President Erdoğan: Russia's decision to recognise the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk Republics is unacceptable
President Erdoğan: "We intend to put this (regulation on electricity bills) into effect on March 1. This step demonstrates that we are listening to the voice of our nation. We will continue to provide solutions that will make our citizens feel more at ease.”
On his flight from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Senegal, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan answered reporters' questions about the current developments, saying, “We consider Russia’s decision to recognise the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk Republics unacceptable. We reiterate once again that we invite all concerned parties to act with common sense and abide by international law.”
Reiterating that his official visits are ongoing as part of his tour of Africa, which began on February 20, President Erdoğan stated that he first held fruitful consultations with President Felix Tshisekedi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
President Erdoğan stated that they had their third bilateral meeting with Mr Tshisekedi in the last six months and that they had strengthened the contractual basis of relations by signing three new agreements in various fields.
President Erdoğan recalled that they signed four agreements aimed at improving cooperation between private sectors, adding, “We have signed a total of seven agreements. We delivered to the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo 1 million 730 thousand doses of vaccine that we brought with us to help them fight the pandemic. We are also proud that this includes 130 thousand doses of our domestic vaccine, TURKOVAC. As we promised at the Third Türkiye-Africa Partnership Summit, a total of 15 million doses of vaccine will have been donated.”
President Erdoğan also provided details on his visit to Senegal, the second stop on his African tour, stating that they would attend the opening ceremony of the Dakar Olympic Stadium, which has 50,000 seats and was built in Dakar by Turkish companies, and that they would meet with visiting heads of state in Dakar, including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
President Erdoğan stated that his visit to Guinea-Bissau, the final stop on his Africa tour, would be historic because it would be the first visit to the country by a Turkish president.
President Erdoğan also stated that he would comprehensively discuss the bilateral ties with President Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea-Bissau and continued as follows:
“As you know, there has been a coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau recently. Thanks to Embalo’s skilful leadership, this nefarious attempt was eliminated. As Türkiye, we do not accept the illegitimate attempts aimed at overthrowing the elected governments. We have repeatedly expressed our clear position on this issue, and we are determined to continue to do so. Our visit to Guinea-Bissau will demonstrate the significance we place on bilateral relations as well as the will of the people. Our Guinea- Bissau embassy is expected to open soon. Following the opening of our embassy, our relations will accelerate in a variety of areas.”
"We aim to increase the trade volume with Africa to $75 billion"
President Erdoğan recalled that his African tour was his second comprehensive visit to the continent in less than four months.
President Erdoğan stressed that they thus demonstrated that Türkiye, which has had long-standing ties with the continent over a thousand years, is Africa's partner in destiny, and said:
"Our visits also enable us to follow up on the decisions we made at the Third Türkiye-Africa Partnership Summit on the ground. We can see the benefits of our enhanced ties with Africa, particularly in terms of trade and investment. Despite the pandemic, our trade with Senegal increased by 42 per cent to $540 million in 2021. In comparison to the pre-pandemic period, we have also doubled our trade with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our contracting companies have signed 1,700 projects for up to $78 billion across Africa. Our continent-wide investments have exceeded $6 billion. Our overall trade with the continent increased from $5.4 billion in 2003 to $35 billion in 2021. This sum, I believe, will expand to $50 billion and eventually to $75 billion in the coming years. By virtue of the common goals established during the visits, I hope our partnership with the three nations, particularly our economic relations, will gain traction. I wish our visits to yield auspicious results.”
When asked about his observations and expectations regarding his Africa trip, President Erdoğan noted that Türkiye is working to contribute to Africa's development on a win-win basis and to benefit everyone through increasing bilateral trade volume.
President Erdoğan stated that the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the tour's first stop, is an extremely vast country with a surface area of 2.3 million square kilometres and a population of 90 million people and that the country possesses rich underground resources.
