Diyar Guldogan: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday ruled out claims that his country is experiencing an axis shift.
“Some circles were trying to portray our foreign policy initiatives as a ‘shift of axis.’ However, Türkiye is not experiencing a shift of axis; it is strengthening its own axis by simultaneously having different diplomatic relations in the world on the basis of our national interests,” Erdogan said at parliament in the capital Ankara.
Located at the crossroads of three continents, Türkiye is significantly affected by global developments, he said.
“Türkiye does not have the luxury of closing in, isolating itself from the outside world and watching the events in its region by sitting on the fence,” he added.
Erdogan described Ankara’s policy as “constructive and active,” taking initiative in solving global and regional problems.
He underlined that Türkiye, does not “seek escalation” with other countries, nor would it “yield to pressure no matter where it comes from.”
“We strongly defend Türkiye’s rights in all areas with an honorable, patient, determined and prudent attitude,” he said, vowing not to harm the nation’s dignity.
About the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Erdogan said Türkiye had opted for peace, dialogue, and being a “fair referee.”
“Given our close relations with both countries, we preferred to strive to end the war instead of fanning the fire and inciting sedition,” he said.
Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine signed an agreement in Istanbul on July 22 to resume grain exports from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which paused after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in February.
“The UN, whose prestige has been shaken due to its inadequacy in the face of global crises, saw one of its greatest achievements in recent years through this agreement resulting from the intensive efforts of our country,” Erdogan said.
Also, he said, a recent prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine under Ankara’s initiative has moved Turkish diplomacy up to a “much higher league.”
“In our contacts on the occasion of 77th General Assembly of the UN, we were pleased to see the level achieved by Turkish foreign policy.
“We have personally witnessed that the steps taken by our country in the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the migration issue, humanitarian aid, the fight against terrorism and peacekeeping have won the appreciation of the whole world,” he added.
Türkiye calls on Greece to refrain from provocations
Turning to the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, the Turkish president stressed that it was home to two separate states and peoples.
Erdogan underlined that isolation and embargoes must come to an end on the island and that all promises on the international recognition of Turkish Cypriots must be honored.
He also reiterated Türkiye’s refusal to accept a recent decision by the US to lift an arms embargo on the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus.
“The encouragement shown to Greece, which is arming islands with non-military status in Aegean, goes against all reason, belief,” Erdogan said, adding that it also contradicts the “idea of alliance.”
The president said pursuing a policy of provocation and tension in the region would not be in anybody’s interest.
“On every occasion, we repeat that we know who unleash Greece on us once again after 100 years and that we are aware of the game that is being played,” he added.
Erdogan called on the Greek leadership to refrain from provocations that would lead it and its people to disaster.
Türkiye, a NATO member for over 70 years, has complained of repeated provocative actions and rhetoric by Greece in the region in recent months, including arming islands near Turkish shores that are demilitarized under treaty obligations, saying that such moves frustrate its good faith efforts towards peace.
Türkiye’s fight against terrorism
On Türkiye’s fight against terrorism, Erdogan said the country’s security forces, including its military and intelligence services, would “leave no stone unturned to fight terrorists.”
“We provided our security forces with the means and capabilities that will enable them to carry out their mission of fighting terrorism and protecting our country against regional and global threats,” he said.
Erdogan underscored that Türkiye’s strategy to preserve peace and security was to eliminate threats at their source beyond the country’s borders.
“We implement this strategy by saying that ‘we may arrive unannounced at night’,” he added.
The president said Türkiye would continue its efforts to destroy a “corridor” that terrorists are attempting to build along its border. He added that since Türkiye’s cross-border operations in Syria began in 2016, approximately 526,000 uprooted Syrians in Türkiye had voluntarily returned to the resulting safe zones in their country.
“As a country that has been fighting terrorism for nearly 40 years and has lost tens of thousands lives to terrorism, we are not in a position to make concessions to anyone on this issue,” said Erdogan.
“With our operations in Syria and northern Iraq, we have disabled separatist traitors,” he added, referring to members of the PKK terrorist group.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and EU — has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.
Türkiye ‘diligently’ monitoring Sweden, Finland’s efforts under NATO deal
Referring to Sweden and Finland’s bids to join NATO, Erdogan said Türkiye had clearly shown its commitment to the fight against terrorism during NATO’s most recent enlargement.
“We ensured that NATO identified terrorism as one of the main threats to the alliance in its New Strategy Paper adopted in Madrid. With the tripartite memorandum we signed before the Madrid summit, we created a record of our expectation in the fight against terrorism,” he added.
The president said Türkiye was “diligently” monitoring Sweden and Finland’s efforts to fulfill their commitments.
“The final decision will be made by our assembly (parliament) on behalf our nation. Until the promises made to our country are kept, we will continue our principled and determined structure,” Erdogan stressed.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in June, a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
However, Türkiye voiced objections to the membership bids, criticizing the countries for tolerating and even supporting terrorist groups.
A trilateral memorandum at the NATO summit signed among the countries in June stipulates that Finland and Sweden will not provide support to the YPG/PYD, the PKK’s Syrian offshoot, or to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) — the group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Türkiye.
Erdogan also said that a climate of diplomatic normalization had begun to make progress in Türkiye’s vicinity, the Middle East.
“Our relations with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel are developing on the basis of mutual interests, and a similar process is underway with Egypt,” Erdogan said.
He reiterated the importance of the Palestinian cause for Türkiye and that Ankara would always stand with the Palestinians.
Erdogan also voiced support for Azerbaijan, underlining that Türkiye was doing its part to ensure lasting peace in that country’s region.
“Through the special representatives we have appointed, we have demonstrated our will to take our relations with Armenia to a new level. Armenia should make good use of the peace opportunity we are extended,” he stressed.
Erdogan hinted at a possible meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in the Czech capital Prague, where the European Political Community Summit is scheduled for Oct. 6-7.
Turning to the economy, he said that, taking purchasing power parity into account, Türkiye was the 11th largest economy in the world and the fourth largest in Europe in 2021.
“Türkiye was one of the most fastest growing countries in the G20 even when the COVID-19 pandemic deeply shook the world economy,” he added.
He stressed that Türkiye had become one of the first countries in the world able to design, produce, and export its own defense industry products, including those for manned-unmanned aerial, land, and sea vehicles, as well as hardware and software.
Noting that Türkiye had discovered a total of 540 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves in the Black Sea, he said:
“We are gradually reducing our foreign dependency by investing in domestic and renewable energy production.”