Ambassador of Turkey in a Special Interview with BNT
Turkey's ambassador to Bulgaria gave a special interview to the BNT, discussing the Turkish operation in Syria.
H.E Dr. Hasan Ulusoy talks with Tsvetelina Yordanova.
Your Excellency, what is the purpose of the Turkish military operation in northern Syria and what do you expect it to be?
H.E Dr. Hasan Ulusoy, Turkish Ambassador to Bulgaria: The anti-terrorist operation, which Turkey launched on October 9, is on the principle of legitimate self-defense and protection of national security. The goal is to clean up the area in northeastern Syria, west of the Euphrates River from terrorist elements, and create a 30-35 km security zone in the area. This operation has a history. The Islamic State terrorist group was very active in northern Syria. In 2015, the fight against it included the Syrian wing of the Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization PKK, which in Syria is under the name of the People's Defense Force or the Democratic Union Party. From the beginning, we tried to explain, above all to our friends in the US, that they were the PKK's wing, that they were one and the same, but this did not change the understanding of one terrorist group to act against another in clearing the area.
Since the start of the current operation, posters and photographs of the PKK terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has been sentenced and imprisoned and the organic connection between the two organizations, have been uncovered in many places. Over the past year, the two terrorist organizations have jointly carried out more than 300 terrorist attacks on our territory or in border areas of Turkey. This is claimed to be a confrontation between Kurds and Turks. This is by no means true. This is a fight against the PKK Marxist-Leninist group and its branches in Syria.
The EU condemned the military operation, Washington imposed sanctions, how do you accept the reactions of the international community?
There will always be reactions. Imagine a country where almost every day at its southern border terrorist acts, border crossings, people die, young children are left behind by bombs. At the same time, separatist activities are taking place in the region, and territorial integrity is being attacked. Above all, millions of Syrian people fleeing instability and war are coming to the country - about 4 million people. In such a situation, what would the other countries do? I find unfounded fears that the fight against IS will weaken, as Turkey has so far neutralized over 4,000 fighters of this terrorist organization. Turkey is the only country fighting this organization on the ground.
Turkey will also assume its responsibility after clearing these areas in relation to foreign terrorists - those IS members who have been imprisoned and their families. From a legal point of view, it is appropriate for these terrorists to return to their countries. Also important is the return of their family members and their rehabilitation. Many of them came from EU Member States. I would like to emphasize here that, to my knowledge, there are no Bulgarian citizens among the foreign terrorist fighters.
How do you view Bulgaria's role in this situation and in the dialogue with the EU, for which our country insists and in view of tomorrow's EU Summit of EU leaders?
Our neighbor, friend and ally Bulgaria understands us very well, and we welcome it. The Bulgarian side is in favor of maintaining the dialogue between Turkey and the EU and is not positive about possible sanctions against Turkey. We are grateful as this is a sensible approach. Following the Security Council, a call was made to end Turkey's operation. One of the concerns is that a humanitarian crisis would arise that would create migration pressure. The opposite is actually the case, thanks to these operations, humanitarian crises are being reduced and by clearing these areas of terrorists, it will be possible, on a voluntary basis and in a safe way, between one and two million refugees to return to their homeland. And this will reduce migration pressure.
Will Ankara continue to comply with the EU refugee agreement and can Bulgaria expect increased migration pressure along its southern border?
I would like to reiterate that in this respect we have a wonderful cooperation with Bulgaria, which can serve as an example. Turkey will continue to comply with the agreement with the EU, as strictly as before, there is no doubt about it. But from the very beginning of this process, the EU has been a country that is not fulfilling its commitments in many areas - in the financial part, in visa liberalization.
Does Ankara intend to request the activation of Art. 5 of the Washington Treaty in the current military operation, and is there any reason for that?
This is an interesting question. The article 5 of the Washington Treaty has already been applied once in history in connection with the international fight against terrorism. As is known after the horrific Al Qaeda attack in 2001, our US ally relied on Art. 5 of the North Atlantic Collective Defense Pact. Following the call, allied countries, including Turkey, joined the operation in Afghanistan and gave the best response to the civilized and democratic world against international terrorism. With regard to the fight against terrorism, we expect from our friends and our allies a minimum of solidarity and understanding. If we can achieve this, getting our allies and friends to show solidarity with us will be a great success.
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