Turkey vows to expand circle of peace in the region

ANKARA – 4 July 2016 – Hurriyet – Ankara has vowed to expand the “circle of peace” in its region by continuing its efforts to normalize relations with neighboring countries and beyond, after opening a new chapter in ties with both Israel and Russia.
“We will make it through this process of global transformation and end up much stronger. We are improving our relations with Israel and Russia … We are mending the strained relations again and overcoming crises triggered by the Syrian issue, terror and artificial tensions,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an Eid al-Fitr message on July 4.

“We are removing the barriers in our path one by one,” he said. “While leaving behind crises in international relations and the war on terror, we are at the same time finalizing megaprojects that will carry Turkey to the future,” Erdoğan said, referring to ongoing infrastructure projects.

“At this time when the Muslim world is celebrating Eid, there are also brothers and sisters who are experiencing various troubles in different regions ranging from Afghanistan to Syria. In our country as well, unfortunately the joy of Eid has been overshadowed by terror attacks,” he added.

Erdoğan said the humanitarian crisis in Syria “is continuing – and being continued – at the expanse of the lives of 600,000 innocent persons.”
“We have done and are doing anything we can by supporting efforts aimed at bringing a just solution to the crisis in Syria, and by lending a helping hand to our brothers and sisters who have fled Iraq and Syria and taken shelter in our country,” Erdoğan said.
The president said Europe was also grappling with various problems.  “Political crisis has been added to the economic instability,” Erdoğan added. “The United Kingdom’s decision to quit the European Union is also affecting other countries. Those sending the world sliding into chaos are unable to prevent the strengthening of racist and separatist tendencies in their own countries.”

‘Normalization in Syria possible’

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım echoed Erdoğan’s foreign policy messages after a weekly cabinet meeting on July 4.
“We are expanding the circle of friendship, strengthening the circle of peace around us in order to raise Turkey’s credibility,” said Yıldırım.
“We are resolute about further developing our realistic, friendly and peaceful relationships – from Russia to Israel, Egypt to Syria, Iraq to Iran, and EU countries to the United States. We will continue to do so,” he said, describing the situation in Syria as “unsustainable.” “The normalization of Syria is possible but everybody should make sacrifices for this. Our strategic partners and coalition partners should heal the bleeding wound in Syria and take more responsibility. As Turkey, we are exerting necessary efforts to open the doors of peace and security,” Yıldırım said.

No meeting with Syria in short-term

But Yıldırım said there would be no meeting with the country in the short term. “The oppression should first end. The dictatorial regime should end. What will you agree on with a regime that has killed more than a half million of its people without blinking an eye? Everybody already agrees on this,” he said.
Syria is a country with whom Turkey must mend its ties, Yıldırım said. “We are neighbors. We’ll certainly reconcile with Syria.”
On ties with the EU, the prime minister said Ankara’s opening of Chapter 33 as part of accession talks was “very important.”

“We have started to open chapters. We have found a better ground on which we can talk about these issues,” he said. On Cyprus reunification talks, Yıldırım stated that Turkey would “continue to be constructive … We have just one line on this: Making a state where the two sides will be equal and fair.”

‘Positive results’

The prime minister stressed that the “positive results” of Ankara’s normalization processes with Israel and Russia had already begun to yield results, referring to the first ship delivering humanitarian assistance from Turkey to the Palestinians in Gaza arriving in Israel.
“The second step will be about energy and its infrastructure. Preparations have been made, necessary discussions will be held right after Eid,” Yıldırım said, referring to moves by Turkey to build a power plant and water distribution center for Gaza.
Normalization with Russia has also begun to yield results, he added, citing the lifting of restrictions by Moscow on Russians traveling to Turkey for touristic reasons.
The country’s crucial tourism sector has been badly hit by turbulent relations with Russia and general political instability.