By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal would start a problematic period in the region.
Speaking to the BBC’s HARDTalk program that was aired Monday morning, Erdogan said he did not find the latest decision by the U.S. administration to withdraw from the deal as correct.
“Continuity between states is fundamental, especially the agreements are the assurance of the international continuity,” he said.
Erdogan said a joint action plan was formed after the agreement was signed between Iran and five other countries as well as the U.S. and that action plan must be protected.
He also described the step taken by former President Barrack Obama and Iran to clinch the nuclear deal as a positive peace step.
About whether the U.S. would start a new arms race in the region following its decision on the Iran deal, the Turkish president said: “The U.S. has sent 5,000 trucks of weapons to Syria.
“[They] have sent 2,000 cargo planes of weapons.
“Why did those arms come here? A race of armament by the U.S. continued anyway at the moment and this means that the U.S. ignores 20 sensitivities in [this] armament race.
“As we do not find this step correct, of course, it creates disappointment with us.”
Erdogan said he favors peace.
“We are in favor of peace in the region. We find all steps threatening peace dangerous. It is not acceptable for us to approve this approach, which is threatening peace in the region.”
- Israel-Iran tensions
About the possibility that latest tensions between Iran and Israel may spiral out of control, Erdogan said nearly 50 missiles had been recently fired into Syria by Israel -- an action that was a kind of provocation and which could trigger a war in the region.
He added it was not possible to tolerate such a situation.
About reports of Israeli attacks on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards following attacks on Israeli positions in Golan Heights, Erdogan said such reports remained unclear.
He said he spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and “they do not accept such a thing; and this development is not a good one.
“Therefore, steps toward peace need to be taken fast. If steps toward peace are not taken, the future of the Middle East is pregnant with serious distress.”
Erdogan also said France, the U.S. and other countries possessed nuclear weapons and they take the possibility of another country’s nuclear weapons as a threat to the world while they themselves pose a great threat with their weapons.
- Russia-Iran cooperation
About why Turkey prefers to cooperate with Russia which backs the Syrian regime, Erdogan said he was still against Bashar al-Assad “but the tripartite steps we are taking with Russia and Iran are steps toward peace for Syrian people”.
Erdogan said it was not possible to take part in operations with the U.S., the U.K. and France in Syria.
“For example, the U.S. acted with a terrorist organization in Raqqah operation. We said ‘let us do it together’ but they did not do it with us. When they did not do it with us, we took that step with Russia who decided to act with us against terrorism.”
He said Turkey’s efforts in Syria is to destroy terrorist organizations such as the PYD/YPG, adding that Turkey would not allow such terror organizations to form a terror corridor in the region.
About chemical weapons used by the Assad regime, Erdogan said Turkey had shared its information on weapons used in the Douma attack with some other countries.
- Political solution in Syria
Underlining that Turkey was in favor of a political solution in Syria, Erdogan told the BBC there had been quite a few peace processes.
He said the Geneva peace talks could not manage to solve the issue and then the Astana process began.
The Turkish president added that more steps had been taken in Sochi with Russia and Iran, which would be followed by new meetings in Ankara and Tehran.
Describing the Syrian regime as a “terror regime,” Erdogan said Syria needs to get rid of that terrorist state.
- S-400 missiles
About the compatibility of S-400 missiles that Turkey purchased from Russia with NATO systems, Erdogan said Turkey would buy its weapons from where it can and reminded that the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made a clear statement on it, saying member states could buy weapons from any country they like to.
He said if Turkey is not allowed to buy weapons from the U.S. or from any other NATO country, it would get the weapons it needs from “wherever" it can find them.
“We have made such an agreement with Russia to buy those S-400s with the condition of joint production,” he added.
“We do not have any concerns on whether we should purchase [those missiles] or not. We have finished that business, we have signed [the agreement].”
- Elections in Turkey
Erdogan told the BBC that Turkey will hold its presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, following a constitutional change.
“Turkey is a state of law and all will work within this state of law,” he said.
He said Turkey will hold its elections with observers monitoring them and when the votes are cast, a winner will emerge.
“If we win again, everyone will respect it. If we can’t win, we will respect whoever wins, it is as simple as this,” he added.
About the possibility of losing the election, Erdogan said “they will put effort to win”.
“Why did you ask this question from us? Be relaxed, if we cannot win, the winners will be very happy. The West and you should be relaxed; especially the BBC should be relaxed.”
Erdogan said they will do their best to win the elections because “all our target is to bring Turkey over the level of developed civilizations and… to put Turkey in the most developed 10 global economies.”
- UK visit
Erdogan said he did not cancel his U.K. visit despite the election campaign since he had “promised” to visit.
He said he will meet the queen, Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to review economic relations between Turkey and the U.K.
Erdogan said there are good opportunities to further develop trade relations, which are at the level of $17B in the post-Brexit period.
“We are in a preparation about this issue as the leaders of Turkey and the U.K.,” he added.