President Erdoğan reflected on the country's vast underground metal resources, which span from copper to diamonds, saying:
"Despite this, I'm perplexed as to why the Democratic Republic of the Congo hasn't made a greater leap forward. Unfortunately, this is Africa's ill luck and destiny. We'd always heard about how the West was robbing Africa blind. However, when you come and witness it on-site, you are then truly devastated. The conditions of the people we encounter on all travel routes serves as an indicator here. The situation is as clear as day. Couldn't the West have done something helpful for this region thus far? They've been coming and going for years. Is there anyone who is here to help them? No. Day by day, the significance of the emphasis we attach to Africa becomes clearer. For instance, I was delighted to discover that Albayrak Group secured the cleaning contract in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Albayrak, I believe, will accomplish this task in an unprecedented and timely manner. Why? We have already accomplished this task in Istanbul with Albayrak, that's why. During my meeting with the President, I said, 'Turkish companies do not come to exploit; they come to conduct business with you on a win-win basis.' I said, 'You will see how this place is cleaned and transformed in a year.' He was glad. These are monumental changes deserving of a book devoted to them. That's why I care about this region. I believe that the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a massive country in the middle of Africa, inshallah, will make a significant leap. Thus, we must strengthen our relations. Inshallah, we'll take a new approach by sending our business people to the region and increasing investment."
"Our ancestors did not come here with a colonialist mindset"
President Erdoğan was reminded that currently, Türkiye had 43 embassies in Africa and was asked, "Africa is made up of 54 countries. Will other embassies be established? Are you aiming for 54 out of 54?" In response, President Erdoğan stated that the establishment of embassies was proof of a presence in that country.
President Erdoğan said, "If you want to exist in a country, you have to have an embassy there. If there is an embassy, you exist; if there is no embassy, you do not," and added, "In some countries, for example, ambassadors are allocated to neighbouring or nearby countries. However, having an ambassador in that country might be compared to the football term, man-to-man marking. This is a must. We have now accomplished this by raising the number of our embassies in Africa to 43. At the start of our time in office, there were twelve of them. Naturally, this could not continue like that. Today, a new Türkiye exists. At this point, the world is watching us with envy. They say, 'Those are the crazy Turks, indeed.' We needed to be present in each of these places and take these steps. For instance, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we told Mr Tshisekedi, 'You have provided us with an area of 2,000 m2, but 2,000 m2 is insufficient for an embassy building. Therefore, you could perhaps provide us with an area of about 10,000 m2.' They have now provided us with an area of 10,000 m2. 'It's a nice spot along the river,' they remarked. A delegation from our Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change, as well as a team from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will come and inspect the site, conduct ground surveys, and then make a final decision, and we will begin the construction of the embassy building as soon as possible, inshallah. It was the same with Senegal. There's an area of ten thousand square meters. Its location is also great. It's a beautiful spot up on the hill. From there, you can see the entire ocean."
In response to the questions, "Your African trips are reported in the Western press under the headline 'Türkiye's Rise in Africa.' What kind of response do you get regarding the West's approach to Africa and Türkiye's approach from the African leaders you met?" President Erdoğan said:
"The attitudes of African leaders toward Türkiye are gradually improving. 'Türkiye truly comes to our countries with a win-win attitude,' they say. In truth, history repeated itself. How did it happen again? When our ancestors came here, they did not come here with a colonial mindset. Rather than that, they came to build and restore these places. Now, we have arrived to build and restore. With whom? With our business people. We say to our businesspeople, 'There are investment opportunities here. You should take these investment opportunities, but not for the purpose of exploiting them. You will both win and contribute to the prosperity of this country.' Thankfully, our business people continue to work with this perspective. Indeed, our business people work quite hard here; they earn money as well as make them earn money. This pleases us as well because we are aware of the outcomes. These outcomes have a favourable effect on those countries' attitudes regarding Türkiye."
