China, Turkey united by anti-terror cause

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/19 23:42:07

Ali Murat Ersoy Photo: Courtesy of the Embassy

Editor's Note:

With the coup attempt and terrorist attacks, Turkey has made headlines recently. How to strike a blow against terrorism? As both China and Turkey are victims of terrorism, what can be done to boost China-Turkey cooperation? Global Times (GT) reporter Liu Jianxi talked with Turkish Ambassador to China Ali Murat Ersoy (Ersoy) on these issues.

GT: What's your take on the coup attempt of last weekend?

Ersoy: The coup attempt in Turkey which aimed to overthrow the democratically elected government was foiled by overall unity and solidarity. Our President, Prime Minister, Government, members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the Turkish nation, all together, defeated this attempt.

It must also be emphasized that, from the very beginning, the command chain and the vast majority of the Turkish Armed Forces stood up against this rebellion.

It was conducted by a clique within the Armed Forces. The information conveyed from our Capital underlines that this coup attempt was staged by a terrorist organization (FETÖ) and this was the latest criminal act revealing the danger posed by this organization.

This was a tragic event during which 208 of our citizens lost their lives and 1,491 were wounded. The way that this attempt received a well-deserved response from our nation proved the strength and resilience of the Turkish democracy.

As mentioned in the Joint Declaration of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on July 16, 2016, "The united stance and language of all political party groups at the Parliament in countering this attempt was a historic act and will go down in history as such. Common positions and common language will further strengthen our nation and the national will."

This event has shown, once again, that democracy can only be secure if it is shielded by the people. We are all stakeholders in a peaceful and prosperous world ideal. Turkey is and will remain as one of the staunch supporters of that ideal.

GT: Istanbul's Ataturk Airport was hit by a terrorist attack recently, and all signs point to the Islamic State (IS), also referred to as DAESH. It seems that Turkey is now another target of IS. What is your comment on this?

Ersoy: The investigation in connection with the Ataturk Airport attack is still ongoing. Unfortunately, Turkey has witnessed other DAESH-initiated attacks before, many of them ending deadly.  

Three individuals who have been identified as the attackers were foreign nationals. Taking into consideration other terrorist incidents in some major international capitals and cities, we regard the Istanbul attack as another move against the security and stability of everyone in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Terrorists are, in fact, targeting the humanity as a whole. A united stance is vital in this fight.

GT: Anti-terrorism is now an urgent task for the international community. How will this airport attack influence Turkey's future anti-terrorism policy?

Ersoy: Turkey has been fighting against terrorism for more than 35 years. We are not fighting against one terrorist organization. There are multiple threats and numerous groups. Turkey is fighting terrorism on many fronts. My country's resolve on fighting this scourge will continue.

As the UN Security Council report establishes, there are more than 25,000 foreign terrorist fighters from 100 countries linked to Al Qaeda and DAESH. The source countries have an obligation to prevent movements of such persons travelling to join terrorist organizations. With the input of cooperating countries, we have prepared a list of individuals who are not allowed to enter Turkey. The said list includes about 50,000 names. In recent months, more than 3,500 individuals were denied entry to Turkey. Intelligence sharing is of paramount importance and Turkey expects better cooperation from various source countries on this issue.

Turkey is co-chairing the Counter ISIL Coalition Working Group on Foreign Terrorist Fighters, which focuses on supporting and encouraging actions that directly complement and support Coalition efforts to degrade and ultimately defeat DAESH.

Turkey, in line with the Security Council resolutions 2178 (2014) and 2199 (2015), has launched a comprehensive strategy and taken effective measures to combat DAESH finances and disrupt and prevent the terrorist organization from raising, moving and using funds. Turkey also takes part in the Working Group on counter financing. Furthermore, as an active member of Financial Action Task Force, the Turkish Financial Intelligence Unit also cooperates with other financial intelligence units.

GT: Some commentators believe that Turkey is partly a victim of its multiple identities- it straddles two continents, two cultures (Western and Eastern) etc. What is your take?

Ersoy: The problem of our century is the "great disconnect." Humanity has made enormous inventions to generate better connectivity. However, people are getting more detached from each other emotionally. Empathy is scarred and confrontational approaches are on the rise. We have to repair this disconnect. 

I believe that Turkey can play a special role in this regard. My country is a perfect fusion of various cultures, new and old, Eastern and Western, modern and traditional. It can help create a cure for the "great disconnect" of our world with the contribution of its friends. 

GT: While Turkey has been making unremitting efforts to join the EU, the UK voted to leave the EU, and many worry that the UK's exit may have a domino effect. To what extent will the Brexit influence Turkey's pursuit of the EU membership?

Ersoy: Brexit was the decision of the British people. This is a unique situation. It is the first time that a member decides to leave the EU. Application of relevant procedures will take time.

The EU will now most probably do some soul-searching. We need a strong EU for the challenges that our region and beyond are facing. This is certainly not the time for another crisis for the EU that will prevent it from concentrating on other important issues.

Membership to the EU is a strategic choice for Turkey. We believe that negotiations should be conducted purely on a technical basis.

Up until now, we have opened 16 chapters out of a total of 35. At the Turkey-EU Summit on November 29 2015, we agreed to re-energize various dimensions of our relations including the accession process, visa liberalization dialogue, high-level dialogue mechanisms and upgrading the Customs Union. To this end, we opened a new chapter on December 14 2015.

