Interview with Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Foreign Minister of Turkey, about Turkey’srole in migration and security in the Middle East
Körber-Stiftung: Foreign Minister, the EU regards the refugee deal with Turkey as a model for cooperation in the field of migration. Under which preconditions will Turkey remain committed to the deal?
Çavusoğlu: The EU should deliver on its promises. It is high time for visa-free travel of Turkish citizens in the Schengen Area. Also, the Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme, in other words, the EU members’ voluntary reception of Syrian refugees, needs to be fully implemented. Third, financial assistance is insufficient. Although three billion euros have already been promised under the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey, only 1.317 billion euros were actually spent. Finally, both Turkey and the EU have an interest in upgrading the Customs Union, thus artificial political considerations should not block this process. Those who think that not starting negotiations on this issue is a punishment to Turkey are actually punishing themselves.
Körber-Stiftung: What are Turkey’s long-term goals in Syria, and what role do you see for the EU?
Çavusoğlu: Turkey’s main aim is to ensure security and stability and to help find a political solution to the crisis in Syria. We want our neighbour to be a stable, peaceful, prosperous and democratic country preserving its political unity and territorial integrity. We have always been a vocal and staunch supporter of the Syrian people who aspired to this vision. To this end, we supported the political process in Geneva and engaged with Russia and Iran in Astana to encourage the regime to sit at the negotiating table. We would like the EU to actively take part in ending the crisis in Syria. The EU should use its economic and political ties with the guarantors of the regime, since once those supporting the Syrian people become as vocal as those supporting the regime, the regime will not be able to continue military tactics, and lasting peace could be achieved in Syria.
Körber-Stiftung: Does Turkey consider Russia as an increasingly important partner in the Middle East?
Çavusoğlu: Russia is our immediate neighbour. Our countries are confronted by the same threats and challenges in the Middle East. Thus, developments in our region demand close coordination and in many cases harmonised approaches. Russia’s and Turkey’s interests align on many issues. We both believe that an independent, sovereign and contiguous Palestine within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital is the only way to make peace. Both Turkey and Russia have significant relations with the Gulf countries and aim at security and stability in the Gulf region. Both Turkey and Russia support an inclusive negotiated political settlement in Yemen. We believe that Russia, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, can play a meaningful role in solving all the mentioned conflicts. Finally, with its military presence on the ground and influence over the regime, Russia is an indispensable actor and guarantor in the Syrian conflict. However, we believe a larger concerted effort involving all major actors is necessary to end the conflict. Turkey, as a NATO ally, an Astana guarantor and a country with direct influence on the ground, can help establish links between the West and the supporters of the regime.
Körber-Stiftung: How does Turkey view its role within NATO?
Çavusoğlu: Threats emanating from beyond NATO’s southeast border, such as terrorist attacks or refugee flows, directly challenge the stability and security of the entire Euro-Atlantic region. Turkey has long played a critical role at the Alliance’s southern flank, for example by fighting terrorist groups or hosting one of the greatest numbers of refugees. That is why we would like to see more support from our allies, in particular in the fight against terrorist groups such as DAESH, PKK, PYD / YPG, FETÖ and others. First, our allies should display political solidarity. Turning a blind eye on the activities of PYD / YPG or condoning the presence of FETÖ and its supporters on their territory is in contradiction with the fundamental principles of solidarity and the indivisibility of security. We welcome the fact that our allies reaffirmed their determination to fight against terrorism in all its forms at the recent NATO Summit in Brussels. Now it is time to translate words into action. As the NATO Secretary-General has reiterated on numerous occasions, Turkey is a valued member of NATO, and NATO is important for Turkey.