A busy week in terms of diplomatic traffic has been left behind for Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who attended the G20 summit in Japan and then visited China for bilateral meetings. Meeting with accompanying Turkish journalists before setting off for Turkey from China, Erdoğan touched upon various international topics, from his meetings in the Far East to relations with the U.S. and developments in the Middle East, reflecting Turkey's multipolar vision in diplomacy. Erdoğan on Friday met and talked with fellow world leaders as the G20 summit kicked off in Japan's Osaka. The president met with his U.S., Russian and French counterparts Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron. He also held meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This wide range of meetings came as a result of the country's diplomatic policy that is based on multipolarism, in contrast to the claims that suggest Turkey was getting closer to Asia and neglecting the West."Turkey is a country that is open to both East and West," the president underlined while evaluating his latest trip. "Yet, geographically, we have more land in Asia," he said, adding that because of this geographical position, China's support in international matters such as the stance against the U.N. with the motto "the world is bigger than five," is quite important. Regarding his visit to China, Erdoğan said that the two countries share many similarities when it comes to global matters since they both support multilateralism rather than unilateralism as well as international law.
"China is a country that can stand for its own beliefs," said Erdoğan, as he expressed his admiration for the country.
"We've handled bilateral, regional and global issues broadly with the president of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping," Erdoğan said, adding that they aim to further boost the two countries' trade volume. "We've targeted the $50 billion trade volume and made negotiation over which steps to take to reach this aim," he indicated. Erdoğan also said that they encourage Chinese investments in Turkey to expand and said that there are already more than 1,000 Chinese entrepreneurs in Turkey. "I've seen a similar will in Xi Jinping when it comes to Turkish products entering the Chinese market. In this respect, they wanted us to make exports to China in different fields" the president said.
Underlining his belief in the strategic partnership agreement with China and its contribution to ties with the country, Erdoğan said that the imbalance in bilateral trade may be overcome through steps taken in the defense industry and advanced technology. The president also indicated that Turkey and China strengthen cooperation in energy, trade, technology, infrastructure and tourism.
"In tourism, the number of Chinese tourists surpassed 400,000. This means there has been a 60 percent increase in the number of Chinese tourists in Turkey. This is a very good development," Erdoğan said.
"However," Erdoğan emphasized, "The biggest business that we will have with them will be the railway investments. They're welcoming such investments." He said that there are also other projects that the two countries may be involved together in such as Kanal Istanbul. Erdoğan added that he finds the "Belt and Road Project" of China very important.
Recalling that 2021 will be the 50th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations, Erdoğan said that in this respect, a Yunus Emre Culture Center would open in China. The president also heralded that the Chinese president is likely to visit Turkey in the upcoming period, which would also strengthen ties.
Erdoğan also touched upon the issue of Uighur Turks and their situation in China, saying that the matter also came up during his meetings in the country.
"I believe that we can find a solution by taking bilateral sensitivities into consideration," he emphasized, adding that still, there are some approaches that abuse this issue that harms Turkish-Chinese relations.
"Those who exploit this issue are unfortunately acting emotionally without thinking of the Republic of Turkey's diplomatic relations with a state and make their fellow citizens and state pay the price," he said. He added that if necessary, a delegation from Turkey might also come and visit the Xinjiang region where Uighurs live.
When he was asked whether or not the cancellation of purchase of Chinese missile systems has harmed bilateral ties, Erdoğan said that the incident does not mean that their joint work in the defense industry would come to an end.
"This incident did not occur because of prejudice toward China. Our friends considered Russia's offer as well and reached a conclusion," he said, implying that it was a rational decision.
In 2013, Turkey launched talks to purchase a missile defense system from China, which did not end in a positive way because of the U.S.
Although the deal carried advantages for Turkey, especially with its lower costs, because the Chinese company CPMIEC was on the sanctions list of the U.S., the situation forced Turkey to drop the deal. Eventually, Turkey decided to purchase the S-400 defense missile systems from Russia.
Ties with Japan to deepen further
When it comes to his activities in Japan, Erdoğan said that they are about to complete the economic partnership treaty between the two countries and pointed at the foundation of the Turkish-Japan Science and Technology University as a step that strengthens the ties.
