Politics Magazine

My Interview with AK Party Official on Turkey/Syria Tensions

Posted on the 04 October 2012 by Mfrancoiscerrah @MFrancoisCerrah

This is an interview I conducted over email over a month ago with the (then) VP of the AK Party (Deputy of Manisa) Hüsayin Tanrıverdi, the longest serving VP in the Ak Party. (He is now a member of the Central Decision-Making and Administrative Committee). It contains some interesting insights, particularly considering the fact the Turkish parliament has just approved cross-border operations in response to Syrian mortar attacks.

In bold are some sections I think are particularly interesting…

‎1.In recent years, Turkey has played an increasingly assertive role in the Middle ‎East, how does Turkey view its role in this volatile region?‎

During the past 10 years, Turkey has developed into a truly powerful country thanks to ‎the efforts of our government. Its stable economy, paired with its social and political ‎power has made Turkey a model and leader for developing nations in the region. Also, ‎Turkey is the most westernized Muslim country, which makes it a unique example ‎among others of its kind. All of these factors make Turkey a natural leader in the Middle ‎East. We give the utmost importance to spreading peace in this unstable region. In order ‎for peace to be attained, stability must be achieved in this area. This is what Turkey is ‎aiming to provide and it is our main goal in assuming a powerful role in the Middle East. ‎

‎2.What role does Turkey see for itself in the Syrian crisis?‎

As I have mentioned earlier, the most important issue for us is that peace is achieved ‎around the entire region. Defending our borders is not the only goal in the involvement of ‎Turkey in this issue. Whatever affects this region, affects not only us but the entire world ‎on many levels. This crisis needs to be alleviated and Turkey will naturally assume a very ‎proactive role in stopping this disorder. ‎

‎3.What would Turkey hope to see happen in Syria, in terms of a desirable end to ‎the conflict?‎

A desirable end would be one where stability and harmony prevails in the region. We ‎would like to see a region where no one risks death each day, children do not live in fear ‎and families are not separated. The citizens of Syria deserve to live in freedom under a ‎peaceful government. They need to be provided with every right and opportunity that a ‎modern country enjoys.‎

‎4.Turkey has suggested a buffer zone be created in Syria. will it await a UN ‎mandate on this issue or will it consider unilateral action?‎

Turkey has numerously attempted to bring the issue of the creation of a buffer zone in ‎Syria to the UN Security Council. We have faced opposition from various countries and ‎received support from others. This is not a decision which can be taken unilaterally. In ‎order for a buffer zone to be created, an international consensus must be reached. We ‎hope that a transition period where the expectations of the people of Syria will be met is ‎reached soon. ‎

‎5.What impact have Syrian refugees had on Turkey and how does Turkey plan to ‎manage this influx? Are there tensions between Turks and Syrians on the border ‎region as some reports suggest?‎

Throughout history, Turkey has always assumed the role of a guardian and protector of ‎disadvantaged and oppressed groups. Syrian refugees who have escaped the on-going ‎turmoil in the region can find safety in Turkey to stay sheltered from the conflict. We are ‎more than happy to lend a helping hand. We see it as a necessary act of humanity to ‎help those in need. ‎
The people of Turkey and Syria have had close ties with each other for many years. The ‎only tension that can be spoken of is that almost every Turk and Syrian near the border ‎have a family member or relative on the other side, whom they miss greatly. Hopefully, ‎when this conflict ends, they will be free to see one another and enjoy the liberty of ‎expressing the close relationship the people have with each other. ‎

‎6.Some have suggested the Syrian crisis represents the latest and most bloody ‎episode in a proxy war pitting Iran, Syria and Hezbollah against a largely Sunni ‎coalition including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey- what is your response to this?‎

If there is a war to be referred to, this is a war against suffering, oppression and cruelty. ‎One would wish that every nation would support our bid for peace and stability in the ‎region, but unfortunately that is not always the case. This is not a war between sects ‎among religions. We do not want any blood to be shed, and we hope that this conflict ‎comes to an end with the least possible amount of casualties and damage. ‎

‎7.What are the interests shared by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in Syria?‎

All three of the countries want stability in the Middle East. In order for this to work, the ‎conflict and crisis in Syria must end. This is the view shared by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and ‎Qatar.‎

‎8.Can a transition be brokered with Bashar al Assad in your view?‎

Under the Assad government, the people of Syria are being oppressed and killed daily. ‎Evidently, it is no longer possible to continue with Assad, which is why we are supporting ‎the opposition. A transition can only be achieved with a leader who promotes peace in the ‎region and treats the people with the respect they deserve. ‎

‎9.In light of allegations that Turkey is providing weapons to fighters in Syria what ‎support is Turkey currently offering Syrian opposition forces?‎

The opposition forces in Syria represent the voice and the will of the people. If we believe ‎in democracy, then we must support the will of the people. Turkey is currently offering ‎logistical support to the opposition in Syria. Among those who we provide logistical ‎support to are the 83.000 refugees living in the camps. ‎

10.Considering the divided nature of the Syrian opposition, on what basis has ‎Turkey decided who their partner in dialog ought to be?‎

Turkey’s partners in dialog are the Syrian people. Whomever they choose freely as ‎their leader will be the leader that will be addressed. Our belief in democracy leads us to ‎believe that the leader chosen by the Syrian people will be fit for the position. ‎

‎11. Do you share concerns that intervention in Syria could further escalate a civil ‎conflict?‎

A civil conflict will ensue if Syria is split into two. It will be a conflict of religious sects. This ‎is a situation that Turkey will not accept. If there arises a situation which affects our ‎security, we have a full right to intervene. ‎

‎12.Do Turkey and the US share the same vision for a post-Assad Syria?‎

The US and Turkey have met on several occasions to discuss their views on a post-‎Assad Syria. They share the same view that intensive meetings should take place on the ‎operational planning about country. During the meetings both countries have agreed that ‎the step-down of Assad should be sped up, the opposition forces should be supported ‎and that Syria should rapidly reach a transition period.‎

‎13. How would you qualify current relations with Iran?‎

During our talks with Iran, we see that they believe that Assad will step down. The ‎question they ask us is what will happen after that. The answer we give them is that if we ‎believe in a parliamentarian democratic system, then whatever the people decide is what ‎will happen. Currently, our cooperation continues through the collaboration of our ‎intelligence services. ‎

‎14. Has the Syrian conflict impacted the threat of PKK terrorism in Turkey?‎

It is true that terrorists thrive in times of chaos like these. However, our fight against ‎terrorism is a completely different matter which will continue regardless of the situation in ‎Syria. We will continue to combat terrorism through security measures and economic ‎development. This has always been our main policy and it is an on-going challenge, ‎independent from the regional circumstances. ‎

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