We believe that the enlargement policy, which has always been an important dimension of the EU's soft power, should continue in the period ahead. We further believe that Turkey's membership will inject diversity and dynamism into the EU and strengthen its global stance.

Brexit will not change Turkey's determination for EU membership. On June 30, a week after the Brexit vote, Turkey opened a new chapter in its EU accession talks - Chapter 33, titled "Financial and Budgetary Provisions."

GT: Turkey's President Recep Erdogan expressed sorrow for last year's downing of a Russian jet, and meanwhile normalized diplomatic relations with Israel. What are the reasons for these adjustments? From the perspective of international relations, what are the influences of these adjustments?

Ersoy: Turkey's recent moves to normalize relations with Russia and Israel are timely and based on principles of mutual interest and respect, regional cooperation, peace and security. Given the worsening situation in the Middle East and around the world, Ankara's cooperation with Moscow and Tel Aviv is needed to address a number of urgent and pressing issues.

Russia is an important partner for Turkey. Over the years, with the common will on both sides to manage our differences on various regional and international issues, we have developed a comprehensive win-win cooperation, particularly in the field of economy. However, following the November 2015 incident, our bilateral relations have deteriorated and this situation has negatively affected both countries. In this process, Turkey has kept its dialogue channels open, with the belief that Turkish-Russian cooperation is essential for both sides, as well as for regional peace, stability and prosperity.

With this understanding, President Erdogan recently sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing his sorrow over the death of the Russian pilot. Eventually, both leaders had a phone conversation on June 29 and agreed to normalize relations between the two countries. We are pleased to see that the bilateral relations are getting back on track for the benefit of both the Turkish and the Russian people.

The normalization of Turkish-Russian relations will certainly have positive effects on peace and stability of our region where we have manifold challenges.

The agreement to renormalize our bilateral relations with Israel, which were downgraded following the Mavi Marmara incident that took place on May 31, 2010, was signed on June 28 2016.

With the entry into force of the agreement, it will be possible again to have mutual representation at an ambassadorial level. Israel declared that with the normalization of our relations, it would provide the required facilitation for the work we will undertake in cooperation with the international community to meet the needs of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Thus, a more positive era for the Palestinian population has started.

Turkey will continue its constructive efforts regarding the settlement of the Palestinian issue and the realization of the peace process.

GT: Both Turkey and China are victims of terrorism. Will Turkey view Xinjiang terrorists from a different perspective after a series of terror attacks this year?

Ersoy: As explained before, my country has a principled stance against terrorism. No matter what their cause or aim is, terrorist acts can never be accepted or justified. The same applies to national, ethnic or religious acts of terrorism. Turkey has no double standards unlike some countries which are solely concerned about terrorist organizations acting against them but not interested in fighting those terrorists who pose danger to others. 

We do have well-established and functioning communication channels with China concerning security and anti-terrorism work. There are mechanisms between different institutions and at various levels. I am confident that our cooperation will stay strong in the coming period.  

GT: What should be done to boost Beijing-Ankara cooperation on the "Belt and Road" initiative, and how do you view the outlook of Sino-Turkish relations?

Ersoy: Turkey and China share a very long history. They are important countries on the western and eastern tips of the Asian continent. The Silk Road was a channel of interaction among different cultures along its route. Today, in this century, we need to reinvent the connection for many reasons, but may be most importantly, to remind everyone that this world is our common home and we have a common destiny as mankind. Therefore, we need to share more and try to understand each other better. The modern concept of the Silk Road includes all these messages. It refers to connectivity, logistics and trade, but also represents a philosophy of cohabitation and peace.

Turkey has always been interested in promoting political, economic, social and cultural ties between countries in its neighborhood and beyond. In this regard, the idea to conceptualize a new project that grows on the ancient Silk Road as a vision and ideal has been on our agenda for a long time. Therefore, we have welcomed the proposals of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the vision of connecting continents via land and sea routes.

Turkey has been working on a very relevant project for some time now, the "Middle Corridor." It is a railroad connection project which passes from China to the Central Asian republics, crossing the Caspian Sea and coming to Turkey through Azerbaijan and Georgia. Besides, Turkey has already started delivering on other concrete projects in the fields of transportation, logistics, energy and trade for reviving the ancient Silk Road. All of these projects initiated by Turkey will be readily integrated into the Middle Corridor, which will constitute a cost-effective and secure route from Asia to Europe which is also 1,500 kilometers shorter compared to the existing northern transport corridor. This Middle Corridor initiative is one of the main pillars to boost the bilateral cooperation between our two countries.

A milestone was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, "Aligning the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the Middle Corridor Initiative," on the margins of the G20 meeting in Antalya on November 14, 2015. This MoU marks a significant step in bilateral cooperation between the two countries and the alignment of the "Belt and Road" and the "Middle Corridor" projects.

China is Turkey's biggest trade partner in Asia and second biggest trade partner in the world. We are very pleased that our trade volume, which was around $2 billion in 2002, surpassed $27 billion in 2015. We need to exert joint efforts to make bilateral trade more balanced and sustainable. Chinese investments in Turkey are also very important for closing the existing trade gap. Realization of the new Silk Road with the contribution of the Middle Corridor and other routes will expand our bilateral trade volume as well as exchanges in other areas.

In 2010, Turkey and China upgraded their bilateral relationship to the level of strategic cooperation. We believe that new projects will contribute positively to our relationship and that we can work together and enhance cooperation to support global efforts aiming to create a new synergy.

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