"Our cooperation with Japan in infrastructure, technology, energy and the defense industry continues to strengthen," Erdoğan said, adding that during his visit, the issues of China-U.S. tension, Iran, North Korea and Syria were discussed in his meetings.
"In order to come up with a solution to the problems in our region, we need new perspectives and brave leadership," the president underlined.
The G20 summit was held last week and followed by more than 2,000 journalists from around the world. It was attended by 30,000 people, including 19 leaders and delegates from the European Union.
The president also praised the Japanese emperor.
"Since the new emperor is younger than the previous one, he is 59 years old, he is more dynamic and humble. This humble stance is actually lying within their tradition," Erdoğan said, adding that he invited the emperor to Turkey.
Turkey, Japan ready to mediate between Iran, U.S.
In terms of the tension between the U.S. and Iran, Erdoğan said that Japan also does not favor the sanctions that are being imposed on Tehran.
"When we talked with [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe, he asked me if we can act together in such a case. And I answered, 'why not?'" Erdoğan said, implying that both Turkey and Japan ready to mediate between the two countries.
He also underlined that in such a case, one should focus on reaching concrete results while adding that no one in the international community wants to be a part of this crisis.
Iran's nuclear deal, reached in 2015 by China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S., saw Tehran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions. Western powers feared Iran's atomic program could allow it to build nuclear weapons, although Iran has long insisted its program was for peaceful purposes.
In withdrawing from the deal last year, Trump pointed to the accord not limiting Iran's ballistic missile program and not addressing what American officials describe as Tehran's malign influence across the wider Middle East. Those who struck the deal at the time described it as a building block toward further negotiations with Iran, whose government has had a tense relationship with America since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and subsequent hostage crisis.
Already, Iran says it quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium. Meanwhile, U.S. sanctions have cut off opportunities for Iran to trade its excess uranium and heavy water abroad, putting Tehran on course to violate terms of the nuclear deal regardless.
Turkey welcomes Trump's stance on S-400, F-35 issues
As far as the meeting with the U.S. President Donald Trump in the G20 summit is concerned, Erdoğan said that he appreciated the U.S. president's attitude toward the Turkish delegation as well as his welcoming words.
Referring to Trump's positive statements on Turkey's S-400 purchase and the failure of the U.S.' delivery of Patriots to the country, Erdoğan reiterated Turkey's righteousness on the issue.
"If you are looking for a customer, if there is a costumer who paid their payments regularly, how can you not give this customer what it wants?" the president asked. "This is called seizure," he added.
Saying that an agreement had been made for the purchase of 116 F-35s and Turkey has so far paid $1.4 billion for the planes, Erdoğan said that they've been mistreated by the U.S. on the issue as the products have still not been delivered.
In his meeting with Erdoğan on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Trump slammed the Obama administration's reluctance to sell Patriot missiles to Turkey in 2013, saying Turkey was not treated fairly as a NATO member. "So I have to tell you, he [Erdoğan] is a NATO member and he is somebody I have become friendly with. And you have to treat fairly. You understand that? You have to treat fairly. I don't think he was treated fairly. I don't think he was treated fairly," Trump added, giving a clear sign that his administration will not seek the path of sanctions and avoid unfair treatment of Turkey in the ongoing S-400 and F-35 tensions. He said his administration would be looking at different solutions regarding the issues.
"When they left us with no response, what should we wait for? Won't we be able to take care of ourselves?" Erdoğan further asked, adding that Turkey needs these missiles as a measure against any security threats.
Tensions between the two NATO allies have been rising over Ankara's purchase of the Russian S-400s, which Turkey is about to receive in the first half of this month. Washington threatened Turkey that it could face sanctions and would be excluded from the F-35 program, a multinational NATO defense project in which Turkey is a major manufacturer and buyer.
Turkey has on every occasion argued it won't back down on the deal and buying the Russian defense system is a matter of sovereign decision-making. However, it should be noted that although there seems to be tension between the two countries, the leaders of the countries, Erdoğan and Trump, are actually on quite good terms with each other, which is expected to have a positive impact on the process.
Turkey acts in accordance with the law in Mediterranean
In terms of the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, Erdoğan said that Turkey takes, and will take, the steps that are necessary to be taken within the boundaries of the law.
