Turkey’s „Policy of Zero Problems with our Hinterland“ – some quotes

For many observers Turkey’s disastrous shredding of it’s „Policy of Zero Problems with our Neighbors“ is hard to understand. Here are some quotes.


In 2003, when I became chief advisor [to the prime minister], in one of the first interviews I gave I said, „We have to have zero problems with our neighbors.“ Many people thought, „Typical utopian academic. How, given the reality of Turkey’s relations with its neighbors, can you achieve this?“ And, in the last eight years, under the leadership and political stability of Prime Minister Erdogan, it has been proven that it’s not a utopian idea. It is a reality today; nobody expects any crisis between Turkey and any neighbor. … If you want to contribute to regional and global peace, you have to speak from within. You should not impose. You should not dictate. (Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Foreign Policy, 2010/11/29)

Turkey trained army dissidents on its territory, and a group of them announced the birth of the Free Syrian Army under the supervision of Turkish military intelligence.(Haytham Manna, Paris-based spokesman of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, on the foundation of the FSA in July 2011, in the Guardian, 2012/06/22)

„This is our final word to the Syrian authorities: Our first expectation is that these operations stop immediately and unconditionally … If the operations do not end, there would be nothing more to discuss about steps that would be taken“ (Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as quoted in the New York Times, 2011/08/15)

It is a fact that the list of problems grows longer with every passing day, be it with Azerbaijan, Iran, Syria, Cyprus or, last but not least, with Israel. … It is clear that there is a problem; however, the real reasons for this problem are not simple to demonstrate. It is also necessary to ask why Turkey’s neighbors have rejected the “zero problems” approach and forced Turkey to become a threatening country. … Ankara asked Tehran to let Syria go. Turkey was eager to help Syria join the international system, and if Iran had agreed to keep its hands off Syria, Turkey was ready to initiate a solid partnership with Iran. However, Iran … decided not to cooperate with Turkey in this game. In other words, Iran … did everything possible to disrupt Turkey’s policies. (Prominent Turkish columnist Beril Dedeoglu in Today’s Zaman, 2011/10/07)

Our connection with Syria is not only connection with Syria, but it is a connection with South Arabia, Egypt, Jordan; so all these politics and economics are interrelated. … After the Thirty Year Wars in Europe, we had Westphalian peace, Westphalian order which started nation states, nation level economy, politics and the consequences of this emerged parallel to this process. There was a war and after the war there was a new order. After Napoleonic wars, we had the Congress of Vienna. There was a new setting. … After the First World War, there was the League of Nations, a new setting and there were Anglo and Frank blocks of colonial economies. And the end of continental empires including the Ottoman, Austria-Hungarian and Russian Empires. After the Second World War, again after a war, there was a new setting which was United Nations. … Suddenly Iraq and Syria, Syria and Lebanon, Egypt and Libya, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, they became separate national entities. Now after the cold war, it was a war like Thirty Year Wars, Napoleonic Wars, First World War; Cold War was a war in different parts of the world and the continents almost half a century. After the Cold War, there was a need of restructuring. Politics in every country, restructuring of regional politics and restructuring of global politics. But unfortunately, from 1989 until now almost after 22 years, today we did not have either a congress like Vienna Congress or a treaty like Westphalia Peace or a new organisation like the League of Nations or United Nations, what we tried to do was to reform the United Nations, but it was not completed. … Turkey wants to play a much bigger role in the United Nations. … Why? Because if you take the agenda of the United Nations, if you have ten agenda of United Nations Security Council at least eight or nine of them are directly related to Turkey. … We are claiming or we want to make Turkey in one of the first ten country big economic powers in 2023. The question is, I asked the same question in Turkey, which countries will be the other nine. All the other nine countries except one are continental powers. Not optimum scale nation states. Like the USA, it is a continent. Even Texas is bigger than Turkey. … How can we challenge this? Only with one mean; human power. We do not have natural gas like Russia. We do not have big geography like China, like the USA or Brazil. We do not have huge population like China or India. But what we have is a very self-confident manpower. … Why we are implementing exemption of visa? Because we want our economic borders, frontiers bigger than our political frontiers. … Therefore to these very respected distinguished investors, I want to give this picture, just to make sure that none of our economic objective is without base. There is always a preparation and when you invest Turkey, you will see a zone around Turkey, not only Turkey. When you look at Turkey, do not see only a country with 786.000 square kilometre. But you see a hinterland; you can see where you can reach from Istanbul. … They are claiming that we are not implementing the principle to Syria. In fact, we are implementing this principle. I know as a somebody who knows psychology, even in the families, you cannot have zero problems. … Yes, today we have problems with Syria. … It is not because of us. … The continuation of this regime will create much bigger problems not only for Syria but for all the regimes, for all the regions around us. So this policy of reintegration I am saying not integration, reintegration with our neighbours will continue. Antep and Aleppo, Edirne and Plovdiv or Filibe, Istanbul and Selanik, İzmir and Athens, Rize and Batumi will be reintegrated. This is our strategy. (Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, at the Turkey Investor Conference: The road to 2023 organized by Goldman Sachs, 2011/11/22)

