Having inaugurated on Sept. 24 the Turkish Consulate General in the beautiful city of Miami, I would like to use this opportunity to express the recent developments in Turkey following the failed coup attempt in July and highlight some of Turkey’s foreign policy priorities in its region and beyond.
What happened on July 15 was a milestone for Turkish democracy. A group within the Turkish Armed Forces ruthlessly attacked Turkey’s democratic institutions and, above all, the Turkish people. They bombed the Parliament building while it was in session. They bombed the Presidential Palace. They tried to assassinate the president. Tanks rolled over the civilians who were protesting the coup attempt. Attack helicopters opened fire on unarmed citizens.
The Turkish people showed momentous bravery by taking to the streets against the plotters in defense of their democracy, rights and liberties. Their resolve saved our constitutional system.
The plot was thwarted, but the damage was unprecedented: We lost 241 citizens, mostly civilians. More than 2,000 people were wounded.
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We have solid proof that this coup attempt was staged by a clandestine terrorist organization (FETO), led by Fetullah Gülen residing in Pennsylvania. Many of the plotters have confessed to being members of FETO, and we have also recovered communications between military plotters and Gulenists, including telephone records, which show orders to support the coup attempt and discussions on when to fire on innocent civilians and bomb occupied buildings.
Turkey is determined to bring the perpetrators of this coup attempt and their mentor to justice. To this end, the provisional arrest warrants and files for extradition of the leader of this terrorist organization were transmitted to U.S. authorities. Our expectation is a swift and favorable response to our request from our ally. At the moment, this is the most sensitive issue in our relations with the United States.
The foiled coup attempt perpetrated by Fetullahist terrorist organization is not the only terrorist threat Turkey is facing. There has been a horrific tragedy in Turkey’s immediate neighborhood for the last five years. The conflict in Syria threatens not only regional stability but also poses serious challenges for international security. Syria has become a breeding ground for terrorism, mainly by DAESH, but also from PYD/YPG/PKK. Operation Euphrates Shield showed Turkey’s determination and ability to clean its borders of terrorist organizations. However, to eliminate DAESH completely, the conflict in Syria must be brought to an end.
Turkey wishes to see a stable, united, democratic and prosperous Syria. There is a need for a genuine political transition. However, the regime and its supporters continue to bomb the opposition and the civilians alike. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians are under siege. The international community should exert more pressure on the Assad regime. A previous ceasefire collapsed because of the regime’s continuous violations. Now, in the short run, an enduring cessation of hostilities and the regular delivery of humanitarian aid are essential. Only then will a continuation of the political process be possible.
Extremism and terrorism are spillovers of the conflict in Syria. They threaten many countries. There is no difference between the terrorist attacks of New York, Orlando, Brussels, Paris or Ankara. Whether it is DAESH, the PKK/YPG or al Qaida, we have to show equal determination in fighting them. We in Turkey have been witnessing the most ruthless face of terrorism — not only that of DAESH, but also of the PKK/YPG. We expect our friends and allies — the United States, first and foremost — to act in full solidarity with us in fighting against terrorism.
Another byproduct of the conflict in Syria is the migration crisis. Turkey today hosts around 3 million refugees — including more than 2.7 million Syrians. This is the highest refugee number for any single country. There is an urgent need for genuine burden and responsibility sharing from the international community.
As regards to Turkey’s bilateral relations, the need for a close Turkish-Russian dialogue is obvious, given the global effects of regional issues. Recently, we normalized our relations with Russia, which were shaken after the undesired incident of the downing of a Russian plane in November.
The normalization process will not only positively affect the people and the economies of the two countries, but also will create a new synergy in solving regional problems and enhancing cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
We are also at a new stage in our relations with Israel. The agreement to normalize our relations that were downgraded following the Mavi Marmara incident was concluded this summer. This will serve well the future stability and security of the Middle East.
Turkey and the United States are indispensable allies sharing similar views on many global issues. Covering critically important issues, such as combating terrorism, energy security, nuclear non-proliferation and global economic developments in a broad geography, the Turkish-American partnership generates concrete and positive outcomes.
Now Miami stands to be a part of this multifaceted synergy.
This great and welcoming city is also home to more than 5,000 Turkish Americans.
We see many commonalities and potential for business ties. With the start of Turkish Airlines’ daily nonstop service between Istanbul and Miami, this city is now connected to the economic powerhouse of my country. We hope to establish a sister-city relationship between Miami and Antalya, my hometown and a great match for Miami from all perspectives.
Our consulate general in Miami will surely help to take Turkish-American relations yet to another level.
I invite all Americans to come and visit Turkey to discover its wonders and to enjoy Turkish hospitality.
H.E. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is Turkey’s minister of foreign affairs.