Turkish PM defends Egypt and Syria stance, criticizes EU at ambassadors’ iftar dinner

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defended Turkey’s stance vis-à-vis the military takeover in Egypt and Syria, while criticizing the European Union for the slowness of accession negotiations in his address to foreign ambassadors to Ankara.

Touching on several foreign and domestic issues, Erdoğan also said the recent criticism of the government was “saddening,” adding that any analysis not taking Turkey’s past into account would be “misleading.”

“Turkey’s foreign policy is not based on interests but values. We have always acted in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya and in Tunisia [in light of] these values,” Erdoğan said in his address during the AKP’s sixth iftar dinner for ambassadors in Ankara July 18.

“As Turkey, we don’t follow a policy regarding Egypt that defends or looks after certain people or institutions. We follow a policy that looks after universal values and principles.”

Erdoğan said it was not possible for the Turkish government to accept the toppling of an elected president in ways other than elections, as in Egypt.

“As a country that paid heavy prices in its struggle for democracy, we don’t want the Egyptians, whom we see as our brothers, to [pass through] the same suffering. We would have shown the same position if the coup targeted the opposition and not [deposed President Mohamed] Morsi,” Erdoğan said, denying that Turkey was intruding in Egypt’s internal politics.

“To express our stance on a matter of such importance for our region has to be comprehended and even taken as an example,” he said, criticizing once again the attitude of countries that failed to condemn the takeover.

“Not acting with double standards is the duty of those who believe in democracy. The millions who have filled Rabaa al-Adawiya Square and squares in other Egyptian cities have been ignored.”

Inauguration ‘a tragedy’

Erdoğan targeted the newly appointed Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, whose meeting request he refused, noting that he had only 1.7 percent of votes during last years’ presidential elections while Morsi received 52 percent.

“The individual who has received 1.7 percent of the votes becomes vice president. How? By being appointed. The president is on duty. How? The soldiers appointed him. The inauguration was a tragedy. The defense minister who appointed the president was sworn in in front of him. If universal values say ‘yes’ to something like this, I haven’t known such a democracy,” he said.

Call to Iran, Russia and China

Regarding Syria, Erdoğan dismissed criticisms that the government’s policy was based on favoring one religious confession over another. “Favoring a confession has never been part of Turkey’s state traditions, and it won’t become part of it now. The close relationship with Syria before the crisis is the evidence [of it]. We are not against the current regime in Syria because they belong to one confession or another.” He added that 100,000 people had died since the beginning of the uprising in Syria.

“We oppose them because they have put the future of all Syrians in danger. One hundred thousand people have died in Syria. This regime continues to kill. So, won’t I call this regime a dictatorship? Won’t I call it a murderer?” 

Erdoğan also called on Iran, Russia and China to give support to a negotiation process. “They have a big responsibility to solve this problem. Otherwise, history will not forgive the deaths of 100,000 people and all those millions who live far from their country,” he said.

The Turkish prime minister also expressed concern over a confrontation between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq and called for the reunification of the two Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas.

 

Criticism of Gezi stance

Erdoğan also implicitly criticized the strong reaction against the ongoing Gezi protests that spread across the nation, maintaining that the protesters who died had been clashing with the police.

“In Turkey one person, two persons, three persons, four persons die while exerting violence against the police, they turn the world upside down with tweets and Facebook. In Egypt, 300 have died, including 53 while praying, and the whole world is silent. Why don’t you speak?” 

Erdoğan said the AKP’s had ocleared the way to reforms in the last 10 years. “Until 2002 there were threats of coups to our democracy. We have fought against those threats and made historic reforms,” he said.

“We have cleared the way of freedom of expression. Those who currently attack, write against or even insult the president, the prime minister, the chief of General Staff of this country couldn’t have done it 10 years ago. Until 10 years ago, there were banned words and concepts in Turkey,” he said, adding that the journalists in prison were mostly linked with “terrorist” organizations.

“No one who has been convicted only for expressing their thoughts and who wasn’t linked with terrorism is in jail in this country. Either they have aided terrorism, or they had [very close links] with terrorist organizations or have been convicted for carrying guns without a license,” he said.

Erdoğan also emphasized the importance of the ongoing Kurdish peace process for Turkey’s democratization and economy.

EU’s ‘new invention’

Erdoğan also criticized the European Union’s postponement of the opening of a new chapter in Turkey’s accession negotiations to September, following Germany’s objection after the government’s heavy-handed response against the Gezi protests.

“Instead of opening and closing [chapters] they have now invented making a step forward and to say ‘We’ll talk in three months.’ There is no such perspective in the legal acquis,” Erdoğan said, adding that the European Union fell in conflict with its own values.

“I invite EU countries to keep their agreements. Half-opening one chapter is considered as positive; but the process moves forward very slowly and the problem comes from the EU,” he said.

A special concert was given before the iftar dinner by the Doğuyorum Civilization choir, a children choir from the southeastern Bitlis province which sang songs in Kurdish, Romanian, Bosnian, Italian, Spanish, German and Swahili.

 

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