Cooperation with Malaysia, Qatar, Iran will continue: Erdogan

Unity of Islamic world is crucial in solving the Muslim communities’ problems and the quadripartite summit with Malaysia, Qatar and Iran shows the intention to achieve that end, Erdogan said

Turkey will continue its cooperation with Malaysia, Qatar and Iran over both regional and international issues Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday, underlining the importance of unity in the Islamic world.

“During the Kuala Lumpur summit, we had the chance to discuss the challenges that the Islamic world faces with the participation of the presidents of Turkey, Malaysia, Qatar and Iran as well as many other high-level representatives from various countries,” Erdogan told Turkish media representatives before returning to Turkey, in Kuala Lumpur.

Underlining that the issues of development, research and improvement, science and technology, entrepreneurship and the defense industry were particularly discussed during the summit, the president said that “hopefully” the cooperation between the aforementioned countries will continue with similar summits on the way.

Erdogan stated that within the scope of the summit, there were also many bilateral meetings with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

“In order to solve our issues, we will continue to increase our cooperation and dialogue in the upcoming period as well,” the president underlined.

The Kuala Lumpur Summit held from Dec. 18 to Dec. 21 was a global platform for dialogue that brought together Muslim leaders, intellectuals and scholars to produce solutions to problems faced by Muslims.

It focused on issues such as development and sovereignty, integrity and good governance, culture and identity, justice and freedom, peace, security and defense, and technology and internet governance.

Expressing that the four leaders outlined goals during the event, Erdogan said this will not be a process that is only being made up of this summit but will see further action as well.

“We will continue our work in a way that would involve the areas of science, art, the defense industry, economy, trade and culture,” Erdogan said, adding that they, as the leaders, have taken all the notes needed to improve these areas.

“Thanks to this opportunity, we had the chance to ask why the Islamic world, which was the symbol of science, knowledge, culture, art and welfare, has come to this end. We need to sincerely ask these questions and answer them,” Erdogan expressed, adding that despite huge potential hidden within Muslim countries, due to problems such as internal conflicts, ignorance, wars and bad management, this potential remains untouched.

The president also said the backwardness of the Muslim countries benefits no one.

“However, the Muslim countries themselves should pull themselves together,” he emphasized.

Regarding the absence of Pakistan and Indonesia at the summit, the president said he would have liked to have seen them present as well. When it comes to Saudi Arabia’s and United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) effect in this absence, Erdogan stated that this is not a first for the countries since they have the tendency to put pressure on other countries in doing or not doing things.

“Unfortunately, we see that Saudi Arabia pressures Pakistan. Now, there are promises that the country has given to Pakistan regarding the central bank. However, more than that, there are 4 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia. They (threaten by saying that they) would send (Pakistanis) back and re-employ Bangladeshi people instead,” Erdogan said, adding that the kingdom has also used similar threatening tactics regarding the central bank case by claiming that they would withdraw their money. According to Erdogan, due to its economic difficulties, Pakistan had to obey such threats, while implying that Indonesia has also suffered from similar problems.

Somalia rises with assistance from Turkey

When one of the journalists mentioned that similar situations have also taken place in Iraq, Syria and Somalia, Erdogan agreed that these are all similar cases.

“As you know, these (Saudi Arabia and the UAE) did not contribute to Somalia at all. However, Somalia, despite being in trouble (at the time) took a stance,” the president said, referring to the UAE’s intention of taking on initiatives in the country that were eventually canceled either by the UAE itself or denied by the Somalian government.

Erdogan also pointed to the fact that “surprisingly” almost none of these supposed “bigger” countries have any embassies in Somalia.

“They have constructed something similar to a trailer near the airport, and they call it an embassy. Our biggest embassy in the world is in Somalia,” the president highlighted, adding that there are also many projects being conducted by Turkey in the African country that aim to assist the Somalian people.

“Right now, we are providing military training to Somalians and their training is taking place there. There are also health services and educational services (that are being provided by Turkey),” he expressed, adding that there are also many Somalian students in Turkey.

The president highlighted that these ties with Somalia will improve in the upcoming period, indicating that if one’s intentions are good, the end result would be good as well.

Turkey, under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, launched a continental initiative to reach out to African countries whose relations with Turkey have been mostly limited since the early years of the Republic of Turkey.

