After years of disrupted ties, Turkey and Egypt have restarted diplomatic-level contacts, according to the Turkish foreign minister.
“We have contacts at both the level of intelligence and foreign ministries with Egypt. Diplomatic-level contacts have started,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Anadolu Agency and TRT in a joint interview late Thursday.
Noting that neither side put forth preconditions, Cavusoglu said since ties were derailed back in 2013, they cannot be mended quickly or easily.
He said a lack of trust is also normal in such situations and may exist for both parties.
“For this reason, negotiations take place and continue under a certain strategy, a roadmap,” Cavusoglu said.
He said that there used to be occasional talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry when they met at international meetings, including when they met in New York two years ago.
Since the ties were disrupted in 2013, there are no preconditions, but contacts are being held step by step, he said.
Afghan peace process
On the US proposal that the Turkish government hosts a senior-level meeting between Afghan government representatives and the Taliban in the coming weeks to finalize a peace deal, Cavusoglu said Turkey had been involved in the process since the beginning.
“We were one of the few countries invited to this signing ceremony, and we are one of the most important actors in Afghanistan,” he said.
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said the US intends to ask the UN to convene foreign ministers and envoys of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, and the US to discuss how to promote peace in Afghanistan.
Turkey is trusted by both parties in the talks, Cavusoglu said, and added: “Both the Taliban and the negotiation delegation, meaning the government side, had asked us to host such a meeting before.”
He cited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s meetings with his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation.
Cavusoglu said he also met with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban deputy chief and leader of its delegation, in Qatar last year after the signing of a peace deal with the US.
He stressed that Turkey would also appoint a special envoy for Afghanistan to contribute to the process.
Cavusoglu added that the meeting in the Turkish capital Ankara will not be an alternative to the Qatar process but a supporting one.
“We will do this in coordination with our sister nation Qatar,” he said, adding that the aim is to make the negotiation continue in a result-oriented manner.
Cavusoglu said he believes that Turkey will contribute significantly to the meeting, which is planned to be held in Istanbul in April.
Trilateral meeting in Qatar
On Thursday’s trilateral meeting on the Syria issue between Turkey, Russia, and Qatar, Cavusoglu said Doha wanted to take a more concrete step especially on the humanitarian situation on the ground.
“At Qatar’s initiative, we first held a meeting at the level of senior officials. Then we decided to hold that meeting at the ministerial level and we held this meeting,” he said.
Saying that steps will be taken on the delivery of humanitarian aid and education, Cavusoglu said that their aim is to bring stability, peace, and a political solution to all of Syria.
“This work is not an alternative to the Geneva process or the Astana [peace] process involving Iran or other processes, meetings in other formats but rather complementary to them,” he said, adding that the three countries have things to do on the ground and they convened for that purpose.
Stating that they have agreed to continue the new trilateral format, he said it will also continue at the level of senior officials.
The next meeting will be held in Turkey, according to Cavusoglu.
Turkey can mend ties with Saudi Arabia, UAE
Touching on new processes among Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar, Cavusoglu said such processes would benefit relations with Turkey as well.
“Recently, we see positive messages from Abu Dhabi. We see that the negative campaigns against Turkey have decreased,” he said, adding that Ankara already did not have any problems with the UAE but it had a negative approach towards Turkey.
Saying that Ankara also has no bilateral problems with Riyadh, Cavusoglu said that after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in fall 2018, Saudi Arabia made the case into a bilateral problem.
“Actually this was not a bilateral issue. It was a search for justice for the deceased and we said, ‘Let the perpetrators of the murder face justice and let justice be served’,” he explained.
“We have never accused the Saudi administration,” he said.
Citing his “fruitful” meeting last November with his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan in Niger, Cavusoglu said: “We agreed to continue the dialogue.”
“For us, there’s no reason for not mending our ties with Saudi Arabia. If they take a positive step, we will do so as well. The same goes for the UAE,” he stressed.
Visit to Somalia
On the election crisis in Somalia, Cavusoglu said: “It is important that all parties reach an agreement on the election issue in Somalia as soon as possible. All of them are our brothers in Somalia.”
He reiterated Turkey’s support for the consolidation of Somalia and said it is for the country’s benefit that the parties agree among themselves and take steps in agreement as soon as possible.
“In the coming days, we are planning a visit to Somalia to emphasize our support for the process. They also want us to come,” he said.
