Ankara has no problems with Berlin, Amsterdam or Brussels, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told journalist accompanying him on the presidential plane during his flight from Chad to Tunisia. He said there might be official visits to EU member states ahead as there have been positive signals and easing of strained relations between Ankara and EU countries.
"I always say it. Our aim is to minimize enemies and increase friends. We do not have any problems with Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium. Quite the opposite, the leaders there are my old friends," the president said in response to a question on recent remarks by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte encouraging positive relations with Turkey.Mark Rutte said on Dec. 23 that the "cold relations" between the Netherlands and Turkey should be fixed. "I think it would be good if relations with Turkey improved. Turkey is a NATO partner," he told Dutch daily De Telegraaf in an interview.
Gabriel had said that there were "clear signals of alleviation [of the tensions]" and that steps "in the right direction" were being taken after the release of German nationals who were arrested in Turkey amid recent terrorism related investigations. "We are making progress, step by step," he said.
Relations between Ankara and its EU allies have been strained, particularly after the July 15 coup attempt last year. Ankara says there has been a lack of support against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and its members, many of whom have sought asylum in Europe. In addition, the free movement of PKK sympathizers has also led Ankara to lose trust in its European allies. The PKK is recognized as a terrorist group, but its supporters are able to hold rallies in European cities freely as well as conduct recruitment activities and collect financial support.The president added that Turkey wants to have good relations with the EU and its member states.
Erdoğan also said that he recently spoke to some EU leaders on the Jerusalem vote at the United Nations General Assembly and that he expressed his appreciation for their support.
Cooperation with Sudan, Chad to increase
The president said that there have been more than a dozen agreements signed in Chad and Tunisia to boost cooperation in trade, education, investment and agriculture.
"We decided to establish a High Level Strategic Council with Sudan. It is important for both states," Erdoğan said, stressing the strategic positioning of Sudan among other African countries, as it has a large geographic area and nearly 40 million people.
The president also mentioned the welcoming approach of the people of Sudan and Sudanese officials for the Turkish delegation, saying it was exciting to see such dynamism. He added that there would be cooperation between Turkish and Sudanese universities.The current $500-million trade volume is not enough, and it should be elevated to more than $1 billion, the president said, encouraging Turkish businesses to increase investment in the country.He added that the Sudanese government has given access to Turkey for Suakin Island for development and revitalization by Turkish businesses.
In relation to ties with Chad, Erdoğan said there were seven agreements signed between the two countries. In addition, the Chadian government also transferred the administration of Gülenist Terror Group- (FETÖ) linked schools to Turkey's Maarif Education Foundation during Erdoğan's visit.
Erdoğan added that the Chadian government also requested the Presidency of Religious Affairs train Chadian clergy and that steps will be taken to increase cooperation. The president also said that a Turkish cultural center would be built on land that Chadian authorities will allocate. "It will be called the D'JNamena Turkish Cultural Complex. It will be an exemplary project in Africa," he said.
Statutory decree concerns actions on July 15-16 only
"On this issue, there are those who are debating what if the clause 'the acts committed during the July 15 coup attempt and terrorist acts and the acts qualified as the continuation of these acts' is interpreted while making decisions on future actions. In reality, it is clear what this adjustment is all about. As such, there were also four adjustment decrees made previously that include this clause. How come no one said anything about any of these adjustments until today?" the president asked.
The regulation in the new statutory decree released over the weekend, dictates that all official and unofficial individuals who took action in the name of resisting the July 15 coup attempt, terrorist attacks and activities that are the continuation of such incidents, cannot be subject to conviction in the event criminal complaints are raised against them in the future.The decree quickly drew harsh criticism from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which called an extraordinary meeting to discuss the issue.The president responded to the opposition, as well as former President Abdullah Gül's call for a revision of the decree, as it could create legal problems, underlining that the decree covers actions on July 15-16 only.
The decree is "very clear" and "we stand by it with determination," the president said. He added that if complaints emerge on its application in the future, then necessary adjustments would be made.The president said that statutory decrees, which are issued to hasten the legislative process, still must be discussed and approved in Parliament.