President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "Inshallah, we will proceed on our path by keeping the presidential system in place. It is also evident how far we have come with the presidential system. There is no point in reviving the outdated tutelage system that has set us back for years."
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan answered reporters' questions and weighed in on the recent developments on his return flight to Türkiye following his meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Sochi.
Underlining that he successfully concluded his working visit to Sochi at the invitation of President Putin, President Erdoğan stated that they had the opportunity to discuss Turkish-Russian relations as well as regional issues at length during their first bilateral meeting vis-à-vis with Putin in a long time, with whom they had regular phone calls.
Expressing that he spoke with Putin for more than three hours about both giving a new and strong impetus to bilateral relations and regional developments, President Erdoğan added: "In this context, we concentrated on the steps necessary to achieve our shared goal of $100 billion in trade volume, which exceeded $21 billion in the first eight months of this year, with an increase of nearly 50% compared to the same period last year."
Indicating that they agreed to expand their current cooperation with Russia in the energy sector, which they see as a strategic area of cooperation, President Erdoğan continued his remarks as follows:
"We assessed the situation regarding TurkStream and Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant projects. As you know, we recently paid a visit to the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant. Ten thousand young Turkish engineers are working there. Additionally, there are three thousand young Russian engineers employed. They will further increase this number. We secured a commitment from them to start up the power plant's first reactor in May 2023, God willing. Reactors two, three, and four are next in line. Obviously, we aim to build three nuclear power plants. We also explored the prospect of co-constructing these two nuclear power plants with Mr. Putin. Türkiye will then have three nuclear power plants. 'Let us work on this.' he said."
Noting that they also emphasised during the meeting the importance of enhancing cooperation in tourism, agriculture and other fields, President Erdoğan voiced that Russia provided significant support to Türkiye's tourism sector, and the difficulties encountered in the sector were considerably overcome through the incoming Russian tourists.
"Regional issues were the focal point of our meeting"
In addition, stating that the focus of the meeting was regional issues, President Erdoğan remarked that they had the opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the developments in Syria, Karabakh, Libya and Afghanistan, as well as the Azerbaijan issue. Emphasising that they exchanged sincere and fruitful views on joint steps, President Erdoğan added that one of the current issues covered was the developments in Afghanistan.
Explaining that they also explored the issues related to Syria, especially Idlib, at length, President Erdoğan continued as follows:
"The Syrian crisis, which has lasted for many years, has imposed enormous costs on the entire region, particularly on our countries. In addition to the humanitarian tragedies, the economic burden of the process has reached unbearable proportions for all of us. Moreover, we are currently hosting nearly 4.5 million refugees as Türkiye. We agreed that it was high time we went beyond the technicalities and found a permanent, final, and sustainable solution to this problem. We focused on the necessity of the steps we would jointly take in this regard. During our meeting with Mr. Putin, we specifically stated that we were open to any reasonable and fair step in this direction.
There are occasional divergences of opinion on regional issues involving a large number of players on the ground as well as complex issues. However, during this bilateral meeting, we saw that there is almost a universal agreement on almost all issues. Obviously, that is the gratifying aspect of it."
Expressing that he wanted a return visit from Mr. Putin in the near future and that Mr. Putin responded positively, President Erdoğan said, "I also suggested to hold the High-level Strategic Council Meeting in Türkiye before the end of this year. He also welcomed it."
"We expect our interlocutors to take the same approach"
Following his evaluations, President Erdoğan took questions from journalists.
When asked whether a request was made to Putin that Russia meet the promises required by the 2018 Sochi Agreement and whether Russia provided any assurances over Idlib, President Erdoğan said, "As Türkiye, we are committed to every issue in Syria on which we reached an agreement with Russia. There is no way to back out of this. As Türkiye, we continued to comply with all agreements and remove radical elements from the security corridor. There will be no compromise on this, either. Of course, we expect our interlocutors to take the same approach."
Stating that there were some problems from time to time in Idlib, in the regions where Türkiye provided security; however, they were in an effort to solve them by meeting with the interlocutors of the relevant units, Erdoğan said, "In this regard, we emphasise the importance of working together. We stated that in the next process, we should attempt to solve them through telephone diplomacy, particularly at the level of the leaders, as well as joint efforts of our ministers of foreign affairs and ministers of defence and our intelligence agencies, and we demonstrated our agreement on this point."
Expressing that maintaining a stable ceasefire in the region would promote returnees, particularly from Türkiye, President Erdoğan said, "Over a million people have returned to their homes and lands, 400 thousand of whom are in the Idlib region. This is a positive step forward. We are constantly working to increase this number and to ensure that the Syrians we host in our country can safely return to their lands."
President Erdoğan said, "Another point I underlined was the presence of the PKK/YPG in Moscow. I reminded him of this. This organisation was also hosted at the White House in the United States. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of interest in them there. You know, there is an American man named McGurk. The man appears to be in charge of the management and administration of terrorist organisations. We said, 'We need to strengthen our solidarity in the fight against terrorism.'"
"The requirements of the previous agreements must be fulfilled"
When asked, "There is the support given by the United States to the PKK/YPG. Would there be a new agreement on removing terrorist elements from Manbij and Tel Rifat, even if only verbally, after the 2018 Agreement with Russia? Will Russia take a new step against the attempted attacks of terrorist organisations in the region?" President Erdoğan answered, "The requirements of the previous agreements regarding the termination of the terrorist organisation PKK/YPG's presence in these regions must be fulfilled."