"However," he expressed, "if the ones that who does not recognize the law confront us, then we know how to speak in their language as well." According to Erdoğan, it is not acceptable for the ones who do not legally have the right to be there to claim anything on the matter. He also criticized southern Cyprus, as well as the EU, for aiming to scare off northern Cyprus as well as acting hypocritically on the matter. "How can we believe in the EU from now on?" the president asked.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey used its guarantor rights to intervene on the island after a far-right Greek Cypriot military coup sponsored by the military junta then in power in Athens sought to unite the island with Greece. The coup followed decade's long inter-ethnic violence and terrorism targeting Turkish Cypriots, who were forced to live in enclaves when Greek Cypriots unilaterally changed the constitution in 1963 and stripped the island's Turks of their political rights.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), established in 1983 on the northern one-third of the island, is only recognized by Turkey and faces a longstanding embargo in commerce, transportation and culture. Meanwhile, the Greek Cypriot Administration enjoys recognition by the international community as the Republic of Cyprus, established in 1960.
Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration's unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, stating that the exclusive economic zone unilaterally declared by Nicosia violates part of Turkey's shelf, particularly in Blocks 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Saying that unilateral exploration deprives the Turkish Cypriots of benefiting from the island's natural resources, Turkey has ramped up efforts in the Eastern Mediterranean.
However, the EU backs the Greek Cypriot administration on the issue and constantly calls for Turkey to stop its actions in the region.
U.N. signing treaty with YPG terrorists is a scandal
"It is not acceptable for the U.N. to have a meeting with the YPG [the PKK's Syrian affiliate, People's Protection Units] terrorist organization under the pretext of child soldiers and come up with a deal," Erdoğan expressed regarding the recent developments that took place.
Criticizing the U.N. for sitting on the table with a terrorist organization, Erdoğan said that Turkey is preparing to warn the "competent" authorities on the issue.
"Regardless of its excuse, for the U.N. to deal with a terrorist organization in such a way, sitting at a table and signing a treaty as if it has a legal status is a scandalous action," he said. "The U.N. cannot sign up for such a scandal. It just cannot happen," the president said, expressing his disappointment over the incident. He also added that in his opinion, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is not a man who is likely to approve such a wrong act and indicated that Turkey has started an initiative to condemn the incident.
Virginia Gamba, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative on children in armed conflicts, met with YPG commander Mazloum Abdi, also known as Ferhat Abdi Şahin or Şahin Cilo, who is on Turkey's most-wanted list, and signed an agreement over the weekend in Geneva.
The so-called agreement aims to end the Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF) use and recruitment of individuals under the age of 18. The group has been long known to recruit and use children between the ages of 11 and 18 in its ranks.
The YPG, which works under the label of the SDF, is the Syrian branch of the PKK that is a designated terrorist organization in Turkey, the EU and the U.S.
High-level U.N. officials told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they were not informed about the controversial deal with the terrorist group. Also, the agreement was signed on Saturday with the participation of a few attendants when the U.N.'s Geneva office was on a break over the weekend.
Ankara in touch with legitimate parties in Libya
In terms of the developments in Libya, Erdoğan said that the number of countries that Turkey is ready to cooperate on the issue in the upcoming period increases each day, adding that this strengthens the country's hand in the North African country.
"[Gen. Khalifa] Haftar is nothing but a pirate there," Erdoğan expressed, underlining that the responsible party from the country, in accordance with international law, is the Government of National Accord (GNA), which Turkey is also in touch with.
Six Turkish nationals were abducted in Libya on Sunday by Haftar's forces in a hostile act. Ankara said it saw the action as banditry, warning that Haftar's forces will become legitimate military targets if they do not release the Turkish citizens. Following the announcement, the captives were freed on Monday.
While Libya was dragged into chaos after the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, who ruled Libya with an iron fist for 42 years until the Feb. 17 revolution in 2011, Haftar, a former Gadhafi officer, has been trying to destroy the Tripoli-based, internationally recognized GNA for months. His militia launched an offensive in April against the Tripoli-based government, seeking to capture Tripoli from the GNA but has so far been unsuccessful.
"We hope that in a short while, an opportunity for Libya to hold election emerges and the people take the chance to represent their rights democratically," the president added.