My interview with AK party official on Turkey/Syria tensions
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 dialogue ought to be?
Turkey’s partners in dialogue 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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