By Zhang Xin Source:Global Times
Visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu sat down with Global Times reporter Zhang Xin (GT) for an exclusive interview on Friday to discuss Turkey’s engagement in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), potential Sino-Turkish collaboration on the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative and cooperation on Middle Eastern affairs.
GT: What’s your agenda in coming to Beijing? And what’s your take on current China-Turkey relations?
Cavusoglu: I have been invited by Wang Yi, foreign minister of China, who is a good friend of mine. This visit is to follow up the discussions that our presidents had on the phone in April. They agreed that we should further strengthen and deepen our bilateral cooperation. There are strategic projects that we need to follow up on. And China has become more active and visible on regional issues, including the Middle East. And we have the same position, I’m very happy to say that. Therefore, we have been deepening and strengthening our ties. The aim of this visit is actually to follow up on the framework that our presidents have made and also to see the way to further strengthen our bilateral ties as well as our cooperation on many issues, including the regional ones.
GT: China just hosted the SCO Qingdao Summit almost at the same time as the G7 Summit in Canada. How do you evaluate those two international cooperation mechanisms?
Cavusoglu: Well, G7 is G7. I think they have been trying to exclude Russia from G8. So it is G7 now. But the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has become a more visible, more effective and more politically relevant regional organization. And we see the enlargement as well. Lately, India and Pakistan also have been included. They have become full members of this organization. And I have no doubt that this organization will contribute to the economic development and stability and security of our region as well. And we welcome the outcome of that summit.
GT: Turkey is an SCO dialogue partner, and chaired the Energy Club in 2017. What’s your take on Turkey’s engagement in the organization?
Cavusoglu: Our priority is actually to engage with many regional and international organizations. It’s not only about getting a status from that international or regional organization, but to be more active within that organization. Therefore, we have been making efforts to join initiatives in many international organizations. And since we acquired this dialogue partnership status with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, we have been trying to be very active with the member states and also in the communities as well. And you just mentioned the Energy Committee, Turkey is becoming an energy hub, playing a very important role. Therefore, we are trying to contribute to the activities and priorities of SCO.
GT: It has been reported that Turkey is promoting the use of the Turkish lira in trade with China instead of the US dollar. Can you discuss the development of the negotiations?
Cavusoglu: This is one of our joint efforts actually. Therefore, using the local currency in trade is essential. We don’t have to rely on any other currency. But we can use our currencies in bilateral trade. This is what we have been doing with Russia and with some other regional countries like Iran. This is also a priority for Turkey. We have been making progress – central banks and other banks and financial institutions have been working on that on the instructions of our leaders.
I have no doubt that it will actually boost bilateral economic cooperation as well as increase bilateral trade in the future. There will be no pressure from other currencies, so just our currencies.
GT: What kind of role do you think Turkey will play in the China-proposed B&R initiative?
Cavusoglu: We were really impressed when we heard of the conference on this initiative.
The speech of President Xi Jinping was also a very visionary one. Therefore, Turkey is part of this project. And Turkey fully supports this initiative. And we also have the Middle Corridor. We are trying to integrate two important projects: the Middle Corridor as well as the B&R initiative. We have just opened the Baku Tblisi and Kars railway project, it is between Azerbaijan and Turkey. And now our aim is working together with China to build the Edirne-Kars high-speed railway project, which is from east to west of Turkey. And we have been working on that. Therefore, Turkey is one of the key actors of the B&R project. And we believe that this initiative will help us to boost economic cooperation and investments in this region and beyond. And we fully support this initiative of China.
GT: In what way do you think Turkey and China can cooperate in the Middle East region?
Cavusoglu: First of all, there is still big room to further strengthen and deepen our relations. And also there is a potential to increase our bilateral trade and investments both in Turkey and China, that we can encourage. And we have been trying to actually build a regional project in Turkey as well. We can do it together with China, and we are working on that. And in our region particularly, we have many conflicts. On these conflicts and problems, Syria, Libya and Yemen and [the rest of the] Middle East. We fully share the position of China on all these regional issues – very balanced, very objective.
Therefore, we can work together to solve at least some of those problems through political methods. And we are very happy to see that China is actually becoming more visible on all these issues, regional and global.
GT: Turkey will switch to the presidential system after the June 24 election. What would be its implication to Turkish foreign policy?
Cavusoglu: As you just said, after the election, we will have a presidential system. This is the system that our nation supported in last year’s referendum. And we believe that it is very suitable for Turkey. Therefore, Turkey will be more stable, the Turkish economy will be stronger and Turkey itself, and together will all institutions, including the government, parliament, judiciary and other institutions, will be more stable and stronger. Therefore, we are engaged in a very constructive and proactive foreign policy. And I think we are at the top in terms of humanitarian assistance globally, and we have been very active in many regions including Africa and Latin America. Therefore, with this new system, Turkey will be becoming stronger, and the Turkish economy will be also stronger. We will be playing a more active role and have more constructive foreign policies in our region and globally.