Turkey’s vast aid effort at the height of the 2011 famine endeared it to many Somali people, and it has continued to pour in aid, much of it from private companies.

It has built schools, hospitals and infrastructure and providing Somalis with scholarships to study in Turkey. President Erdogan has visited Mogadishu twice since his visit to the war-ravaged country in 2011. He was the first non-African leader to visit the war-ravaged country in 20 years.

Rapidly growing trade between the two nations has followed. In 2010, Turkish exports to Somalia totaled just $5.1 million. In five years, this figure ballooned to $123 million. In the space of a few years, Turkey has gone from Somalia’s 20th-largest source of imports to its fifth-largest.

Ankara does its best in Libya

As far as the developments in Syria and Libya are concerned, Erdogan said both issues were some of the main topics in the summit.

“If this quadruple team embraces these issues (the situations in Syria and Libya) in the upcoming period and adopt a determined stance going forward, there might be some concrete results in the end,” the president said, expressing his hope for cooperation.

Underlining that Turkey will maintain its stance in both Libya and Syria, Erdogan said the upcoming process will also be the one that has no place for a stance like “let sleeping dogs lie,” as it was before.

The president also responded to criticism questioning Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian and Libyan crises, saying that no one has questioned what coalition powers were doing in Iraq or what the UAE was doing in Libya.

“As you know, Haftar is not a legitimate politician. He is illegitimate. There are still some that are trying to provide him some legitimacy. Sarraj, on the other hand, is a legitimate leader, legitimate representative. They also try to overlook him,” Erdogan explained, detailing the international involvement in Libya and indicating that the main countries involved in these issues were Egypt, the UAE, France and “even” Italy.

On Nov. 27, Turkey and the Tripoli-based, U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) signed two bilateral memoranda after a meeting between Erdogan and GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj in Istanbul.

One enables Turkey to secure its rights in the Mediterranean while preventing any fait accompli maneuvers by other regional states. The other deal offers Turkish support for the establishment of a Quick Reaction Force for Libya’s police and military, as well as enhanced cooperation in intelligence and the defense industry.

Following the military cooperation deal, Erdogan said Ankara might consider sending troops to Libya if the Libyan government requested military assistance.

Libya has remained dogged by turmoil since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising led to the ousting and death of former President Moammar Gadhafi after more than four decades in power.

Since then, Libya’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power, one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli, as well as in-fighting by a host of heavily armed militia groups.

The military, pushed by Haftar’s army, has allied with a parallel eastern administration based in Benghazi, marking a dangerous escalation in a power struggle that has dragged on since the vacuum following Gadhafi’s death emerged. Haftar is not recognized by the international community, as the elected parliament of the country is centered in Tripoli.

Erdogan also mentioned Russia as a country that, although it does not have a presence itself, uses a company, Wagner, to handle its business in Libya.

“As you know, the U.S. has many similar companies. For instance, in Afghanistan, there are companies founded by former U.S. soldiers. They are highly paid and as a result, they come and lead the war in Afghanistan in an illegitimate manner,” Erdogan stressed.

Referring to Wagner, Erdogan said the company works as if it is a “mercenary” of Haftar.

“The ones who pay for (this company) are obvious. In the face of such circumstances, it is not right for us (Turkey) to be a mere spectator of that. We have done what we can do so far, and we will continue to do so,” he said, adding that Turkey’s actions in Libya are appreciated by Libyans as well.

Turkey encourages academic work on 1915 events

Regarding the Armenian bill that the U.S. Senate issued recently, Erdogan said Turkey has been challenging the international community on the issue for years – urging those who doubt it to check the archives – but has received little response.

“For a while, these issues have been on the agenda and yet, no one has opened their archives. They cannot open anything that does not exist,” the president stated, adding that there are small archives in Harvard University and France and yet, Armenia does not have such serious documentation.

“As you know, currently, our armed forces have an archive filled with more than 1 million documents. We have called on many academicians (from Armenia) to come over and work on these documents,” he said, adding that all these callings have failed since no one welcomed the challenge.

According to the president, the reason why the Armenian side rejects such offers is that they know the end result would work against them.

Erdogan further heralded that a team has been formed to work on the issue in the upcoming period, calling on the international community to participate and contribute to the work.

