President Süleyman; Demirel on the implications of an Erbakan government, the
PKK and relations with the EU and Greece
What does an Islamist government mean for Turkey?
Our law forbids pro-religious parties; 99 per cent of Turks are Muslim, and
definitions such as Islamist and non-Islamist are not realistic. According to our
constitution, Turkey is a secular, democratic and lawful social state. All
political parties, including the Welfare Party, comply with these constitutional
principles. It is not possible to retreat from the constitutional, pluralist and
democratic regime or to alter the basic characteristics of the administration, no
matter which party comes to power. The principle of the separation of powers has
been fully adopted and the system of democratic checks and balances is
established and working in Turkey. There cannot therefore be a pro-religious
party or government in Turkey. The continuation of Turkish democracy is
guaranteed. All Turkish citizens enjoy political equality and are first-class
citizens. I am against the notion that the political preferences of our people,
shaped within the framework of democratic principles, can cause harm. I think
that those who have such misconceptions are far from understanding the
fundamental principles of democracy.
The landing of Greek troops on Kardak island in January is the latest in a series
of confrontations between Greece and Turkey. Given the history of animosity
between the two countries, do you see a resolution of the disputes between you in
the near future?
I want to be optimistic. I sincerely believe that the fundamental interests of
Greece and Turkey lie in co-operation, not confrontation. The ultimate aim of our
two countries must be to bring comprehensive and lasting solutions to their
differences. We should be able to discuss our differences on a basis of mutual
trust for each other's legitimate interests. We should show the necessary
willingness for compromise.
With these considerations, we are calling on Greece to enter into negotiations
without any preconditions and with a view to settling the Aegean question as a
whole. When it comes to other peaceful means of settlement which could be
considered appropriate by both sides with respect to the special nature of the
Aegean disputes, Turkey does not rule out at the outset any method based on
mutual acceptance. We hope that Greece will reciprocate.
The PKK insurgency in the south-east continues, and is again likely to spread to
western cities this summer. How can this issue be resolved given that neither the
government nor the separatists is willing to compromise?
It is important to define correctly the nature of this struggle in order to draw
plausible comments on this issue. There is no insurgent movement in south-east
Turkey. The actions of the PKK cannot be considered those of an insurgent group -
they are not engaged in a popular struggle against an oppressor. The PKK
deliberately tries to create a false image that there is a war going on in the
south-east. It is deplorable that World Statesman has used such unfortunate
The PKK is a terrorist organisation and its indiscriminate violence has claimed
thousands of lives. Terrorist violence is not a valid or legitimate means to
achieve political aspirations or promote human or other rights. Turkey has
continued its struggle to combat the PKK for more than a decade. Turkey has
conducted its struggle against terrorism while committing itself to the rule of
law. Therefore, Turkey will never, ever negotiate with the terrorist
organisation. Turkey is determined to maintain its territorial integrity within
the framework of unitary-state structure by being loyal to the principles of
democracy, secularism and republicanism. Any compromise at all on these
principles is out of the question.
Spreading violence and terror in metropolitan areas of western Turkey is not a
new threat. The PKK has frequently repeated these threats since 1984. These kinds
of threats are a well-known tactic employed by the PKK and are aimed at damaging
the economy and public order. Turkish security forces have taken all necessary
measures to prevent the PKK from carrying out these actions. I would like to
assure the world community that Turkey is one the safest countries to travel to
in the world.
So, what ought to be done first and foremost is to put an end to PKK terrorism in
order to establish peace and order and to safeguard the fundamental rights of the
country's citizens - the right to live free of the threat of terror - and hence
to create the necessary conditions to foster further social and economic
development. The struggle that we are conducting against terrorism does not only
consist of military measures. PKK terrorism and the economic difficulties of the
south-east have to be differentiated. These economic difficulties have been used
as a propaganda instrument by the PKK. However, Turkey has launched a regional
development programme - one of the largest in the world - and investment
campaigns such as the GAP project, tax exemption and low-interest credits to
industry and agriculture in the region for two decades. The Turkish government is
also trying to promote the region's cultural richness.
What benefits will the Customs Union with the EU bring?
The basis of the Customs Union lies in reciprocal economic interest. In the long
term, there will be enormous benefits for both parties. First, the Union will
crown Turkey's process of integration into the world economy. It will help
rationalise and modernise Turkey's economic structure. Increased competition will
improve the efficiency of Turkish industry. The opening of the European market
will on the one hand raise Turkey's exports to the EU and, on the other, enable
Turkish industry to reach economies of scale. In conjunction with a more
efficient production structure, this will improve the international
competitiveness of Turkish firms.
