal and rebellious plans. For example

in 2007, a number of generals and officers wereremoved from the Army through court cases built on forged and fabricated evidence by those Gulenistsinfiltrated in the judiciary. These cases enabled the Gulenists to infiltrate deeply in the Army.

Didn’t the Turkish state realize the movements of this group before executing the coup?

Indeed this infiltration began in the nineties. As mentioned recently by our Presidentno Turkish Government since then had fullyrealized this danger. This situation has changed in 2013 and an internal cleanup campaign against the Gulenists infiltrated in the State is indeed underway since then especially in the judiciary and in the police.

Today, after the failed coup attempt, the Gulenists have been uncovered more clearly. Our first and primary goal is to clean them from all state organs.

Today dismissals include armed forces, the judiciary and all Turkish institutions. So far 60,000 people have been dismissed from the public sector. More than 10.000 people have been arrestedas they have a direct link to the coup attempt.

The security situation has turned to normal with limited negative impact on economy and tourism at the beginning of the coup attempt, but today the tourism movement has also returned to normal. I encourage all Lebanese tourists to visit Turkey and enjoy the beauty of its nature.

The coup attempt has shown that the Turkish people is fully committed to democracy and freedom. Turkey is today restructuring its institutions and it will become stronger than it was before.

Turkish Ambassador thanked the Lebanese officials who supported the Turkish state against the recent coup attempt, especially the Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and other ministers and politicians.


Ali Barış Ulusoy Ambassador
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