Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavu_o_lu has said that the biggest threat to Turkey’s national security is the foreign fighters who use Turkish territory to cross into Syria and Iraq to join the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“We have taken extraordinary measures to prevent foreign fighters crossing at the border and will continue to take extra measures,” said Çavu_o_lu in Doha on Sunday.
The foreign minister is visiting Kuwait, Qatar and Yemen this week to boost bilateral relations and exchange views on regional developments. Çavu_o_lu met with Turkish citizens living in Kuwait on Sunday at the Turkish Embassy in Doha and later held a press conference with Kuwaiti media.
Stressing that ISIL is a direct threat for Turkey, more than any other actor in the region, Çavu_o_lu said military strikes alone are not sufficient to defeat this brutal terrorist organization and the US-led coalition forces need a comprehensive strategy for that.
“As Turkey, we say there is a need for a ground military operation against ISIL. Then we hear slander about Turkey supporting ISIL. We suffered 30-40 years from a terrorist organization [Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)] There are no good terror organizations and bad terror organizations. Terror does not have a religion, faction or race and we are against all kinds of terrorism,” said Çavu_o_lu.
He stressed there is no one in Turkey who is a member of ISIL, but there are people who help foreign fighters cross into Iraq and Syria to join ISIL. Çavu_o_lu also said between 500 and 700 Turkish citizens have joined ISIL, according to Turkish intelligence.
Çavu_o_lu said Western criticism targeting Turkey on the foreign fighter crossing is not appropriate as there is no way for Turkey to know who is a terrorist or not, without Europe’s cooperation.
Criticism has mounted over Turkey’s failure to stem the flow of foreign fighters into its neighboring countries after Hayat Boumeddiene, a female suspect who was the partner of one of the attackers in the recent bloody attacks in Paris, entered Syria via Turkey on Jan. 8.
Seventeen people were killed in Paris in the al-Qaeda-linked attacks, including 12 people who were killed when two Islamist militants burst into Charlie Hebdo’s weekly editorial meeting last Wednesday and opened fire as a purported act of revenge for the paper’s past publications that included satirical images of the Prophet Muhammad.
Çavu_o_lu pointed out that Boumeddiene traveled from Paris to Madrid then to Turkey before going to Syria and Turkey had not received any warning about her from France or Spain.
When asked about why Turkey interferes with Egypt’s internal affairs, Çavu_o_lu said Turkey in principal is against any military coup and taking a position against a coup should not be interpreted as interfering internal affairs. He stressed that Egypt is an important actor in the region and its security and stability are important for Turkey.
Since the removal of Egypt’s first elected leader — former President Mohammed Morsi — from power in June of 2013 by former military head Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, President Recep Tayyip Erdo_an has been one of the strongest critics of the new regime, saying it has no legitimacy.
Erdo_an’s decision to take sides with Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) — which is considered a terrorist organization by Egypt and Saudi Arabia — has damaged Turkey’s relationships with the Gulf States as well.
Turkey and Qatar had joined forces to protest Sisi and questioned his legitimacy since he came to power in 2013. But Qatar’s recent move to reconcile with Egypt is a sign that under pressure from heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the tiny country is distancing itself from Islamist movements in the region, particularly the MB.
The timing of Çavu_o_lu’s visit to Qatar also coincides this week with a meeting between Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sisi.
“When there is injustice, we can’t remain silent. What they do in Egypt is damaging the stability of the country. The economy is in bad shape. Can they contribute to find a solution to the Palestine issue? They push people who ask for more rights under ground. And these people will become radicals. This is not good for Egypt’s future,” said Çavu_o_lu.
He also claimed that Egypt is adding any name to its terrorist list in order to protect the oppressive regime in the country.
During his visit to Kuwait on Jan. 17-18, Çavu_o_lu met with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah and other senior Kuwaiti officials. He is in Qatar on Monday and Tuesday this week to meet with Emir Al Thani and his Qatari counterpart, Khalid bin Muhammed al-Atiyah.
Following the Kuwait and Qatar visits, Çavu_o_lu is scheduled to go Yemen on Jan. 20-21