In an interview with Daily Sabah's Ankara Correspondent Ali Ünal, Ahmet Davutoğlu clarified Ankara's stance toward the ongoing conflict in Ukraine's Crimea
Ahmet Davutoglu has served as Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2009. Prior to his appointment, Davutoglu was chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He also has a distinguished academic background and is the author of several books on foreign policy. His most prominent work, "Strategic Depth: Turkey's International Position," continues to serve as a reference in understanding the country's foreign policy approach and vision. Nowadays, Davutoglu has his hands full with key items, including the Syrian civil war, Cyprus reunification talks and a rapidly escalating crisis in Ukraine.
Daily Sabahcorrespondent Ali Ünal interviewed Ahmet Davutoğlu last week at the foreign minister's residence prior to his official visits to Bulgaria and Ukraine, where he met with the new government in Kiev, as well as the Crimean Tatar leadership.
Several media outlets alleged that Turkey supports al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria and that there are al-Qaeda bases inside Turkey.
How would you evaluate these allegations?
First of all, Turkey's policy in Syria is very clear and based on international law. There are certain claims and acquisitions without any proof and evidence. We have bases but these are humanitarian bases full of refugees who fled Syria because of the atrocities of the Syrian regime. There are more than 700,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey and 220,000 of them are hosted in our refugee camps. Nobody can show any single piece of evidence that Turkey has bases for any armed groups, especially al-
Qaeda linked groups. Those who want to cover up the atrocities of the regime are trying to give the impression that the Syrian regime is fighting against terrorist groups. In fact, those who support the Syrian regime support terrorist groups.
If they can claim that there is a base for any armed group inside Turkey, they have to prove it. Otherwise these claims will remain part of a conspiracy theory.
A few weeks ago Israel reportedly decided to create two militarized buffer zones inside Syria as a precaution against al-Qaeda and the Assad regime. Is Turkey planning to create a buffer zone inside Syria?
In fact, it is the responsibility of the international community to establish certain safe havens for civilians in Syria. Unfortunately, because of the inability of the international community to protect civilians people are being killed every day and all kinds of weapons are being used, including chemical weapons and barrel bombs.
Therefore, there is a need for humanitarian access and protection. Unfortunately, our call until now to have such a humanitarian strategy in Syria has not received a positive response from the U.N. Security Council and the international community. This is a humanitarian issue. The other issue is Turkish national security, and Turkey has the right to take any measures necessary for its own national defense and security. There is no state authority on the other side of our border any longer; there is no legitimate government anymore. There is a situation of chaos that has been created by the Syrian regime because of the indiscriminate attacks against civilians in cities and towns. Because of that power vacuum, now, some al-Qaeda linked groups have found a suitable atmosphere in which to function in Syria; and interestingly, there is strategic cooperation between the regime and terrorist groups.
They do not attack each other; both of them attack the moderate Free Syrian Army. If there is any threat to Turkish national security, we have every right to take any measures for our national security.
Israel-Turkey reconciliation talks are still continuing. Do we expect normalization in the near future?
After the Israeli attack on the flotilla, I mentioned certain conditions personally at the U.N. Security Council in the days following the attack. There were three conditions: one was an apology, the other was compensation, and the third was ending restrictions on Gaza. In March last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized. And for almost one year since that time compensation talks have continued.
In the beginning there was a huge gap in the approach of the two sides but this gap is getting narrower now. An end to the blockade of Gaza by Israel was also promised during last year's apology. Moreover, humanitarian aid is needed in Gaza and Palestine, but they don't have access to aid, especially after the military coup in Egypt.
Unfortunately, there is no humanitarian assistance to Gaza anymore, so this third condition also remains important for us in the normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations.
Cyprus Peace talks have resumed after a two year break. Is an energy issue at the center of the peace talks?
Energy is a new issue but the Cyprus issue has continued for more than half a century, therefore it should not only be about energy. Firstly, there is a need for peace on the island based on parameters which have been negotiated for decades. So all the parameters are clear and there is a framework for peace. Energy is an asset to bring peace to the island but all the energy around the island or on the island belongs to both communities.
Neither of these communities can claim sovereignty over these natural resources. If the main principle is agreed upon, these natural resources will be an asset for both sides of the island and may facilitate sustainable peace in the Eastern Mediterranean. Similarly, water coming from Turkey to Cyprus will also be a great asset for both sides of the island. So energy and water may help to establish peace.