For the welfare of your own people and the region, just leave that seat … If you want to see someone who has fought until death against his own people, just look at Nazi Germany, just look at Hitler, at Mussolini, at Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania … If you cannot draw any lessons from these, then look at the Libyan leader who was killed just 32 days ago. (Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan via TV to Syrian’s president Bashar Al-Assad, as quoted by Huffpo, 2011/11/22)

Washington called the vote „laughable,“ while at a news conference in Istanbul, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said conditions surrounding the referendum (on the new constitution in Syria) were unrealistic. (The Independent, 2012/02/26)

Turkey recalls ambassador to Syria and closes embassy (The Independent, 2012/03/26)

„Bashar is losing blood each passing day“ (Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Syrian in the Turkish town of Kilis, on the eve of Syria’s parliamentary election, won by the Baath party led by Bashar Al-Assad with a 2/3 majority, as quoted by Al Arabiya, 2012/05/06)

For instance, the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP), a project supported by Turkey and the EU, is an example of trying to do their best to direct natural gas from Azerbaijan and Central Asia to the West circumventing Russia. … The Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline has become a new project to take the Nabucco’s place. The agreement to build it was signed by Turkey and Azerbaijan in Istanbul on June 26. The estimated cost is $7 billion. The pipeline line is to go from Azerbaijan to the Turkish borders with Bulgaria and Greece. The planned capacity would be 16 billion cubic metres (570 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per year: 6 to Turkey and 10 to Europe. If constructed, it would transport gas from the Azeri Shah Deniz-2 gas field. It’s obviously not enough to compete with Gazprom, so, reportedly, the capacity may go up to 60 billion cubic metres in future. … The projected capacity of 60 cubic metres makes one stop and think. Initially Turkmenistan guaranteed to fill the half of Nabucco’s capacity, that is around 15 cubic metres a year. That’s what is unclear in principle: either the export capacities of Ashgabat and Baku are to suddenly substantially increase exceeding what has been declared so far or the TANAP designers count on other gas sources. Isn’t it Iran that is considered to become a resource base as a result of an operation aimed at “changing the regime”? (Aleksandr Shustov in Strategic Culture, 2012/09/09)

We are not interested in war, but we’re not far from it either. … Those who attempt to test Turkey’s deterrence, its decisiveness, its capacity, I say here they are making a fatal mistake. (Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as quoted by Reuters, 2012/10/05)

Syria is becoming the „worst-case scenario that we’ve all been dreading.“ (Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul as quoted by Al-Monitor, 2012/10/09)

An Israeli or Western intervention in Iran would make Turkey the strongest actor in the region, and the question is whether this is a desired outcome for the rest of the world. … A power struggle is occurring in the most strategically important region in the world; and the real issue in this situation is the development of plans to prevent the rise of Turkey. … Iran will be responsible if tension escalates due to the provocations of Syria. … I wish a prime minister of this country had tended to the creation of a national defense industry five decades ago. That way, we would not need the help and support of Israel and the US in the field of defense and in the fight against terrorism. (Prominent Turkish columnist Hüseyin Gülerce in Today’s Zaman, 2012/10/10)

It should be obvious by now that there is a pro-war lobby in the Turkish capital, one that is itching for a major confrontation with Syria and one that also has considerable influence over the government decision making process. … Now that war powers are already in place for the government, obtained by its parliamentary majority, there is practically nothing that will stop this government from declaring a war against Syrian regime. … I am sure the war lobby would not mind to have a major provocation as a pretext to rally the public behind the conflict with Syria at some point. (Prominent Turkish columnist Abdullah Bozkurt in Today’s Zaman, 2012/10/12)

A longer German article explaining the disastrous and treacherous Turkish foreign policy exposed in these quotes will follow soon. So long, read harbor master Davutoglu’s colonial „hinterland“ speech at Goldman Sachs. Read it twice if you don’t get it first time.