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FM Fidan shares insights on NATO, Syria, Türkiye’s global strategy

FM Fidan shares insights on NATO, Syria, Türkiye's global strategy Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan speaking at a press conference in Ankara, Türkiye on 12 June, 2024. (Anadolu Images)
By Newsroom
Jun 25, 2024 2:14 AM

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan emphasized the importance of NATO addressing Türkiye’s anti-terrorism concerns, particularly in relation to the PKK, during a live broadcast on a Turkish television. He highlighted that the alliance needs to develop a deeper understanding and sensitivity towards Türkiye’s security challenges.

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan stated regarding NATO, “For us, the most important thing is that the alliance develops a sensitivity that understands and encompasses Türkiye’s concerns, particularly in the fight against terrorism.”

Fidan mentioned that he had visited many places worldwide recently, recalling his participation in the Ukraine Peace Conference in Switzerland.

Fidan noted that some viewed Türkiye’s participation in BRICS as a “shift in axis,” but emphasized that a shift in axis had been off Türkiye’s foreign policy agenda for a long time. He explained that Türkiye closely followed how alternative economic platforms were forming globally.

In response to whether BRICS is an alternative to the G7, Fidan said, “The G7 is a place where countries that share the same strategic goals and civilizational space come together. BRICS, on the other hand, started as an economically focused platform without a structured basis.”

Fidan stated that BRICS includes all civilizations, races, and religions, unlike the EU. He explained that BRICS could produce significant benefits if it were made more structured and institutionalized like the EU.

He emphasized that Türkiye’s approach, search, and dialogues within BRICS were very normal, and that Türkiye maintained good bilateral relations with BRICS member countries, especially in economic matters.

Fidan noted that China’s and Russia’s trade volumes with Türkiye were the highest among BRICS members, and that Türkiye was holding talks and negotiations with BRICS member countries.

Fidan recalled that during his visit to Russia for the BRICS+ meeting, he had meetings in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and many key figures in the Russian state system.

Fidan mentioned the possibility of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meeting Putin in Kazakhstan in the coming days. He stressed that relations with Russia were currently focused on issues like Syria, Ukraine, bilateral cooperation in energy, trade volume, and the situation of Turkish companies in Russia.

Fidan said that during his visits to China and Russia, he observed that the world was becoming more divided over the war, even if the conflict did not spread to other countries. He remarked, “China, Russia, Korea, Iran are moving towards structural partnerships beyond being mere dialogue partners.

Fidan expressed that peace was essential in the Ukraine issue and that Türkiye had conveyed to its interlocutors that Russia needed to take a clear stance on this. He recalled that Putin had listed his conditions for stopping the war during a meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Fidan emphasized the importance of Putin’s articulation of these conditions and noted that the other side should also make their intentions clear by saying “yes” or “no” to these conditions.

Fidan stated, “We are in the 21st century, where over 500,000 people have died, a country is on the verge of destruction with its infrastructure, millions of people have been displaced, and the war has spread into Russia. We cannot bear this broadening any longer.”

Regarding the possibility of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul, Fidan said that there was always a basis for negotiation, but it was important whether the parties wanted to use this basis.

Fidan noted that both sides were reluctant to appear weak to the other side and their publics by being the first to talk about peace, negotiation, and dialogue, and added that the upcoming election processes in Europe and the US were also being awaited.

He recalled that Russia had repeatedly expressed its lack of hesitation in using any kind of weapons, including nuclear ones, and noted that the weapons and ranges used now compared to those at the beginning of the war showed a significant methodological spread.

Fidan emphasized that Türkiye had warned from the beginning of the war that the risk would continue as long as the war persisted, and stated, “Both sides will have to use more sophisticated, different weapons and game-changing methods to inflict more damage on each other. Everything is in play, so there is a possibility of this spark spreading to other places once proxies are involved.”

Fidan also evaluated the situation in Syria, stating, “The most important thing that the Russians and our side have achieved so far regarding Syria is that the war between the regime and the opposition is not currently ongoing.”

Fidan emphasized that the consensus reached at the leadership level between Russia and Türkiye, as well as the processes and formats carried out, made this possible, and that this was the greatest achievement.

He said, “We wished that the Syrian regime would have used this period of non-conflict and silence wisely. It should have taken advantage of these years to resolve its constitutional problems, make peace with its opposition, bring back millions of people who had fled the country, rebuild the nation, and revive its economy. But we see that this opportunity was not sufficiently utilized.”

Fidan noted that he emphasized these points in his meetings with Putin and other colleagues, adding, “Syria needs to do this for itself. Of course, we see it as important for the region in terms of development. We see it as important for the return of refugees. We believe that a more stable Syria, integrated with its government and opposition, will be a more effective actor in the fight against PKK terrorism.”

