President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking to reporters early Saturday in Johannesburg after the BRICS summit in South Africa, said that the summit on Syria and the wider region scheduled for Sept. 7 in Istanbul will be attended by the most senior representatives of Russia, France and Germany.
This summit will start a parallel process that will contribute to the Astana process that was launched last year by Turkey, Russia and Iran. Erdoğan said the Astana process, named after the Kazakhstan capital where it started, will also bring together the presidents of the three countries in Tehran soon.
The Astana process established a process of de-escalation in Syria between the regime forces and the internationally recognized opposition. The meetings in Istanbul and Ankara will allow Russian President Vladimir Putin and himself to maintain a proper channel of communication with respect to Syria, Erdoğan said.
"We had the opportunity to discuss Syria on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in South Africa. I asked him [Putin] to take the necessary precautions against the possible regime attacks on Idlib, which we would find unacceptable. As you know, we have established 12 military observation posts around Idlib."
Erdoğan argued that a regime assault in the north akin to the one that took place in Aleppo would pose significant problems to all. The regime offensive in the southwestern Syrian province of Daraa, one of the de-escalation zones agreed by Turkey, Russia and Iran, was problematic, as was the regime-occupied northwestern Tal Rifaat, Erdoğan said, adding that all such issues were discussed with Putin.
The Istanbul summit on Sept. 7 will allow all four countries to take up a wide-ranging set of issues, including Iraq, he said, while noting that the Syria-focused Tehran meeting was the continuation of the Astana process.
WHY NOT BRICST?
The president said he suggested the inclusion of Turkey into the BRICS, coining the term BRICST during the summit in South Africa last week.
"They responded positively. China is definitely for expansion," he said.
Turkey attended the meeting as the term president of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). All of the other four members of BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa – are fellow members of the G20, he said, adding that the he believed BRICS membership would allow Turkey to establish incredibly profitable channels of communications throughout the world.
"I believe we should welcome our inclusion in such groupings," he added.
TIES WITH CHINA BURGEONING
Turkey's relationship with China is becoming closer and multidimensional, the president said, adding that during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, they had the opportunity to discuss further expanding political, military and economic ties.
"One topic we both continue to emphasize is nuclear energy," Erdoğan said in reference to Turkey's plans to build nuclear plants in addition to the one being built by Russia in Akkuyu and the one planned with Japan in Sinop on the Black Sea.
Erdoğan said he wanted to cooperate with China on the third.
One discussion centered on Turkey's part in China's massive One Belt, One Road project, which may include the Kars-Edirne Speed Train Project traversing the entire country.
"China is interested in Turkey's major infrastructure projects. We may also cooperate on energy projects besides nuclear," the president said.
Erdoğan also said he invited Xi to Turkey.
RUSSIAN TRADE TIES EXPANDING
The trade volume between Turkey-Russia was around $22 billion last year, Erdoğan said, adding that negotiations on trading in local currencies and possible tourism projects were continuing, while cooperation on investments, nuclear energy, tourism and the and the Turkish Stream Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TurkStream) was continuing full speed ahead.
The building of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant is ahead of schedule, while the number of Russian tourists coming to Turkey this year will reach 6 million, the president said. The number of tourists coming from other BRICS members China and India will hit a record this year, he maintained.
"I encourage Turkish citizens to visit these countries as well. Such interactions cannot be one-way. We also need to learn about the countries of those coming to us," he added.
During the meeting he held on the sidelines of the BRICS summit with the president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa reacted positively to the issue of trading in local currencies.
He also held a meeting with Senegalese President Macky Sall.
"With Senegal, as one of our main partners in Africa, we maintain very strong ties on commercial, infrastructure, energy, military cooperation and tourism matters," President Erdoğan stated.
He also noted that Senegal had stood by Turkey in its fight against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). Erdoğan said the threat posed by FETÖ was one of the main issues he discussed with the leaders of African countries, where the terrorist group continues to be very active.
"It should be noted that the harm FETÖ causes to Muslims under the guise of tolerance, education and service is no less than that caused by other terrorist groups like al-Qaida, Daesh, Boko Haram and al-Shabab," he emphasized.
The enormous potential of the African continent will influence the world in the future, he said, adding that Turkey's "Africa Initiative," which aims at increasing the footprint of Turkey across the continent through diplomatic, economic and humanitarian cooperation, will be accelerated in the future.
During his meeting with Ramaphosa, he had the opportunity to talk about the considerable FETÖ presence in the country, Erdoğan said.
"We openly talked about the issue and I presented him with the latest evidence. The intelligence agencies of the two countries will cooperate," he added.
Turkey also suggested increased cooperation between the South African Education Ministry and the Maarif Foundation, which was established as an alternative to FETÖ institutions across the globe posing as schools where locals are brainwashed.
"South Africa comes only after Germany and the U.S. where FETÖ has the largest presence. The FETÖ institutions here take the local children and youth and brainwash them before ordering these new recruits to infiltrate and weaken the local state institutions. We noticed this danger too late and paid a very high price. President Ramaphosa is more sensitive to this threat than [former President Jacob] Zuma, who I talked to several times about the matter but did not get any result," he said.