The Horn of African country hit a political stalemate after presidential and parliamentary elections were delayed and the president's constitutional mandate expired on Feb. 8.
Recent clashes between government forces and opposition protesters have claimed the lives of at least four people, including soldiers.
'Turkey didn’t discuss any S-400 model with US'
On discussions of the Crete Model to resolve the S-400 issue with the US, Cavusoglu said: “We haven’t discussed any model with Americans. We never talked about a model.”
The model refers to negotiations held in the Greek island of Crete for its use of the Russian S-300 missile system despite being a NATO member.
He said speaking about such issues over the phone is not right and added that all issues, including S-400 and YPG/PKK terrorists, should be resolved at the table.
Cavusoglu said a meeting between the Turkish and US leaders on the issue is likely to be held at a suitable time.
He recalled Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin’s meeting with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and said he also had a long and sincere meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“At the end, we agreed to sit down around the table and sincerely discuss all these issues that we think differently in a result-oriented and solution-oriented manner,” he said.
Chinese foreign minister due in Turkey
China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Turkey on March 25 as part of his regional tour, according to Cavusoglu.
“Bilateral relations, regional issues, and issues regarding Asia and Eurasia are at the agenda of the visit. Fight against COVID-19 and all issues on the agenda will be discussed,” he said.
Draft roadmap sent to EU, response awaited
Turkish President Erdogan regularly speaks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Cavusoglu, and noted that the leader’s latest talk with French President Emmanuel Macron was the “most positive” one to date.
He said Erdogan’s direct talks with the EU leaders are beneficial for taking concrete steps in some issues.
Cavusoglu recalled that Turkey and the EU agreed in January on working on a roadmap for enhancement of relations, and added: “We have sent them our proposal, the draft of roadmap. Now we are waiting for their reply.”
The roadmap sent by Turkey, Cavusoglu said, is actually a revision of the known issues according to today’s realities, and highlighted that Ankara has concrete expectations from the EU, such as updating the Customs Union, visa liberalization, updating the migration deal, and fighting terrorism.
He said the talks with the EU leaders and their foreign ministers have intensified and added that they will hold a phone conversation with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian next week at the latter’s demand.
“Next week, we will have a phone talk with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Then there is already the NATO summit,” he informed.
EU to stay as observer in Cyprus negotiations
“Everyone can contribute to resolving a problem, everyone can express their opinion as well. But in [Cyprus] negotiations, the EU is not a party and it should not be,” Cavusoglu said, citing the Greek Cypriot administration’s membership to the bloc.
“It became a member unlawfully, against agreements and international law. The EU has also totally taken sides with the Greek Cypriot side till today and ignored the Turkish Cypriot side’s rights, and the Turkish Cypriot side.”
He said that there were symbolic meetings, but in the end, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was ignored.
Stressing that it is out of the question for the EU to be a party to the negotiations, Cavusoglu said the talks are already ongoing under the UN, while the EU joined earlier meetings as an observer.
On the unofficial 5+1 meeting -- including both sides on Cyprus, the three guarantor countries, plus the UN, he said: “Its aim is to see if there is a ground for negotiation between the parties.”
He said especially the TRNC does not want the EU involvement in the meeting -- that is set to be held on April 27-29 in Geneva -- due to the trust problem.
“The EU shall not be offended by that because it is not a party,” he said, adding that if there is a ground for negotiation, the EU will again be an observer.
Recalling the 53-year-long efforts for a solution on Cyprus, Cavusoglu said there was no point in spending more effort on something that will not happen.
“Will it be the end of the world when there are two states? […] They should explain this to us,” he said, adding that realistic solutions should be put forward during the process.
The island has been divided since 1964 when ethnic attacks forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.
In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece’s annexation led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence.
The TRNC was founded in 1983.
The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year that Greek Cypriots thwarted the UN’s Annan Plan which aimed to end the decades-long dispute.
'Turkey not afraid of sanctions'
On possible EU sanctions on Turkey, Cavusoglu said: “They used the language of sanction in the summit in last October, we responded to it on the ground. They used positive language in the December summit, we replied positively.
“We are not a country that is afraid of sanctions.”
He noted that they know very well what Turkey’s response would be if they decide to imply sanctions, and added that Ankara does not even talk about it with the EU.
“We, as turkey, are already beyond that point. We are talking about how to enhance cooperation with concrete steps,” he stressed.
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