Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey's foreign minister, told reporters that multi-ethnic and multi-religious Iraq will fare much better if the election results represent the diversity of the country. He also reiterated his earlier call that Turkey sees and treats all groups in Iraq with the same respect and said, “Turkey is the only country who has successfully established a dialogue with all parties in Iraq.”
Touching on recent diplomatic initiatives to eliminate the terrorist threat originating from northern Iraq and targeting Turkey, Davutoğlu said both the Turkish and Iraqi governments are working to remove conditions for the need to invoke “hot pursuit” by Turkish security forces. “We need to take every precautionary measure to tackle the security problem in the region,” he said, stressing that Turkey and Iraq should cooperate in all areas, not just the military arena.
As a sign of an increased engagement, the Turkish and Iraqi cabinets will convene together in Turkey soon under the leadership of both prime ministers, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Nouri al-Maliki, he also announced. In what Davutoğlu described as a “high profile strategic council meeting,” all the appropriate cabinet ministers will be present to discuss bilateral issues concerning both countries.
Complementing the council meetings, bureaucrats from different ministries in both countries will be in constant contact, pursuing issues on a bilateral level and furthering relations in many fields. Moreover, Turkey, Iraq and the United States will maintain the trilateral mechanism in the fight against terrorism and will continue to cooperate in a number of areas ranging from energy to the economy, he said. The Turkish foreign minister also emphasized that Turkey is the most sensitive country over the issue of keeping the territorial integrity of Iraq, saying it is unfortunate to see problems recently brewing between the central government and the regional government in northern Iraq.
No disagreement on Nabucco
Sharing the background events leading up to a milestone Nabucco agreement held in Ankara on July 13, Davutoğlu dismissed rumors that the Foreign Ministry was in disagreement with the Energy Ministry over the terms of the agreement. “We had decided on the date of the signing ceremony at the June 29 Cabinet meeting,” he said, scrambling all bureaucrats in both ministries to make the event happen in 12 days. “It was a great success in a very short period of time,” he noted, recalling that the two prime ministers cut their vacations short to attend the high-profile meeting.
Regarding the clashes targeting Muslim Uighur Turks in China's Xinjiang region, Davutoğlu said Turkey and China have developed an understanding on the situation and were able to manage the crisis without seriously hurting bilateral relations. He said his government sees the developments in Xinjiang from a human rights perspective about which the Chinese government understood Turkey's sensitivity.
Following his 70-minute phone conversation with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, during which he conveyed Turkish concerns, Davutoğlu said China immediately sent a special envoy, Song Aiguo, a former Chinese ambassador to Ankara, to explore the Turkish position and explain the Chinese approach. Before returning to China, Song said he was leaving Turkey happy because “there is a political will in Turkey striving to improve relations with China.”
Talking about the stalled EU membership process, Davutoğlu said the EU and Cyprus is the first priority on the Turkish foreign policy agenda. He said relations with the EU Commission and the council are going well, saying, “They are aware of the new reform momentum we have undertaken.” He praised the Reform Monitoring Group (RMG) meetings, attended by ministers from EU Affairs, the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry, as a way to speed up the reforms that needed to be implemented. “All bureaucrats attend those meetings, and we take the necessary decisions swiftly,” he said.
The foreign minister also stated he was hopeful about the development of relations in the coming year and a half because three pro-Turkey EU member states, Sweden, Spain and Belgium, will be chairing the European Council during that time.
Commenting on the ongoing bilateral talks between the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), Mehmet Ali Talat, and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias, Davutoğlu said he saw the process as the last opportunity to end the division of the island. “Either the status quo will change, which is what we want, or we will all be forced to think about alternatives,” he said, adding that those alternatives would not be able to solve the issue completely but that Turkey can no longer accept the “unfair” embargoes imposed on the KKTC.
Not zero-sum game
Davutoğlu does not see Russia as a power competing with Turkey but rather as an important neighbor with which Turkey has a $38 billion trade volume. “This is not a zero- sum game. … Just because we are improving relations with the EU, that does not mean we are weakening our ties with Russia.” He said that Moscow backs Turkish-Armenian rapprochement and is playing a positive role in contributing to the dialogue between the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders. “The upcoming visit by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Turkey will be very important in our relations,” he underlined.
Davutoğlu also announced that Turkey expects positive developments before the two countries' soccer match in October in Turkey. He asked for patience in obtaining results from the ongoing process, adding that “the political will is still there and is very strong.” Stressing that the status quo is simply not acceptable in the Caucasus, he said, “Frozen conflicts are ticking time bombs ready to explode, as we saw in the Georgian crisis last year.”
He described the changing parameters of Turkish foreign policy, from a policy of zero-problem relations to one of maximum cooperation targeting increased welfare and benefiting everybody in an integrated world.