The Turkish government has “fallen into the U.S.’s trap” in Syria and the military is now trying to correct its mistakes, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has told the Hürriyet Daily News in an exclusive interview.
Saying that Washington “tried to use Turkey as a battering ram in Syria,” Kılıçdaroğlu added that the U.S. is now controlling all major oil and gas fields in Syria together with Democratic Unity Party (PYD) and its militia the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Syrian extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “The U.S. has not shown that it is a strategic friend to Turkey,” he said.
On the major foreign and domestic issues facing Turkey, Kılıçdaroğlu had the following to say:
* “The [Turkish] government was wrong in its Syria policy from the very beginning. The U.S. tried to use Turkey as a battering ram in Syria. The U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplied arms and training to rebel groups in Syria. But later on the U.S. pulled back and started cooperating with the PYD and the YPG in the fight against [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] ISIL. The Turkish government was too late to diagnose the real terrorist nature of ISIL, only realizing it after the raid on Turkey’s Mosul Consulate in [June 2014]. The Americans said they were supplying the PYD-YPG with heavy weaponry against ISIL and would later collect this weaponry back. But today we observe that these weapons are being stored in Afrin to be used against Turkey, and Afrin is not even east of the Euphrates, where the U.S.’s fight against ISIL has been. The U.S. has not demonstrated that it is a strategic friend to Turkey.”
* “The [Turkish] government fell into the U.S.’s trap in Syria. Turkey was dragged into the swamp of the Middle East by the U.S. Now the U.S. is establishing control over all major oil and gas fields in Syria with the help of the PYD/YPG. Our government has now realized that its policy was wrong and it was deceived by the U.S., so the Turkish military ultimately had to go into Syria to correct the government’s mistakes at the cost of Turkish soldiers getting killed there. Russia is also using the PYD as leverage in its relations with both the U.S. and Turkey, as Moscow wants the gap between Ankara and Washington to further grow. The overall number of lost Turkish lives in Syria is more than the loss of American and Russian lives combined. The Americans have settled around Syria’s oil and gas fields, while the Russians have expanded their military bases, and Iran and China are getting lucrative tenders from Damascus government for the reconstruction of Syria. Turkey, meanwhile, has not gained anything. Ultimately if you form your policy in line with the interests of hegemonic powers like the U.S. and Russia this is what you end up with.”
* “In terms of finding a solution, the four neighboring countries in the region – Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria – should have a meeting at the presidential or prime ministerial level. The four countries have a shared interest in defending their territorial integrity and fighting terrorism. On whether it would be wise to talk to Bashar al-Assad, who is accused internationally of using chemical gas and widespread violence against his own people, this matter is not about al-Assad as a person. Syria has been suffering a terrible civil war for the last seven years, longer than the Second World War, in a small piece of land. It has also turned into a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. Hundreds and thousands of people have been killed, women and children. Millions have fled the country, including more than three million to Turkey. The country is in ruins. So if a solution is to be found, the four neighbors have to be part of this solution.”
* “Because of the Syrian problem our relations with Arab states have also been damaged. Energy Minister Berat Albayrak recently said he was saddened by the choice of Qatar to join recent searches for Mediterranean gas resources. I believe we have to have good relations again with both Qatar and with Egypt, for example. We also need better relations with the U.S. and the European Union. But to achieve that we need a foreign policy with some integrity. Our Foreign Ministry is gradually being dragged aside in foreign policy decisions. Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın is effectively acting like the foreign minister.”
* “In relations with the EU there are things that Turkey should do and things that the EU should do. If you want to join a club, you have to accept its rules and abide by its standards. In the past I have asked prime ministers Ahmet Davutoğlu and Binali Yıldırım why we don’t do our part and upgrade our legislation, regardless of what the Europeans do in return. I believe they shared my view but President [Tayyip Erdoğan] does not think that way. The government falls short of meeting the requirements like the rule of law, court independence, press freedom, empowering of civil society and now the state of emergency, but complains about being rejected in membership negotiations.”
* “Courts in Turkey have totally lost their independence. Take the most recent example of the daughter of the president of the Council of State. Despite being a novice lawyer, she was first accepted as a judge and within 24 hours of being appointed to the eastern province of Elazığ she was appointed to Ankara, where her mother [Council of State head Zerrin Güngör] works, in a senior position as an investigative judge at the Court of Cassations. Indeed, among all the newly appointed judges there are many names who have worked in the provincial organizations of the ruling party as attorneys in law very recently. This is not ethical and it makes the courts even more politicized.”