By Satuk Bugra Kutlugun
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said a reconciliation agreement between Turkey and Israel will likely be signed before parliament goes on recess next week.
Taking journalists' questions at Anadolu Agency's Editors' Desk on Wednesday, Cavusoglu said parliament’s approval of the pre-agreed deal was delayed due to last month’s defeated coup but that it will be done "as soon as possible."
"I think we will finalize the issue before parliament’s recess. Israel has met our terms, paving the way to normalize ties. Therefore, we must do this as soon as possible," Cavusoglu said.
Parliament, by the end of next week, will go on recess until Sept, 20, Justice and Development (AK) Party Group Deputy Chair of Mustafa Elitas said Wednesday.
Last month, Turkey and Israel agreed to normalize diplomatic relations following a six-year hiatus.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said that Tel Aviv had met all of Ankara’s preconditions for normalizing ties, which were severed in 2010 after Israeli commandos stormed a Gaza-bound Turkish aid vessel in international waters.
The attack resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists and left another 30 injured, one of whom succumbed to his injuries nearly four years later.
In the aftermath of the attack, Turkey demanded an official apology from Israel, compensation for the families of those killed, and the lifting of Israel’s Gaza blockade.
In 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced regret over the incident to Turkey’s then-Prime Minister (now president) Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Under the terms of the agreement, Turkey and Israel will exchange ambassadors and Tel Aviv will pay $20 million in compensation to the families of the 2010 flotilla attack victims.
Israel has also agreed to Turkey’s request to maintain a humanitarian presence in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
EU threats to end membership process
When asked about EU relations, after statements from several EU officials saying reinstating the death penalty would end Turkey's membership bid, Cavusoglu said the EU's attitude has affected the Turkish public’s view of the bloc "negatively."
"If the EU wants to lose Turkey, they should say it clearly," Cavusoglu said. "They should say 'we want to halt the negotiations,' not just threaten us."
Cavusoglu said there is no need for the EU to make "threatening" statements.
"We applied to be a member, and we want to meet the obligations to become one," Cavusoglu said. "We went through a deadly coup attempt, but instead of supporting our case, the EU threatens us with halting the membership process. Why would they do that? We need to see the point here."
Migrant deal at risk
On the EU migrant deal with Turkey being at risk, Cavusoglu said the EU reacted to the issue because "Turkey makes the rules and stipulates."
Turkey’s migrant deal with the European Union “will not be possible” any longer if Ankara’s visa-waiver demands are not met, according to both President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Cavusoglu.
"We need to implement the migrant deal and visa-waiver deal together," Cavusoglu said.
Signed on March 18, the Turkey-EU deal aims to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving conditions for nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal includes a 6 billion euro ($6.8 billion) aid package to help Turkey care for millions of refugees hosted in the country.
On EU statements that European Commission support for visa-free travel will come once Ankara fulfills "all 72 of the criteria listed in an EU framework," including changes to the terrorism law, Cavusoglu said, "We told them clearly that a change in our anti-terror law is out of the question under these circumstances."
Cavusoglu said. "We saw this recently with the [defeated coup by the] Fetullah Terrorist Organization [FETO]. Before that there were bombings in Istanbul and in Ankara."
Cavusoglu said Ankara "needs a road map" for the four other criteria Turkey is supposed to meet.
"We are looking for a decision on the issue. [The EU should] announce the deal on the four criteria that you left to the European Commission, and let us decide on a road map," he added.
According to the EU, Turkey must revise its “legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards" in order for visa liberalization for Turkish citizens to enter into force.
But Ankara has firmly rejected any such change, stressing that it is not realistic to expect such changes at a time when Turkey is fighting terror organizations such as the PKK and Daesh.
FETO contact with foreign soldiers
Asked if any foreign soldiers had been in contact with Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) members during the defeated coup, Cavusoglu said he is only aware of what happened at Incirlik Air Base.
Investigators found that tanker aircraft took off from Incirlik Air Base in Adana, southern Turkey – where foreign personnel are also stationed – to refuel warplanes controlled by pro-coup soldiers that were involved in bombings in Ankara.
"The top military official along with other officers at Incirlik Air Base have all been arrested," Cavusoglu said. "Other than that, a very thorough investigation is underway."
Cavusoglu also stressed that Turkey continues its fight against terrorist organizations.
"We see that the PKK, FETO's blood brother, has stepped up its attacks. We get back at them and continue our fight," Cavusoglu said.
The PKK – listed as a terrorist organization also by the U.S. and the EU – resumed its 30-year armed campaign against the Turkish state in July 2015.
Since then, over 600 security personnel, including troops, police officers and village guards have been martyred and more than 7,000 PKK terrorists killed or neutralized in operations across Turkey and northern Iraq.
Restored ties with Egypt unlikely for now
Asked if there have been positive developments in relations with Egypt, Cavusoglu said Turkey's aim is to make more friends, "not causing problems, but resolving them."
"We want to develop our relations with Egypt. We did not want our relations to sour but there was a souring in relations after the coup attempt," Cavusoglu said. "Egypt's security is facing serious threats and its economy is going through a serious crisis. If there were no country aid today, the whole country would collapse. We don't want that kind of an Egypt, we want a great Egypt."
Cavusoglu also stressed that Turkey and Egypt could go back to the “old days” in relations, but it "will not happen soon."
‘Erdogan effect’ in the fight against Daesh
Cavusoglu also stressed the effect of President Erdogan’s actions in the fight against terrorist group Daesh.
"Why is Daesh our enemy? Because we cut off their channels, because we stopped their foreign terrorist fighters from moving through Turkey," he said.
Cavusoglu said Daesh is trying to exploit Islam, a religion of peace. President Erdogan repeatedly rejected Daesh being a representative of Islam, he added.
"Erdogan's role is important in preventing people from joining Daesh, destroying the terrorist group's ideology," Cavusoglu said.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.