He added, “The presence of Russia, Iran, Israel’s continuous operations, and various militia groups in Syria make the situation more complex. In this complexity, it is important for us to continuously pursue a dynamic policy that protects our national interests.

Regarding the NATO Summit to be held in Washington on July 9-11, Fidan said, “For us, the most important thing is that the alliance develops a sensitivity that understands and encompasses Türkiye’s concerns, particularly in the fight against terrorism.”

Fidan stated that these priorities of Türkiye had been raised at previous summits, such as in Madrid, and institutionalized in Vilnius, adding, “We emphasized that NATO member countries should not impose restrictions on each other in defense industry products. Our expectations in this regard continue. There are still problematic areas that need to be resolved, and we have largely resolved some issues, but there are still areas that need to be addressed.”

Answering a question about the security problems Türkiye faces with NATO allies concerning the PKK/YPG terrorist organization, Fidan said, “The countries we have problems with regarding YPG are the US, the UK, and to some extent France. The US is very involved, and the UK, without making much noise, participates in all operations that the US is involved in. We highlight this issue at every level, saying that it is against the spirit of the alliance and that Türkiye can no longer live with this reality. We maintain the highest level of diplomacy possible.”

Fidan said, “You (US and UK) carry more sensitivity in the fight against terrorism, and we carry more in the fight against the PKK, right across our border. We cannot be involved in any negotiation over this. As long as this threat does not eliminate itself or is eliminated by other means, we will continue to fight. It is important that it is not a threat to Türkiye.”

He emphasized that Türkiye’s arguments were strong and that the seriousness of its intentions was understood, stating, “That is why we want this issue to be resolved and the PKK to be removed from between us with strategic patience and wisdom, and with the understanding of the other side.

Regarding the rise of the far-right in Europe and how it might affect Türkiye, Fidan explained that during his previous tenure, the far-right in Europe was considered a “threat” category, and Europe also viewed it as a threat.

Fidan stated, “When we define threats, we also consider the issues that pose a threat to our compatriots living abroad as a threat. This is not just within our borders. The far-right has a notorious history in Europe, particularly towards Turkish and Muslim communities. It is quite normal for us to follow this.”

He highlighted that the EU’s relationship with Türkiye always seemed as if the far-right were in power, indicating that Europe was acting contrary to its foundational values.

Fidan explained that far-right movements in Europe legitimize themselves by being “Zionist,” noting that this was to protect their interests.

He emphasized the need to draw a line between being against immigrants and being against the civilization from which the immigrants come, noting that identity politics was used as a tool to gain votes.

Fidan noted that the alienation movement against Turks, the Islamic world, and the Turkish world in Europe contradicted European philosophy, pointing out that the far-right in each country had different policies.

Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan highlighted that the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus (GCA) had become an operations center, stating, “Since October 7, after the initial operations started by Israel, we have consistently seen, through intelligence reports, that the Southern Cyprus Greek Administration has become a base used by certain countries for operations against Gaza.”

Fidan emphasized the importance of Europe cooperating with Türkiye to become a more independent and self-assured geostrategic actor.

He stated that the aim of the Türkiye -EU cooperation was to bring Europe closer to a more rational and geostrategically significant relationship with Türkiye, pointing out that the EU needed to develop more concrete and solid steps in this context.

Fidan stressed that Europe’s dependence on Türkiye, particularly in energy and migration issues, should be acknowledged.

Regarding energy cooperation, Fidan stated, “We have our own energy resources. We have our solar and wind energy resources, and the capacity we have developed with renewables. At the same time, we are a critical actor in energy transportation. We are in cooperation with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and all Central Asian countries. We also have an agreement with Russia.”

He pointed out that Türkiye’s energy strategy was important for both Europe and regional actors, noting that new projects were being carried out in cooperation with Russia in particular.

He mentioned that the Eastern Mediterranean was also significant for Türkiye in terms of energy resources, and noted that Türkiye maintained its sovereignty rights in this region.

Fidan highlighted the importance of continuing to take initiatives to improve bilateral relations between Türkiye and the EU, stating that the visa liberalization process should be expedited.

He also emphasized that the Customs Union should be updated and that economic relations between Türkiye and the EU should be further strengthened.

Fidan stated, “In this context, our expectations from the EU are not only the fulfillment of promises made in previous agreements but also taking more concrete steps in the visa liberalization process, the update of the Customs Union, and the strengthening of economic relations.”

He noted that Türkiye continued its efforts to improve its relations with the EU in every area, particularly in economic and trade matters.

Fidan emphasized that Türkiye aimed to maintain its strong position as a key actor in the region by continuing its dynamic foreign policy and pursuing its national interests.

Last Updated:  Jun 25, 2024 9:29 AM