Turkish president on visit to Yemen, role in region, Israel, accession to EU

ANKARA, Jan. 14 (Saba)- State-run 26september weekly has conducted an interview with Turkish President Abdullah Gul on the outcomes of his visit to Yemen and the historic relations between the two countries. In his interview, the Turkish president also touches on a host of issues, including the Turkish role in the region, his position from the documents published by WikiLeaks on Turkey, and Turkey’s accession to the European Union.Responding to a question on the outcomes of his visit to Yemen and his discussions with President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Gul says: “we regard this visit as a historic one, for it is the first visit carried out by a Turkish president to Yemen. Also, we regard it as a response to the visit of President Saleh to Turkey. For this reason, we attach great importance to it, whereas a very large delegation of ministers, state officials, scientists, and university professors are accompanying us, in addition to a large delegation of businessmen and investors. Without any doubt, the visit will contribute to the rapprochement between the two brotherly countries and comes as a kind of respect for our common history. On the other hand, such visits open the way in front of enhancing cooperation between the two people.” “The relations witnessed in the recent years openness in the field of preventing double taxation, encouraging investments, land transportation, and economic cooperation. Many files are expected to be studied during my visit to Yemen, including encouraging investment and scientific and economic cooperation and offering aid”, the Turkish president added.Answering a question about the Turkish role in the region, particularly after Turkey emerged as a regional power playing a pivotal role in many issues, Gul noted: “We do not seek to play a certain role; rather, we focus on reforming our internal system on economic, political, and cultural levels. However, we do know that the stability of our country will reflect on the general atmosphere of the region’s states. Also, the stability and security in the whole region will bring prosperity and progress to all its countries.” The Turkish president further says: “For this reason, Turkey seeks to extend a helping hand to defuse crises before they occur, in case it is requested to do so. The positive Turkish policy had resulted in a proved success in this respect, which pushed many states to praise it and demand integration with it.”Asked about his position from the documents published by WikiLeaks on Turkey and whether he sees any impact for this on US-Turkish relations or Turkey’s confidence in US diplomacy, Gul said: “International relations are not built on the basis of the diplomats’ reports or correspondence sent within this context; rather, they become integrated with each other and take hold according to the common interests and international and bilateral conventions.” The Turkish president then added: “Our relation with the United States is based on mutual cooperation. We do not see that such things should affect the right and developing track of these relations.”Regarding whether he feels that the new and active Turkish role in the region is causing problems for Turkey, particularly with some brotherly and friendly states, Gul pointed out: “Our relations with any particular country cannot be at all at the expense of our relation with another country. We want that the region enjoys security and prosperity, and, as you know, we mentioned more than once that we do not have secret agendas; rather, we reach out with love and a sense of common responsibility to all our friends and brothers.”Answering a question about Turkey’s success in striking a balance between its own desire to be part and parcel of Europe on the one hand and reintegrating with its Arab and Islamic environment on the other hand, Gul said: “We do not see that there is any conflict or contradiction in this respect because Turkey is proceeding in its efforts to be a full-fledged member of the European Union [EU] and sees that the European criteria in this respect are compatible with the reform movement that has accelerated in recent years in Turkey.” Our relations with the region’s states reach far back into history. Similarly, we have good relations with the states of Central Asia, the Balkans, and the African states. For this reason, we see that the integrated relations can enrich these links and do not conflict with another role or constitute a replacement for it.Regarding the explanation that he can give to the deteriorating Israeli-Turkish relations that have reached their worst levels on the one hand and the remarkable advance in Arab-Turkish relations that are proceeding officially and publicly in an unprecedented way on the other hand, Gul said: “We, in Turkey, do not want that our relations with any state witness tensions. For this reason, we seek to develop our relations with all the states of the region and the world. However, our constants come first. We had shared with Israel the hope to reach a permanent and just solution to the Palestinian case, and our efforts in the indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel had reached very advanced stages. However, what happened in Gaza afterward, and the attack that occurred in the international waters against unarmed peace activists, disrupted this track.” Israel knows what it has to do in case it wants to normalize relations with Turkey. Apologizing for what happened, [financially] compensating the relatives of those who had been martyred in the incident, and lifting the siege imposed on the Palestinian areas are things that must be taken into account. Otherwise, Israel will be the party that keeps itself away from the right track of bilateral relations.Responding to a question on the role that Turkey can play to restore security and stability to Iraq and maintain the unity of its territories and its political entity as a one state, Gul said: “Turkey has proved that it is at an equal distance from all the Iraqi spectra. Here, in Turkey, we have received all the leaders of the Iraqi spectra without exception. We realized that they value the positive Turkish role on the Iraqi arena, which aims at respecting Iraq’s sovereignty and the unity of its territories. A number of conventions for cooperation and economic integration were held with Iraq, and a mechanism for strategic dialogue was established with this country. Moreover, there are scores of Turkish companies working in Iraq that are participating in the reconstruction of this country.”Concerning his position on the Iranian nuclear file, the ways of resolving its complications, and whether Turkey has any role to play in this respect, including a mediation between the West and Iran, Gul noted: “Our position is clear and obvious in this regard. Turkey does not agree on the quest [of some states] to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and wants to see a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. However, Turkey acknowledges the right of any state to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” We believe in the principle of dialogue to resolve problems and avoid the escalation of positions in the press or through [making] tense statements. We approve of following diplomatic ways and using the channels aimed at defusing crises and helping not to escalate the situation in order to spare the region conflicts and acute crises.Asked about the reason behind Turkey’s delay in accessing the EU and whether there are subtleties and secrets behind the positions of some states that oppose Turkey’s accession to the EU, Gul said: “The EU track is a long and thorny way. The requests of some big countries to join the EU have been rejected more than once. Turkey was unanimously nominated as a candidate state for a full-fledged EU membership after completing the study of the necessary files proving that it meets the Copenhagen criteria, and that is the important thing.” Any way, the reforms that have taken place and are taking place right now in Turkey are of great importance to us. These steps will continue regardless of the nature of the EU accession track.Concerning the alleged Turkish-Iranian competition and race for regional hegemony and the conflicts of interest that could affect the future of the stability and security in the region and establish a state of categorization and new polarizations, Gul noted: “We reject the policy of axes, and we believe that the region’s states are sovereign states and able to make their own decisions in their affairs, and we respect their privacy. There is no race or competition – whether with Iran, Egypt, or any other state. We seek to make security, stability, and peace prevailing factors in this region and in all the states of the world.”YASaba