A new era of peace and stability should be initiated in the Gulf region and the Middle East, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, urging Gulf countries to immediately end the sanctions on Qatar and restating Turkey's commitment to working toward peace. “I think it is necessary to end the blockade and start a new period of peace, stability and cooperation. Hostility does nobody any good,” Erdoğan told reporters on the presidential plane on his way back from an official visit to Qatar to attend the fifth meeting of the Turkey-Qatar High Strategic Committee on Monday. Emphasizing the thriving nature of the relationship that has developed between Turkey and Qatar, the president noted the Doha trip was a success, leading to not only fruitful bilateral talks but also the signing of seven agreements and a joint declaration.
“We have strong political, economic and strategic relations with Qatar. With Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani we have further strengthened the ties we established with his father (Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani),” Erdoğan said. Erdoğan highlighted that both countries had supported one another during times of crisis, noting Qatar's support over the course of the July 15 coup attempt and other attacks. Similarly, Ankara has supported Doha throughout the blockade and displayed a determined stance against it. “Those who imposed the blockade have been unsuccessful, and Qatar has strengthened itself in the process,” Erdoğan said.
The president continued by saying that internal strife in the region only wastes energy, and it is about time to initiate a new period to establish peace. Referring to his visit to the Qatari-Turkish Combined Joint Task Force Command, Erdoğan said Turkish troops would be stationed there for peaceful purposes. “I’d like to note that this mission significantly contributes to peace and stability in the region ... I believe that my Qatar visit will especially serve this purpose.” Erdoğan announced during his visit that the construction of the new Turkish military post in Qatar had been completed and would be named after the famous Muslim commander Khalid bin Walid. Regarding the formation of a joint working group with Washington on the Russian-made S-400 missile defense system, Erdoğan said officials from the defense and foreign ministries of both countries would come together to work on it and see how much progress is made. Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara signed a $2.5 billion contract in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400s. The Russian missile system purchase has been a sticking point between Turkey and the U.S. for some time as Washington has argued that the S-400 system would be incompatible with NATO systems. Turkey, however, emphasized the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance and rejected stepping back from the deal. He noted that it is not a matter of whether Turkey will use the program or not but rather to figure out the steps that will be taken under the scope of NATO regulations. Turkey is planning to bring up the issue of an international donor meeting for refugees at the upcoming NATO summit on Dec. 3-4, Erdoğan told journalists, adding that he has personally brought up the issue with U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Emir Al Thani. “Qatar is not a NATO member but is sensitive regarding these issues,” Erdoğan said, adding that the emir appreciated Turkey’s projects in the “peace corridor” in northeastern Syria. The president noted that there is no such project anywhere in the world, and Turkey’s project will set a precedent for refugees. He said Qatar is willing to jointly carry out work for the project, which will include houses, a hospital, a school, houses of worship and social centers for refugees in northeastern Syria. Erdoğan criticized the Arab League for its hypocritical stance regarding Syrian refugees and its failure to provide any financial support to take care of them. “We have 4 million refugees in our country and 350,000 of these are Kurdish, while 3.5 million of these are Arabs, Yazidis, Qaldanis and others. Turkey is the only country that spent over $40 billion for these, while the Arab League did not give a penny to support them,” Erdoğan said, as he criticized the Arab countries for their hostile stance against Turkey. In response to a question about how long Operation Peace Spring would last, Erdoğan said there is no set timeline. “Our struggle here is not bound to a specific calendar and it is not possible to set a date in such military operations,” Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey’s main goal is to completely end attacks by the PKK’s Syrian offshoot, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The Turkish Armed Forces fully comply with the existing agreement regarding the establishment of a safe zone, but PKK/YPG terrorists continue transgressing the area of Operation Peace Spring, violating the pause with mortar and rocket attacks and sniper fire. Operation Peace Spring was launched on Oct. 9 to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorist elements from northern Syria east of the Euphrates river to secure Turkey's borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity. Ankara agreed with Washington on Oct. 17 to pause its operation to allow YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the planned safe zone. On Oct. 22, Ankara and Moscow reached a deal under which YPG/PKK terrorists were to pull back 30 kilometers south of Turkey's border with Syria within 150 hours, and security forces from Turkey and Russia would mount joint patrols there. The president said 1,230 PKK/YPG terrorists have been killed since Oct. 9, while 13 Turkish soldiers, 241 members of the Syrian National Army (SNA) and 22 civilians lost their lives. He criticized the U.S. and other countries once again for referring to the YPG terrorists as “Kurds.” “This approach is an insult to our Kurdish brothers in Syria and Turkey,” Erdoğan said, adding that is not fair to refer to terrorists based on their ethnicity and added once again: “A terrorist is a terrorist.” Turkish officials are disturbed by the U.S. and other allies' talks and cooperation with PKK-linked figures. For instance, Trump recently said he spoke with Ferhat Abdi Şahin, code-named Mazloum Kobani, who is the ringleader of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and is sought with a red notice. The U.S. president praised the terrorist leader, noting that he would soon visit Washington, while Turkish officials urged the U.S. to immediately extradite him as per the Interpol arrest warrant. The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union and has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, resulting in the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. “Our fight is not against Kurds, it is against the PYD, YPG and Daesh terrorists. We fight all of these terrorist organizations,” Erdoğan said, adding that he has especially expressed Turkey’s concern regarding YPG terrorist Şahin to Trump and Putin.
About the author
Meryem İlayda Atlas is Editorial Coordinator of Daily Sabah. She is board member of TRT, the national public broadcaster of Turkey. Atlas also serves as a visiting scholar at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University.