During his speech at AK Party’s Parliamentary Group Meeting, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan indicated that coronavirus was confirmed as a result of the tests done in a citizen coming from Europe and that the overall health of this citizen was good, his treatment was ongoing, and his family and relatives were also monitored.
Expressing that they took all kinds of measures in a timely manner to prevent this disease, which is sweeping the entire world, from spreading in Turkey, President Erdoğan said, “It was impossible to completely avoid this virus, which has been so prevalent around us, no matter what measures we took. The case in Turkey originates from Europe and for now, it is a single case.”
Noting that the Ministry of Health, in cooperation with other ministries and organizations, would continue to implement preventive measures diligently, Erdoğan said that he would be chairing a focused meeting with ministers and relevant organizations tomorrow.
Asking the citizens to follow the advice of the healthcare personnel, President Erdoğan said, “Hygiene is the first condition for protection against this virus. As members of a belief that considers hygiene a part of their faith, this must be the easiest bit for our people.”
Erdoğan expressed that people had stopped shaking and hugging since last Friday not only in Turkey but also abroad, and started to greet one another from a distance, and that they were in an effort to do their part in this respect. Erdoğan continued as follows:
"Turkey will hopefully overcome this problem without any casualties, this is our wish. No virus is stronger than our measures. The attention we will pay and the measures we will take against this virus, as we do for any other disease, will be the most effective method of protection. The elderly and vulnerable citizens, in particular, should keep away from crowded places at least for some time. Our people have managed to overcome many attacks and problems. God willing, they will overcome this too. May God help us.”
President Erdoğan touched upon the developments in Syria during his speech. Erdoğan told that they returned from Moscow with an outcome that at least prevented the crisis in Idlib for a while with a series of measures taken with Russia, including the ceasefire, and indicated that the operations Turkey actually conducted in Idlib for a month and the Operation Spring Shield launched were the indicators of their determination to prevent the threats pressing on the borders. Erdoğan offered his condolences to the martyrs, expressing his appreciation for all the soldiers taking part in the operation. Conveying that being a veteran and a martyr were very high ranks in their view, Erdoğan said, “The aim of our presence in Syria is neither to occupy nor to annex the territory of this country, or to have arm wrestling or to tussle with the powers in the region.”
Erdoğan highlighted that the aim of the struggle in Idlib, just as all the steps taken on Syrian territory, was to ensure Turkey’s border security and to save the lives of millions under the threat of massacre.
President Erdoğan asked that it should never be forgotten that any struggle Turkey shied away from in Syria would turn into one that would be fought on its own territory after a short while. Indicating that Turkey had lost thousands of its security staff and tens of thousands of its citizens in the fight against terrorism, and they would not let Turkey to be pushed into a similar vicious cycle, President Erdoğan said, “We are determined to ensure the security of every inch of our 911-kilometer-long border with Syria in a way to keep both the terrorist organizations and the sectarian regime forces away. In Idlib, we have done and are doing the same of what we did in Jarabulus, Afrin, Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.”
"The regime has realized that things are not that easy"
Erdoğan expressed that they would continue to include other parts of the border lines into this chamber of security, adding:
"The operation we have conducted in Idlib was different from others as it was not only against a terrorist organization but also against a much more equipped power. We have had the chance to evaluate the capabilities of our country, our army, our defence industry including the public and private sector, in this process. Thank God, we have seen that we are ready for greater struggles. We have reaffirmed our determination to make Turkey an effective power in its region and in the entire world through fixing the problems, replacing the missing pieces, strengthening the coordination and accelerating our projects. The regime, which is bombing and massacring the innocent in Idlib, has suffered the heaviest losses since the onset of the Syrian crisis thanks to the strength of our country and the bravery of our soldiers, and realized that things would not be that easy. Following the ceasefire decision, the people of Idlib have for the first time heaved a sigh of relief after a long pause. A permanent solution has definitely not been found in Idlib yet. To what extent the regime and its loyal sectarian militias will respect the ceasefire remains uncertain. Although minor, there are already some violations of the ceasefire. In accordance with our agreement with the Russian side, we are sharing these developments and expecting measures. We are also closely monitoring the ongoing military build-up of the regime and its allied militias along the ceasefire line. We will honour our promise so long as the opposite party displays the same level of sensitivity but if they fail to keep their promise, we will not hesitate to hit back harder than before. The security of our observation points is our top priority. The slightest attack targeting our observation points will be retaliated in an even stronger manner."
Threats against Turkey have been eliminated
Indicating that the separatist terrorist organization attempted an increasing number of attacks in Tal Rifat area, Erdoğan said they eliminated threats against Turkey by neutralizing these terrorists wherever they found them.
This part of Erdoğan’s speech was followed by a cinevision film about the developments in Idlib. Erdoğan stated that the Atme Camp, shown in the film, accommodated tens of thousands of people and that their living conditions were far from humane. President Erdoğan underlined the absence of support, and continued as follows:
"We will continue to take a firm stance in the same way that we have done up to now in Al Bab, Jarabulus, and Afrin, and most recently Idlib."
During his speech, President Erdoğan also pointed to the situation in Syria, saying, “What we are required to do in this picture is to keep making every effort to maintain tranquillity while also holding ourselves in readiness against attacks by the regime and terrorist organizations. We have made such preparations. Thank God, we have fought against the most advanced technology weapons and air defence systems, thus consequently signing the temporary ceasefire in Moscow.”