The Customs Union is expected to give rise to an increased and easier inflow of
foreign direct investment and credit, which will help to modernise production
facilities and bring in crucial international know-how. This will enable Turkey
to take a more active part in the process of economic globalisation. All of this will translate into increased employment, which will improve the
country's socio-economic situation.
How successful have been efforts to forge links with the Balkan states and the
Turkic central Asian countries?
Turkey places primary importance on developing closer relations with all the
countries in the Balkans. We believe that these relations must be built on
friendship, mutual respect and non-interference in each other's affairs. These
basic principles are the cornerstone of Turkey's foreign policy. I believe that
this policy has proved to be a success in the past, and it will continue to be
the blueprint by which Turkish foreign policy will orient itself.
It is in this context that Turkey takes a special interest in the establishment
and preservation of peace and stability in the Balkans. We therefore closely
observe developments in the area and try to develop relations with all states in
the region. We have exemplary relations with Albania, Macedonia, Romania,
Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia. Our relations with Bulgaria, which became
strained as a result of the forced assimilation campaign carried out by the
Communist regime towards the Turkish minority, have improved following Bulgaria's
transition to democracy. We see the continuing high-level visits and increasing
contacts between the peoples of the region as a sign of healthy and positive
It is most unfortunate that the Balkans had to enter the new era of opportunity
in Europe with the tragedy of Bosnia. Now that peace seems to be gaining the
upper hand in the region, the time has come for concentrating on serious efforts
to establish strong ties between the states, thus preventing a recurrence of a
similar catastrophe. We urge all states to refrain from undertaking potentially
divisive actions and support all projects aimed at co-operation in the Balkans.
As for the Central Asian states, Turkey has strong historical, cultural and
linguistic links, and developing friendly relations and co-operation with these
states has been high on our agenda. We aim to support and contribute to their
efforts to strengthen their independence and sovereignty and consolidate their
During the past four or five years relations with the Central Asian Republics
have made great strides. We have signed more than 260 agreements in various
fields. Most of these agreements follow a pattern designed to facilitate these
countries' integration into the wider world by providing them with alternative
means of communication and transport as well as trade and economic co-operation.
Let me give you some details abut Turkey's multidimensional relations with the
Central Asian Republics. Turkish economic assistance and co-operation programmes
in the region, along with humanitarian aid, totals some US$1.5 billion. The
Turkish private sector is very active: around 400 companies are currently
involved in a wide range of investment projects worth a total of US$4.5 billion.
Almost non-existent in 1992, Turkey's trade volume with Central Asia surpassed
US$600 million in 1995.
Around 600 Central Asian students have studied in Turkey since 1992 under a large
scholarship programme. In the telecommunications field, equipment and technical
assistance have been provided for expanding Central Asia's radio links and
satellite connections with the outside world via Turkey. Turkey's state
television is transmitting programmes via satellite to the Caucasus and Central
Turkey took a leading role in anchoring the Central Asian Republics into the OSCE
system, with a view to facilitating the establishment of their nation states on
the basis of democracy and respect for human rights.
Do you see any prospect of a resurgence of ultra-leftist terrorism in the near
Turkey has been struggling for the past 25 years against terrorism, both as a
by-product of the Cold War and, more recently, terrorism undergoing mutation in
the post-Cold War era. Turkey was initially the deliberate target of Armenian
terrorist organisations abroad in 1973-85, and by ideological extremists intent
on altering the regime internally in 1965-90.
The extensions of the organisations representing the extreme left still exist.
For instance, Dev-Sol, which was quite active until 1980, has adopted a new name,
the DHKP-C, and in 1994 intensified its violence somewhat. While targeting the
security forces, DHKP-C has recently carried out terrorist attacks which could
have more of a public impact, namely the assassination of a prominent
industrialist and two of his assistants.
The extreme left terror organisations do not hesitate to collaborate with other
terrorist organisations and are involved in organised crime to finance their
The main objective of the extreme left is to mobilise people for an 'armed
struggle' against the regime, and eventually to change the regime. They are also
trying to create the false image that they are powerful and in control. However,
the Turkish security forces are taking all the necessary measures to prevent
To sum up, the extensions of extreme left organisations are still there, and
still misusing the fragile minds of young generations, although they are not as
effective as before.
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©Kensington Publications 1996