Indicating that in addition to an assessment of the region's current situation, the agenda of the meeting mainly consisted of issues that would further develop the relations between the two countries, joint steps that could be taken from the defence industry to political and military issues, and investments that could be made together, President Erdoğan noted the following:
"Mr. Putin has clearly brought up the investments that we can make on these issues. For example, we have discussed the second and third nuclear power plants, as well as Akkuyu and the steps that can be taken for the defence industry. Along with all of this, we have discussed, for example, Türkiye's space initiatives. Mr. Putin has agreed to collaborate with Türkiye on space projects. We'll also put our delegations and teams to work determining what steps can be taken in terms of space. We'll set the timeline and roadmap for this based on the work to be done. Inshallah, we'll move forward accordingly. In other words, there is a far more advanced proposal in the field of space initiatives. They have proposed that we can collaborate to launch rockets into space from here by building a land-based platform and a sea-based platform. We'll work on this issue by assigning our relevant friends in the field."
When asked, "Did your meeting result in a process for continuing to purchase the S-400? Following Türkiye's removal from the F-35 program, was conducting a study with Russia on new generation warplanes, particularly SU aircraft, on the agenda?" President Erdoğan stated that the process regarding the S-400 continued and that there were no plans to halt it.
Stating that they touched upon these issues in detail in the fruitful meeting and discussed how to bring them to a higher level, President Erdoğan said, "We even had the opportunity to discuss in detail what sorts of steps we will take in terms of the construction of aircraft engines and which steps we will take regarding warplanes. God willing, we will take the same step with regard to aircraft engines. In addition, we can also take numerous steps together in shipbuilding. I hope we will also take joint steps with Russia on a variety of issues such as submarines. We will work. There is no rest for the weary."
In response to a question on whether they would include Russia in the manufacturing process of the Reis-class submarines, which are jointly produced with Germany, President Erdoğan said, "Germany is acting sort of imprecisely. We will seek alternatives if Germany fails to keep its promises to us. The alternatives are limitless."
In response to a question about whether the Zangezur Corridor in relation to Karabakh was discussed during his meeting with Putin, Erdoğan stated that the Zangezur Corridor would be a critical opportunity for the entire area.
President Erdoğan emphasised that the highway and railway links to be built there would bring commercial and economic prospects for all countries in the region, saying, "Azerbaijan has been working on the corridor extensively. Armenia, of course, must also meet its obligations."
While replying to a question about whether the six-platform issue that he suggested was discussed during the meeting or not, President Erdoğan said, "Putin is always ready for that."
Relations with the US
Upon the question, "You said on your way back from the US that the course of relations with Biden did not bode well. If this is the case, is there anything that we don't know in relations with the US or are there deeper problems now?" President Erdoğan said, "We have said that before, and the answer has already come. God willing, we'll meet in Rome. From there, we hope to go to Glasgow. We'll most likely meet in Glasgow, as well. It means that some positive steps are being taken."
President Erdoğan also responded to a question on Türkiye's relations with the Taliban and its Afghanistan strategy; he recalled that Türkiye has withdrawn all of its troops from Afghanistan and has no military presence in Afghanistan.
Underlining that they would not have any prejudice, such as not having talks with Taliban, if Taliban worked in coherence with Türkiye, President Erdoğan said, "Because, our history with Afghan people dates back to many centuries. If we have coherence with the administration, then we can have any kind of talk. Our door is open to this, as well."
Upon the question, "Has Türkiye given up on the idea of securing and operating the Kabul Airport?" President Erdogan said, "For the time being, we will not participate, but we may in the future."
Upon the question, "The US withdrew from Afghanistan. You said very clearly the other day, 'The US should withdraw from Syria, as well'. When you look at it from a mid-term perspective, what step do you expect Washington to take?" President Erdoğan stated as follows:
"Just now, I mentioned a name, McGurk. This is a figure that actually supports terrorism. This man is almost the director of the PKK/YPG/PYD. Of course, my statement will seriously disturb some circles. We know that, too. But this is the man who walks hand in hand with terrorist organisations. It seriously disturbs me that in a region where I fight terrorists, he walks hand in hand with them. His current involvement with these terrorist organisations already reveals his true position. The US should leave sooner or later, and this land should be left to the Syrian people."
Upon the question, "You have made very clear statements about the US. According to reports, you will meet with US President Biden at the G-20 Summit. Where do you see the meeting at the G-20 Summit in terms of the balance between the US and Russia?" President Erdoğan said that they will determine the scope of their meeting with Biden.
Reminding that they had a meeting in Brussels and that they will now have a meeting in Rome, President Erdoğan shared the following information:
"Perhaps we'll talk about them, as well. What will the US approach be in Syria? We will have the opportunity to touch upon these issues. We will discuss all military, political, economic and commercial relations between us. How about the F-35 issue, for example? We paid 1 billion 400 million dollars. What will happen to that? We need to see where these are going. It's not that our country has plenty of money and that we just throw it away. We did not and do not earn this money easily. They will either give us our planes or the money."