“The issue now is to make this temporary ceasefire permanent”, Erdoğan said and added: “We are endeavouring to ensure this quickly. Once we achieve it, it will be a lot easier for us.”
President Erdoğan highlighted that Turkey signed the ceasefire and affiliated agreements not because it cannot afford to defeat the regime or terrorist organizations but because it wants to find a reasonable, practicable and sustainable solution to the Idlib crisis for all parties.
Stating that they started building briquette houses in the area north of Idlib at a depth of 25-30 km south of Turkey’s borders, Erdoğan noted the following: "So far, 1500-2000 of them have been built. We continue with our efforts swiftly. We want to settle the refugees there in more comfortable shelters. We want to save them from tents on these cold winter days. We have taken steps to this end by building briquette houses with a small toilet and bathroom inside and laying wood on their floors. We continue our efforts to build 10, 20 thousand briquette houses of this kind there. We are carrying out these efforts through the Turkish Red Crescent and AFAD (Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency). We are striving to complete them rapidly."
"We call on the international community to exert much more efforts”
Underlining that a permanent solution to the Syrian crisis relied on the steps to be taken on the basis of the country’s territorial integrity and political unity, Erdoğan noted the following:
"It is not possible to reach such a solution when one-third of the country is controlled by the separatist terrorist organization. Facts are neither hidden nor vanish when PKK is labelled as YPG or SDF. Our call to the Syrian regime and its supporters is first to save one-third of the country from the occupation of the separatist terrorist organization. When they achieve this, it will be much easier to solve the problems in Idlib and other regions.
I believe that Syria will attain stability in a very short period with a new constitution and an administration supported by the public through free and fair elections. As Turkey, we will continue to support every step taken and to be taken in this direction with all our power and sincerity. However, while the problems in other places are on-going, we cannot allow the people living in peace in our country and in the regions under our control to be harassed. We call on the international community to exert more efforts and support the endeavors of our country.”
Noting that Turkey would overcome the Syrian crisis and the problems caused by it along its borders, Erdoğan stated that the real problem was to prevent the sabotage against the unity and solidarity within our country.
“They thought that I was joking”
Erdoğan stressed that another important issue, which unfolded in line with the Syrian crisis, was the matter of asylum-seekers channelling towards Turkey’s western borders to go to Europe. Reiterating that they decided not to prevent the refugees, who wanted to go to Europe, after the increasing number of attacks against the Turkish soldiers, Erdoğan said: “This is not made by force. He wants to go. We have provided them with food, drinks, and clothes for nine years. We did everything. Now, they want to go to Europe. We do not stop them forcibly. I said to the western countries months ago: “Look, if you are not willing to accept a fair burden-sharing, we will open the border gates.” I said these to them, but they thought that I was joking, and we opened the border gates. Now, our guests are leaving. In fact, we don’t have a responsibility to keep them in our country by force.”
Pointing out that around 150 thousand refugees crowded on the border with Greece after this decision, Erdoğan said, "In accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention, these people were supposed to be allowed to go to Greece and transit to the countries of their choice. However, Greece, which put aside both the international agreements and humanitarian issues, tried to stop and make the asylum-seekers return by using violence.”
"The West's paid legionaries"
Having screened the video that showed the interventions of Greece against the asylum-seekers, President Erdoğan continued as follows:
"On the front is the Greek assault boat followed by ours. It is running away; we are chasing it. It will be like that from now on. There is no difference between what the Nazis did and those happening on the border with Greece. You have just seen the same of what they did on Nazi camps. You see these images, where the Greeks act as if they were working for the West, as if they were the paid civil servants of the West. You see that back and there are also people they killed. These are the paid legionaries of the West. They did it. So does the West hear them? We told them about these during our last visit to Brussels. I said, 'Look, let us bring the iPad if you want, let us show this on iPad. Our colleagues couldn't bring iPads in. Electrical and electronic devices were not allowed in. This has always been the mentality and understanding."
Erdoğan emphasized that they were saddened by this situation as a country that embraced every oppressed who has come to its door for many years and accommodated 4 million people on its territory by providing all kinds of humanitarian aid and support.
"You also open the border gates"
Erdoğan indicated that it was barbarism in the exact sense of the word to open fire on innocent people who do not have a purpose other than saving their lives and building a better future for their children, and to subject them to all kinds of inhumane treatment from gas bombs to boiling water.
Erdoğan said: “We know the Greek atrocities from history. The current ones are doing the same. They will not stay in your country. You also open the border gates. They will go to those rich countries of the West; the euro-rich and the dollar-rich countries through your country. Why do you prevent them and carry out Nazi torture against them? Unfortunately, nobody is speaking up against Greece, which is committing a crime against humanity by sending the migrants back after stripping them to underwear, taking all their money, phones and passports and beating them. Why? It is a member of the European Union. That is why. We will also explain these at every international platform, we will tell about these to all the leaders we meet because this is our duty.”
Erdoğan underlined that medical teams provided first aid services to nearly one thousand migrants who were attacked in this way, and it was identified that four people lost their lives.
Stating that Europe could not tolerate even a few hundred thousand refugees in a period when Turkey was trying to prevent a new migration wave of 1.5 million refugees from Idlib, Erdoğan added: “Those who do not give anyone the right to talk when it comes to democracy and human rights, have shown the whole world that they are mere fascists.”