Turkey will not allow an autonomous Kurdish area, like the one in Iraq, to be formed in the north of Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared.
“Should a similar development take place [in Syria], we would react differently than how we did in the case of Iraq,” Erdoğan told a group of journalists aboard a plane on his way back to Turkey from Germany.
Erdoğan doesn't expect the situation in Syria to take a turn similar to that of Iraq, but in the odd chance that such a thing should come about, he made Turkey's position clear, saying, “We know how the scenario in Iraq got under way, but we won't let a similar scenario to be built in Syria.”
The crisis in Syria was also on the agenda during Erdoğan's visit to Germany, which ended on Oct. 31, and the prime minister said he suggested to the Germans that NATO should also see the problem in Syria as its own. “You should adopt an attitude that would ensure that the Syrian crisis and its sensitive nature be given a more prominent place on the agenda,” he told the German side in official talks.
Turkey requested that Germany take up the Syrian issue with Russian and Chinese officials, given that Germany entertains good relations with both countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's response was that they had already talked to both countries, and that the talks would continue. Erdoğan believes Merkel may have a talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin before Putin's arrival in Turkey at the beginning of December. “Telephone diplomacy could be conducted. That's the impression I got,” he commented. But Erdoğan is of the opinion that it will be the election in the US that will be the determining factor in how the crisis in Syria will evolve.
During his two-day visit, Erdoğan met with Merkel, whom, he said, seemed to be more in favor of adopting a tougher attitude towards people affiliated with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as well as about the visa issue. Turkey and Germany are set to boost the level of bilateral relations up to a strategic level, and plan to set up a strategic council. To that end, the ministers of foreign affairs of both countries will get together on Nov. 30, after which Merkel will pay a visit to Turkey in February 2013. “With Merkel's visit, we aim to carry bilateral relations to new heights,” Erdoğan stated.
Turkey-EU relations, which have soured in the last two years, may pick up speed in the coming period. Germany seems to have backpedalled in its attitude towards allowing Turkey into the European Union as a privileged partner, rather than a full member. Noting that he believes that Merkel had a much more positive tone regarding Turkey-EU relations, the prime minister said, “In the joint press conference, she didn't emphasize Turkey's position in relation to the EU as a privileged partner, in contrast to her earlier attitude.” And with François Hollande in power in France, France's attitude towards Turkey may also change. Noting that Hollande is no Nicolas Sarkozy, the prime minister said, “We will see what Hollande's attitude will be during his visit.”
A visit to the Gaza Strip, where Qatari Emir Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani recently visited, is on Erdoğan's agenda. He said he finds the Qatari emir's visit a very positive step, and added he also plans to go to the Gaza Strip in the near future after reaching a consensus with the authorities in Gaza.