Q: Since the end of world war II the international community has agreed that it is inadmissible to take land by force. Isn’t Turkey violating this international consensus?
A: Thank you for allowing me this opportunity. You are one of the few media outlets to give us a chance to the Turkish ambassador to speak. Coming directly to your question. Turkey is one of the founding members of the United Nations. We attach great importance to the values and principles of the UN. I myself spent four years of my career in the Turkish mission to the UN. I attended many sessions of the UN general assembly and the UN Security Council. Turkey is not in defiance of the principles of the United Nations. On the contrary, we benefit from our relations with the United Nations. So, what is going on in the northern part of Syria ? That operation is based on international law, the principles of the United Nations and especially Article 51 enshrined in UN Charter 51 which enabled us to defend ourselves.
Q: Do you still support the territorial unity of Syrian Arab Republic?
A: No doubt about it. Turkey is very much committed to the territorial integrity of Syria and to a political solution within Syria. We have mentioned this in many documents and meetings, including in Astana process. Our Permeant Representative in the UN sent a letter when he notified the Secretary General and the President of the Security Council just before the launch of our operation, and he clearly mentioned that Turkey is committed to a political solution based on UNSC 2254 and Geneva Communique.
Q: In war, they say it is easy to hard to end. Do you have a time limitation when will the activities in north Syria end?
A: First let me make a clarification on terminologie. This is not a war. This is a cross-border counter-terrorism operation. I mean that. Let’s not play with words. This the third time that Turkey is conducting this kind of operation in Syria since 2016. So, when will it end, I don’t know. I can tell only you that it will end when our legitimate concerns are taken care of. Turkey is one of the largest partners in fighting terrorism. Turkey is committed to international efforts against international terrorism and that is why we ask for support not criticism, and full support in our fight against terrorism.
Q: In Jordan whenever we enter a hotel we have to be checked after blowing up the hotels by the terrorist al Zarqawi. Every year we remember Muath Kassasbeh the Jordanian pilot burn alive by the Daesh terrorist. Can you assure Jordanian families that Daesh prisoners held in norther Syria will not be released or let go?
A: As I said, Turkey is against all sorts of terrorism. Terrorism doesn’t have any kind of region, nationality, sect etc. So we are fighting against all sorts of terrorism. So, to this end the legitimate target of the Turkish armed forces in Operation Peace Spring are PKK, YPG, PYD and Daesh. As far as Daesh is concerned, Turkish armed forces have been the only army that has fought against them chest to chest in 2017. We eliminated 3,000 Daesh elements and we suffered more than 70 martyrs from the Turkish armed forces. So, what we are going to do is to continue to fight all these terrorist elements and secondly, we will be doing whatever is available on our part with our partners, first and foremost with the United States to make sure that they get whatever treatment that they deserve. Which means that they must be taken back by their countries of origin.
Q: So, you are saying that they and their families will be returned to their countries of origin?
A: This is our commitment. We are working for this in cooperation with our partners, especially the United States.
?Q: and if they don’t take them back what will happen?
A: That I can’t know. But we should not forget: This is not only an issue for Turkey, but it is an issue for the international community.
Q: The government of Jordan and the Arab League have called on Turkey to stop this cross-border action. What is your response to the government of Jordan?
A: We reject this very much and I regret it. Our position has been explained by our Ministry’s spokesman but let me clarify it one more time. The first and most important victims of PYD/YPG/PKK terrorist organization’s ethnic cleansing policy and crimes against humanity have been the Syrian Arabs. Hundreds thousands of Arabs have been forcefully displaced by PYD/YPG/PKK from their homes and lands in the east of the Euphrates
. On the other hand, among the 3.6 million Syrian refugees we are hosting 350,000 Kurds. Why are they in Turkey? Why they find shelter in Turkey? Because they are escaping from Syria because of persecution and oppression and human rights violations of the PKK and YPG. This is basically unacceptable. Therefore, we believe that the members of the Arab League last Saturday took the wrong decision in Cairo and took the wrong side.
Rather than expressing solidarity and even expressing support for Turkey for its fight against terrorism, they took the side of the terrorists. What is more regrettable is, one delegation, I believe, Egypt, welcomed a delegation of PKK, PYG, PYD. This is quite shocking and regrettable. Those spokespeople who criticized Turkey have said nothing about the status of Jerusalem or anything for the Palestinians. So, criticizing Turkey is quite contradictory. We called their criticism in our statement a form of betraying the Arab World..
Q: Ten parties and organizations including the head of the Lawyer’s Union are planning to demonstrate and have said in their call that they are opposed to Turkish land aspirations and a follow up to the takeover Syrian land as it did previously in the Iskandaron and Kilikdia districts. What do you say to these Jordanian organizations that are demonstrating against Turkey?
A: First of all, I am not aware of this, so thank you for informing me of it. Secondly if they are interested in, I am willing to engage with them in constructive dialogue to explain the basics of the Operation. What this operation means, I have explained in the beginning of this interview. What it doesn’t mean is first of all this is not an invasion. Secondly it is not an aggression. States have obligations to protect their citizens. This is exactly what this operation is about. Its aim is to neutralize the threat across the border, to give security to Turkish citizens and to give opportunity for the voluntary Syrian refugees once and if the conditions are ready. That is why I beg to differ and reject their claims.
Q: The Syrian democratic forces are talking to the Syrian regime about deploying their forces on the Syrian Turkish border. Will that help or help your goals?
A: I hesitate in answering this question. Because the developments are fresh and there is a lot of misinformation. I heard this news especially concerning the western part of the Euphrates near the town of Menbej. All I can tell you is that our aims and our operation goals have not changed, so we will go until the last minute until the terrorist threat is taken care of.
Q: Mr. Ambassador you are leaving Jordan in a few months. Can you give us a summary of what you have been able to do? We all participated and enjoyed the Turkish cultural week. What other activities would you like to highlight? Would you like to give a word to your Jordanian friends?
A: You have made me sentimental. I spent wonderful three years in Jordan. Jordan is a very friendly and brotherly country for Turkey. We deem Jordan as a strong partner of Turkey in the Middle East. Throughout these years the political relations have developed. Our leaders have met many times, I think five times, either bilaterally or at the side of the OIC meetings.
Our foreign minister visited Jordan at least two times and I believe that there will be a third visit soon. Ministers of defense, and chiefs of intelligence, all regularly meet. I committed during the presentation of my credentials to His Majesty that also to give a boost to people-to-people relations. There exists a visa-free travel regime.
Daily six flights between Istanbul and Amman. Three Turkish airlines and three Royal Jordanian. Daily chartered airlines to Ankara, weekly three flights to Antalya, private companies are also are involved. Turkey is a major destination for Jordanians. They like Turkish architecture, culture, music, food. As far as the cultural relations are considered, next year 2020 has been declared as the mutual year for culture. Jordan will be celebrated in Turkey; Turkey will be celebrated in Jordan. I will not be here but we have laid the ground for this. This year we had music events, we brought a band and food, we exhibit and we had a lecture by a well-known archeologist. I am so satisfied with the level of relations.
Before we conclude, one more thing if I may, what brings us together with Jordan ? Turkey and Jordan face similar challenges, we must find common solutions. Besides Jerusalem and Palestine, we have many common interests in Syria. Both our countries believe in the need for a political solution in Syria, both of our countries have suffered from global terrorism in Syria, both our countries unfortunately have to host millions of refugees, 3.6 million in Turkey and 1.3 million in Jordan, and both our countries lost their traditional trade routes because of Syrias. We have so many commonalities between Turkey and Jordan. Why not bringing our interests together also on this file?