Recalling that the United States' provocative statements about the tension between Russia and Ukraine, as well as European leaders' attempts to de-escalate the tension, have yielded no results, and upon the question, "Türkiye is in the middle of a process that you initiated. How is that coming along? Is diplomacy still a viable option at this point?" President Erdoğan said:
"As of now, it's unclear for whom and where all of the oddity of the United States' statements, particularly at the Munich Conference, was and is intended. The Munich Conference, in my opinion, did not go beyond being just a NATO summit. We have made a sincere attempt to ease the tension in this crisis from the very beginning. We have clearly put forward our messages regarding the resolution of the crisis. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared in a statement on the latest developments that Russia's decision to recognise the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk Republics contradicts the Minsk Agreements. According to the statement, this decision is a clear violation of Ukraine's political unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We see this decision by Russia as unacceptable. We once again invite all concerned parties to act with common sense and to abide by international law."
"We cannot absolve ourselves of the responsibilities of being a Black Sea country"
Upon the question, "If a war breaks out in Ukraine, we can see it as the destabilisation of the Black Sea in a way. Like the Eastern Mediterranean… The West will place greater focus on the Black Sea. Do we have reason to be concerned about a new type of threat to Türkiye? What kind of new threats does the escalation of the Black Sea crisis pose to us?" President Erdoğan said, "We are a Black Sea country as well. Since we are a Black Sea country, we are required to develop many packages of measures. We've already taken these measures. We continue to work in this way and will continue to do so in the future. We cannot absolve ourselves of the responsibilities of being a Black Sea country. With this understanding, we will continue on our way."
When asked about Ukrainian President Zelensky's suggestion for a joint summit with UN Security Council members along with Türkiye and Germany, President Erdoğan said: “If such a proposal is deemed suitable, we, of course, will gladly be a part of it. This is something I have already mentioned. This, in my opinion, is what should be done. Mr Zelensky’s suggestion is a great step forward. We will attend if both members of the UN Security Council and other nations embrace this constructive approach.”
“We attach great importance to Mr Herzog’s visit”
In response to the question on his expectations from Israeli President Herzog’s visit in March in terms of the region, Palestine and Türkiye-Israel relations, President Erdoğan said:
“We attach great importance to Mr Herzog’s visit. The step taken in Türkiye-Israel relations may manifest later in other dimensions as well. Considering the question of Palestine, particularly with regard to the efforts taken toward these structures, solutions may be brought to the table. We hope that we will take steps to strengthen it. Another important issue here is to take steps regarding issues ranging from natural gas to others in Türkiye-Israel relations. At one point, we were very close to taking those steps, but we could not continue that process due to the negative attitude of the then Prime Minister of Israel. However, things may take a very different turn right now. We hope that taking this step will strengthen the relations between Türkiye and Israel and thus transform the region into a future-oriented peace basin.”
Ties with Saudi Arabia
In response to the questions, “Where are we with Saudi Arabia as part of the new initiatives taken with the Gulf countries? Could there be a contact or a visit in the short run?” President Erdoğan said: “Of course, we wish to develop our ties with Saudi Arabia as well. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs paid a visit to Riyadh last year. He also had other meetings with his counterpart. We had phone conversations with my brother King Salman. We received a message of get-well from him during our illness. We wish to continue our positive dialogue and advance our relations with concrete steps in the upcoming period.”
“We reported these names to Greece through Ministry of Foreign Affairs”
Reminding the statements of Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu that Lavrio camp in Greece was mobilised to recruit for the terrorist organisation PKK, the journalists asked President Erdoğan whether a step would be taken regarding the issue. President Erdogan noted:
“For about 7-8 months, there has been an infrastructure bringing men to Lavrio camp for training and then sending back to the PKK and other organisations via Iraq. There was no such thing up until 7-8 months ago. We identified the names. We reported these names to Greece through our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We said, ‘these people have entered your county where they are undergoing PKK training; these are the names.’ Upon that, they moved to take action. There is one more thing, whenever the terrorist organisation is rendered inactive in the countryside, they try to act in the urban. They tried to do this several times by sending them inside from Syria through the Nusaybin line and the Kızıltepe line. These lines were blocked. Once these were blocked, then they began to give instructions through Greece. It has two legs. They have two different initiatives, the first one is to train men and transfer them, and the second one is to ensure the mobility of the terrorist organisation within the city through the Lavrio camp. We have informed Greece of these two initiatives.”