“We will turn the Turkish Historical Society into a much more active institution on this issue and by doing so, we will strengthen our works with documentation,” he said, adding that Turkey encourages academic work on the issue.

Turkey condemned the resolution adopted by the U.S. Senate last week on the events of 1915 calling it “a disgraceful example of the politicization of history” and “a damaging effort” aimed at harming the bilateral relations between the two countries.

The Foreign Ministry later summoned the U.S. Ambassador to Ankara, David Satterfield, over the Senate bill.

On April 24th, President Donald Trump commemorated Armenian Remembrance Day in a statement that honored “the memory of those who suffered in one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.” It did not, however, use the term “genocide” in keeping with longstanding U.S. policy.

The Senate’s action follows a vote by a Senate committee to impose sanctions on Turkey after its operation in Syria and purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system.

The resolution had been blocked several times in the Senate, even though the Democratic-led House of Representatives passed the resolution by an overwhelming 405-11 in late October.

The resolution asserts that it is U.S. policy to commemorate the 1915 events as “genocide.”

Turkey’s position on the events of 1915 is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia took place when some sided with the invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.

Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as “genocide” but describes the 1915 events as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.

Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia as well as international experts to examine the issue.

Recognition of the 1915 events as “genocide” had stalled in Congress for decades, stymied by concerns regarding relations with Turkey.

The actions were the latest attempt by Congress to push Trump to take a harder stance against Turkey. Trump said last month that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was “doing a fantastic job for the people of Turkey.”

S-400, F-35 done deal

As far as the steps regarding the S-400 system and the F-35s, Erdogan reiterated that these are all done deals.

“We have finished this work. How many times have we said that? Now, without any shame, they say that they will sanction TurkStream. This is nothing but a violation of rights,” Erdogan said, adding that as a response to these, Turkey would also take counter-steps through sanctions.

“We are not a country that will stand silently over such steps. This is Turkey,” the president said, indicating that the recent statement of the Turkish foreign ministry represents Turkey’s stance on the issue.

The Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. Congress for exploiting the defense spending bill with anti-Turkey measures “for political interests,” on Friday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy condemned the bill for being a tool exploited by U.S. politicians for short-term gains, causing permanent harm to bilateral relations with Turkey.

Aksoy noted that the bill damages not only the ties between the two countries but also the U.S.’ own ties in the region. Washington will soon realize that such initiatives do not contribute to the stability and peace in the region, he added. Releasing an official statement, the Foreign Ministry said Friday that the draft appropriation bills regarding budget allocations for U.S. federal institutions in 2020, which were approved by the U.S House of Representatives and Senate, contain a “negative language targeting Turkey” and described it “the latest outcome of the agenda pursued by Members of Congress who are bent on damaging our bilateral relations by any means.” Condemning the “exploitation of even an ordinary budgeting process for the sake of the short term political ambitions of U.S. politicians,” the statement added that such initiatives are actually harming the U.S.’s own interests and not serving regional peace and stability.

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed Tuesday a massive $738 billion defense spending bill that includes a handful of anti-Turkey measures.

The 86-8 vote now sends the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is part of a two-piece package that includes a wider government spending bill, to U.S. President Donald Trump to be signed into law, which he is expected to do shortly. The House passed the legislation earlier Tuesday.

The defense spending bill was packed with additional measures aimed at Turkey that include a prohibition on the transfer of the fifth-generation F-35 joint strike fighter, or its parts, to Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-air missile system, and calls for Trump to implement sanctions on Turkey over the acquisition under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

It further provides the Pentagon with some $30 million to purchase the F-35 aircraft initially bought by Turkey.

Turkey’s acquisition of the advanced Russian air-defense system prompted the Trump administration to remove Turkey from the F-35 program in July. The U.S. maintains that the system could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the jet and is incompatible with NATO systems.

Turkey, however, counters that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.

The defense spending bill further lifts the U.S. arms embargo on the Greek Cypriot administration of southern Cyprus and imposes sanctions on vessels used to construct the Turkstream and Nord Stream 2 pipelines.

Turkey criticized the U.S. over threats to remove it from the F-35 program due to its purchase of the S-400 Russian air defense system.

“We remind once more that the language of threats and sanctions will never dissuade Turkey from resolutely taking steps to ensure its national security,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.