“Turkey will not accept a neighboring country possessing weapons not possessed by Turkey herself,” Gül said in an interview published in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. “We are not underestimating this matter in any way.”
Turkey has initially raised eyebrows in the West by brokering -- together with Brazil -- a deal with Iran on its nuclear program in 2010 and then vetoing UN sanctions against Iran that the West had sought to impose on Tehran. But Ankara's relations with Tehran later began to deteriorate as the two countries found each other at odds over Syria, and political dialogue has decreased as a result.
Despite the Syria row, however, Gül insisted that any solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program should involve the eradication of all nuclear weapons from the region and be based on a realistic approach that should take into account how Iran perceives the external threat. Israel's security must also be guaranteed.
“We are more realistic, and what we need is a more comprehensive solution and approach to this problem. What matters here is to guarantee the security of Israel in the region, and once that is guaranteed, then the next step must be to eradicate all such weapons from the region. This can be done only through peace,” Gül said in the interview, which took place in October.
“What matters is to put yourself in the shoes of Iran and consider how the Iranians perceive the outside threat.”
Asked if this meant the key to stopping the Iranian nuclear program is Israeli disarmament, Gül said, “That is the way I see it, because that route will help us solve the fundamental problems in the Middle East that affect the whole world.”
Russia should be engaged in Syria
Commenting on the Syrian crisis, Gül said Russia and Iran, two allies of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, should be involved in efforts to end the 21-month-old crisis.
“From the very beginning, I have argued that both Russia and Iran should be invited to engage with the transition in Syria to prevent further bloodshed,” he said, noting that Russia in particular “should be treated properly.”
He said Russia, which blocked attempts at the UN Security Council to condemn the Assad regime for violence, supported the West in Libya but was then excluded from the transition process. “So, in Syria, Russia should be engaged, given a guarantee it will be made a part of the process and that its concerns will be taken into account,” said Gül.
Gül also said the international community's reaction to the Syrian crisis should go beyond rhetoric but opposed a Libya-style foreign intervention in the civil war-battered country. “We wouldn't consider it right to have an explicit foreign intervention like the one in Libya,” he said.
‘Turkey not anyone's big brother in Mideast'
Turkey welcomes the fact that some of the Arab Spring countries look up to Ankara as an example as they strive to achieve being a Muslim, democratic and prosperous country, but it has no intention of being the “big brother” for anyone in the region, President Abdullah Gül has said.
“As an act of solidarity, we help them and we share with them the reasons behind our success. But we have no intention to act as anyone's big brother,” Gül said in an interview published in Foreign Policy. “We're not assuming any role at all in the Arab world. If others take us as an example or are inspired by us, it is their call.”
“All countries are equal, and all nations have their dignity, and no one can write a script and assign roles to other countries. You do not prioritize, and you do not patronize.”
Commenting on Turkey's improving profile in the international arena -- thanks to its economic achievements and diplomatic activism -- Gül said Turkey's priority should be to achieve the highest standards on democracy, human rights and the well-being of its people. “What matters is not to become a world power,” he said, promoting instead the idea of becoming a “virtuous power” that is not over-ambitious or expansionist in any sense.
Gül, a former politician of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), was elected president in 2007 with the votes of the AK Party lawmakers. But observers have increasingly talked of an apparent rift between Gül and his political ally, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, recently as the president has expressed criticism on some of the government practices that he said could undermine Turkey's reform drive.
In the interview, Gül dismissed concerns that the democracy in Turkey is backsliding but said “certain wrong practices” cast a shadow on the whole process of reform and democracy. “It saddens me deeply, so that's why whenever I observe such a wrong practice, I immediately issue a warning,” he said.