Turkish Ambassador To An-nahar: Solid Proof Of The Involvement Of Gulen In The Coup Attempt. To Support The Lebanese Security Forces, Cooperation And International Solidarity To Face Terrorism.

Beyrut Büyükelçiliği 22.07.2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's declaration of a state of emergency for three months in the country coincided with a calling by the Western countries of Turkish Ambassadors in order to explain in which “direction” Turkey is moving, particularly at the level of respect of the rule of law. While Ankara has considered the confrontations as “threats to Turkish democracy” the tug of war continue with the United States against the backdrop of Washington's refusal to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen who is accused by Ankara of being behind the coup attempt.

Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Çağatay Erciyes responded to An-Nahar's questions in this regard explaining the circumstances of the events in Turkey and calling for the support of the Lebanese security forces, cooperation and international solidarity in the face of terrorism more than ever.

Question: Did the Turkish Government manage to control the coup attempt?

Answer: Absolutely. Our President, Prime Minister, Government, Members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the Turkish people all together defeated this coup attempt in less than 24 hours and stood by democracy and the rule of law. I should also emphasize that the vast majority of the Turkish Armed Forces stood up against the coup attempt. Both the police and public prosecutors immediately took necessary measures to foil the attempt. Above all, it was the Turkish nation who thwarted the plot. They took to the streets, stood bravely in front of the tanks and reclaimed their democratic rights. The outcome was a victory of democracy by the Turkish people which I believe set a good example not just for our region but for the rest of the world.

Question: Do you have any proof about the involvement of Gulen that justifies Turkey’s extradition request from the United States? Did the investigation lead to identify the parties/groups behind the plot such as ISIS/PKK?

Answer: The request was made last Tuesday and the US has acknowledged its receipt. Yes, we do have solid proof that this coup attempt was staged by the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO). Now this proof has been further solidified and enriched with the foiled coup as it was the latest criminal act revealing the danger posed by FETO to the constitutional order in Turkey. We have been constantly exposing the real motives of this terrorist organization to our allies and partners. Fethullah Gulen, the leader of this organization should therefore be brought to justice and send back to Turkey as soon as possible.

Question: What are the reasons behind suspending the jobs/holidays of Turkish employees in public/private sectors?

Answer: Vacations of state personnel are suspended by the Prime Ministry following the coup attempt so that state institutions can fully function and provide public services without any interruption or delay. On the other hand, there is no such measure vis-a-vis the private sector.

Question: There are some allegations in the international media outlets related to the ongoing investigations.

Answer: During the operations to defeat the coup attempt, so far more than 7500 people have been detained and 218 of those have been arrested. The operations continue as more evidence unfolds from those who were captured and their victims. However, we see some unacceptable criticisms against the legal measures and investigations which imply that the principles of rule of law can be violated and political opponents can be treated arbitrarily. These criticisms are unfair. There should be no doubt that the process will be conducted in full respect to fundamental rights and freedoms and the rule of law, as prescribed by the Constitution.

Question: Could the detention of Turkish soldiers by Greece lead to an escalation between the two countries?

Answer: Certainly not. Turkey enjoys good bilateral relations with Greece. What happened was that a group of eight people involved in the coup attempt fled to Greece onboard of a helicopter that they stole. Prime Minister Yıldırım and Foreign Minister Cavusoglu have had telephone conversations with their Greek counterparts and necessary steps have been taken for the return of the suspects and the helicopter. The helicopter was returned and we look forward to the expulsion of the eight Turkish citizens from Greece as soon as possible.

Question: Is the coup related to the rapprochement between Turkey and Russia or Israel?

Answer: I cannot establish a direct link in this regard. It is true that the coup was staged at a time when Turkey had started to normalize its diplomatic relations with Russia and Israel but I believe that the coup attempt should rather be related to a desperate move of the members of FETO who penetrated into all Turkish state institutions, in particular the military and the judiciary. It should be noted that public prosecutors were preparing to take legal actions against them just before the coup attempt. This might have been one of the triggering factors for the perpetrators for the timing of the coup attempt.

Question: What are the repercussions of the incident on the relationship between AKP leaders? Army and the AKP? Islam and Secularism?

Answer: Some elements of the Air Forces, gendarmerie and armored units have joined the coup attempt noting that the command chain and the majority of the Turkish Armed Forces stood up against the coup attempt. The Turkish Army is the second largest in NATO with 600.000 active personnel and will become stronger after clearing the traitors from its ranks. The position, role and functions of the Turkish Armed Forces in the state structure is clearly defined in our Constitution. Therefore, the incident will not have any adverse effect on the relations between the Government and the Army as well as between the Army and the Turkish nation. Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state and shall remain so, no matter what. The way how the coup was foiled is a striking example in this respect. Throughout the process, despite their political differences, Turkish people, Turkish media, all political parties and members of the Parliament stood firmly to defend democracy and acted in full solidarity and unity.

Question: What are the repercussions of the incident on Turkey’s regional role especially in Iraq, Palestine and Syria?

Answer: This incident will not affect our positive and constructive role and our policies in the region. We will continue to advocate peace, stability and prosperity in our region. As regards Syria, we will continue to support a political solution and support the Geneva process and encourage the implementation of the UNSC 2254. We remain convinced that there is no alternative for a political change and transition in Syria.

Question: Is the unstable situation in Turkey linked to the unstable situation in Lebanon? Reports about possible confrontations between Hezbollah/ISIS? Fears from infiltration of terrorists among Syrian refugees?

Answer: Qualifying the situation in Turkey as unstable would not be fair. Had the coup attempt succeeded, then we would have faced with an unstable situation. I should also emphasize that the foiled coup will not affect Turkish Government’s efforts in its fight against terrorism, in particular against FETO, Daesh, PKK and YPG.

As regards Lebanon, Turkey attaches great importance to the unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty, stability and security of Lebanon. Therefore, we are concerned with the current political stalemate in the country and hope that the Lebanese parliament will elect a President as soon as possible. At this critical period in the region, the stability and security of Lebanon are very important. We also praise the intensive efforts of the Lebanese army and Lebanese security forces, in averting the terrorist threats. In this period, supporting the Lebanese security forces and international cooperation and solidarity in the fight against terrorism is more important than ever.

Interview with Turkish Ambassador: Rita Sfeir

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