President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a speech at AK Party’s Parliamentary Group Meeting.
Touching upon his recent visit to Vatican City State and Italy, President Erdoğan underlined the importance of his visit to the Vatican in that it has been the first visit from Turkey to the Vatican since the presidency of Celal Bayar 59 years ago and added that they held a comprehensive and mutually beneficial meeting with Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of the Catholic world.
Noting that they exchanged views on regional and global issues, especially the issue of Al-Quds, President Erdoğan said they saw during the meeting that Pope Francis attaches special importance to close cooperation with Turkey. The President further stressed that he shared with the Pope his concerns over the rising Islamophobia, cultural racism and xenophobia in Europe. Drawing attention to the solidarity displayed in the face of the U.S. decision to recognize Al-Quds as Israel’s capital, President Erdoğan recalled that the U.S., in a sense, had been rejected as a result of the 128 votes at the UN General Assembly. President Erdoğan added that their visit to the Vatican provided them with an opportunity to once again convey at the highest level Turkey’s sensitivity about the unfounded Armenian allegations.
“TURKEY-ITALY BILATERAL TRADE VOLUME SHOULD BE INCREASED”
Reminding that he proceeded from the Vatican to Italy, where he met with President Sergio Mattarella of Italy and received Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, President Erdoğan, with regard to his talks in Italy, said: “During our meetings, we had a chance to evaluate our bilateral relations in a wide range of areas including economy, investments, defense industry and education.”
Emphasizing the importance of cooperation between Turkey and Italy in such fields as military, economy, politics, culture and trade, President Erdoğan continued: “Currently, our bilateral trade volume stands at 20 billion dollars. Is it enough? No, it isn’t. Italy, with a population of 60 million, and Turkey, with a population of 80 million, have a total population of 140 million. I am of the belief that, the trade volume of such a population, which is 140 million, should also be much higher. On the other hand, it is Italy with whom we have taken the most determined and serious step in defense industry. As you know, we are manufacturing Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland, or ATAK helicopters by its other name, jointly with Italy.”
“I THANK POPE FRANCIS AND MY COUNTERPART MATTARELLA FOR THEIR HOSPITALITY”
Describing Italy as one of the countries with which Turkey enjoys the strongest trade relations, President Erdoğan expressed his belief that these relations will further improve, and said that they, as part of his visit to Italy, also came together with the representatives of the leading Italian companies which have investments in Turkey. The President continued: “I am very pleased since we had a very beneficial and successful visit. I hereby once again thank Pope Francis and my counterpart Mattarella as well as all the relevant officials for their hospitality.”
“WE ARE ONE OF THE UNIQUE NATIONS OF THE WORLD WITH OUR NEVER-ENDING STRUGGLE IN OUR REGION”
President Erdoğan also touched upon the latest developments in Syria. Noting that Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s Afrin, which Turkey launched on January 20, is continuing successfully, President Erdoğan said: “We are a nation which is thousands of years old. We are one of the unique nations of the world with the states we have established, with the civilization we have been leading, and with the never-ending struggle we have been waging in our region. Those who equate Turkey with the marauders they have brought together under the pretext of a so-called fight against DAESH have slowly started to see which one is a real state and which one is a band of gangs. We are a patient nation and a patient state. We don’t refrain from doing everything in our power for the security and prosperity of our friends as well as for our own prosperity and security.”
“NO COUNTRY OR ORGANIZATION CAN QUESTION TURKEY’S STRENGTH AND RESOLVE ANY LONGER”
President Erdoğan stated: “We cannot actualize our claims unless we move our country forward in every field from foreign policy to economy, education to healthcare, defense industry to agriculture in a balanced manner. Should we fail to do so, we only become one of those farcical states many examples of which are seen in history. If today Turkey is able to display a strong will on any issue, this is thanks to our belief and confidence in our own capability to make that will come true. We have proved this in economy, in diplomacy, in the fight against terror. We have proved this in Operation Euphrates Shield and in Operation Olive Branch. No country or organization can question Turkey’s strength and resolve any longer.”
Underlining that the operations in Afrin will be continued determinedly, President Erdoğan said: “It will continue with Idlib. They are asking us, ‘When will you end it?’ What do you mean by asking that? I ask the following to those who ask us when we will finish it: When have you finished your operations in Afghanistan? When have you finished your operations in Iraq? It has been 18 years and you are still there. You yourselves don’t have any such issue. You are not neighbors, you don’t share borders. What business do you have there? We, on the other hand, share a 911-km-long border. We have come under harassment fire across the border from Syria more than 700 times so far. We have more than 100 martyrs. Does the U.S. hear or see all this? They have told us lots of things but unfortunately they haven’t told the truth. Mr. Obama didn’t tell the truth, either. And Mr. Trump is also on the same path. They told us the following: ‘We will pull out of Manbij. We will not stay in Manbij.’ Actually, 90 percent of Manbij is comprised of Arabs. But why are you staying there? Why don’t you pull out? Whom have you brought to there? The PKK. You bring and settle them there but still tell us not to come to Manbij. We will come to Manbij to hand it over to its true owners. This is our difference.”
“DON’T COLLABORATE WITH TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS”
President Erdoğan, addressing the U.S., continued: “Don’t collaborate with terrorist organizations. If there is anything to be done in this region, then do it with Turkey, your NATO partner.”
Underscoring that the problem is not with the Kurds in the south, but totally with the terrorist organizations, President Erdoğan stated that these terrorist organizations are PYD, YPG, PKK and DAESH, and continued: “The U.S. says that it has cleared out DAESH. If so, why are you still here? You are sending 5 thousand truckloads of weapons and ammunition. You are sending 2 thousand plane shipments of weapons and ammunition. Where are you sending all this to? What business do these have in Northern Syria? Why are you sending them? Please answer these questions. If you say you are sending them for the fight against DAESH, then don’t expect us to believe. We don’t buy it.”