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Interview of H.E. Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to France 24 , 24 September 2016, New York

Hello and welcome to the France24 interview, our guest today is the Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoğlu. Mr. Minister, thank you very much for being with us.

Q:Most of the discussions, here at the United Nations have centered around Syria. There have been many tense meetings, in public and in private. It seems that there’s no cease-fire, there’s no peace process. It seems the situation is more desparate maybe than it has ever been.

FM Çavuşoğlu: We met twice as the International Syrian Support Group. Unfortunately the agreement that we made before was violated several times by the regime and by its supporters. Sometimes, we agreed as the International Syrian Support Group, sometimes co-chairs Russia and US made the deal and we gave full support, but each time it did not work.

Now yesterday we got together, unfortunately there was no outcome. Everybody locked their eyes to that meeting, and there was no outcome of that meeting.Therefore we should continue actually to spend more effort to enhance the cessation of the hostilities and delivery of humanitarian assistance but this time it must be implemented.

Q:But we’re going to continue discussing. If the discussions, you have tense meetings with people shouting at each other disagreeing, what’s the point of continuing then? What’s the point of this group, supposedly to support Syria, the Syrian people are dying more and more while the truces are not being implemented at all?

FM Çavuşoğlu: You are right I am also frustrated and making deals, agreements with no implementation. Who is violating it? The regime and its supporters. So is there any leverage, is there any effective monitoring mechanism? No, I don’t think so. So who is going to stop this vicious circle and who is accountable for this unless the violators are accountable? Unless we have an effective monitoring mechanism, we cannot actually stop the regime and its supporters from violating all these cessation of hostilities and humanitarian assistance agreements.

Q:Who bombed this aid convoy the Europeans and the Americans said it was the Russians. Do you agree with that?

FM Çavuşoğlu: The regime and its supporters. Nobody else is flying, the opposition does not have aircrafts. It was not the coalition.

Q:But was it the regime or the Russians?

FM Çavuşoğlu: The regime and all supporters. There should be a clear investigation to find out who did it. Humanitarian aid convoys are bombed. Eight UN drivers are killed. We did a lot, we supported the UN actually a lot, all the trucks crossed our borders to the otherside. Many of them are still waiting because there is no guarantee that those trucks can deliver the humanitarian aid that we organized all together. So it is very clear that the regime and its supporters hit the convoy.

Q:You sent troops into Syria, you are also in favor of no-fly zone/ safe zone. How deep are you ready to go into Syria?

FM Çavuşoğlu: First, we should go down at least 45 kms to close Manbij pocket. And then this area can be a de facto safe zone, it is around 5.000 km2

Q:You don't want to go further than that?

FM Çavuşoğlu: Now our militaries are discussing to launch an operation against DEASH in Raqqa as well.


FM Çavuşoğlu: They are discussing, I don’t know when. It has to be prepared.

Q:But is Turkey going to attack Raqqa?

FM Çavuşoğlu: No, what do you mean attack? We don’t attack…

Q:You sent soldiers…
FM Çavuşoğlu: We attack DEASH, we have no problem with the Syrian people. We support the moderate forces fighting against DEASH, now the local forces regained their confidence and more and more new forces are joining the moderate forces of the opposition or the Free Syrian Army. We can help them, we can assist them, special forces of Turkey, US, UK, France, Germany and some other coalition countries actually support them on the ground but it is better that those local forces capture their own towns, as they did in Jarablus, as they did in Rai,and as they did in other towns and villages around. The local ownership is important. Later on when this area becomes a safe zone, they should continue ensuring the security of the region. Of course no-fly zone will also be very helpful to maintain this area as a safe zone so we can build the infrastructure, house, apartments for the IDPs and also for the refugees. Already thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey went back to Jarablus and other cities and towns around, because the life became normal over there.

Q:So you’re confident that, let’s say by the end of this year DEASH can be kicked out of Raqqa by this combination of special forces and those new soldiers. You think this can happen, this is a matter of will more than anything else?

FM Çavuşoğlu: What I believe is DEASH must be defeated both in Raqqa and also in Mosul and the militaries and the technicians should discuss the modalities of these operations, both in Mosul and also in…

Q:Is this what is happening right now?

FM Çavuşoğlu: I told you that they are talking.

Q:You went into Syria to fight DEASH, but also to fight some Kurdish groups in Syria which you consider terrorists. There is a slight problem however now there are reports that The White House is considering directly arming them. Apparently they’ve been already training, indirectly giving them weapons. Now there is consideration, probably pressure form the Pentagon because they say those are the best fighters against DEASH. I imagine this is a problem for you?

FM Çavuşoğlu: Look we are there not to fight the others but DEASH. If our aim was to fight those groups you mentioned, they are not the Kurds, they are the terrorist organization PYD/YPG. There are Kurds all over Syria, and different groups that PYD/YPG hates them…

Q:Yes but the Americans like them and they say they are the best fighters against DEASH…

FM Çavuşoğlu: So if our aim was to fight them directly we would have entered Syria from Kobani or somewhere else. Our aim is to defeat DEASH, but what we agreed with the Americans is that only few hundred YPG forces could pass the Euphrates River to the west for particularly the Manbij operation. According to our agreement immediately after the operation, they would go back. We found out that some of them are still there. Everybody has to respect the deal that we are making.Otherwise it does not make sense that we are in a coalition or we united our forces against DEASH. Secondly, relying on a terrorist group in our fight against another terrorist group is the biggest mistake…

Q:And arming them is…

FM Çavuşoğlu: And arming them is very dangerous and those arms given to those forces actually were sold by them to DEASH and other terrorist organizations. It also happened in Iraq, because of the economic situation. So we have to be very careful. We saw the success in for instance Jarablus and beyond. Why don’t we support them oderate forces who are fighting for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country. Those PYD/YPG are not fighting for territorial integrity of Syria. They are fighting to create their own Canton, possibly their own state. Are we for territorial integrity of Syria or are we for the division of the country? This is the question. Whatever the reason is, cooperating with a terrorist organization is not appropriate, is not acceptable. So United States is always fighting terrorism but in this case unfortunately, they are cooperating with a terrorist organization that is also attacking Turkey and the terrorists who are responsible for two suicide bomb attacks in Ankara came from those camps that United States is giving weapons. This is unacceptable.

Q:Another bone of contention between US and Turkey is the fate of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric. Turkey accuses him of being a terrorist, being behind the coup against the President a few months ago. The US for now does not want to extradite him. Are you hoping that the US will eventually agree and that he will indeed go to Turkey as he said he would if he is extradited?

FM Çavuşoğlu: We are not just accusing, we are 100% sure that this terrorist organization FETO is behind the failed coup in Turkey. Everybody including the United States know that him and his affiliates are behind this attempted coup. We ask the US to extradite him to us. Americans told us that they want to cooperate with us and they asked for evidences. We provided some evidences, evidences about the illegal activities he himself and his affiliates are directly, actively involved before the coup. Now we actually transmitted the evidences relating to the coup, evidences that he himself and his affiliates are behind this attempted coup. So the legal process has started, we are expecting fromUnited States, our ally and our model partner to finalize this process and to extradite him as soon as possible.

Q:When is as soon as possible?

FM Çavuşoğlu: Well the courts will decide it.

Q:But you are optimistic?

FM Çavuşoğlu: We are optimistic that such terrorists have no place in democratic societies. They have to be brought to justice.