In an interview with journalists at the Türkevi in New York at the end of his visit to the US, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "We see that Türkiye's views on regional and global issues are increasingly gaining support in a wider circle."
Expressing that they attached particular importance to meeting with Turkish citizens in the US on various occasions during his visit, President Erdoğan said, "We met and had conversations with representatives of Turkish non-governmental organisations that are active here. We met with our citizens at a dinner organised by the Turkish-American National Steering Committee. I am very happy to see that they are eagerly awaiting the 2023 elections."
Stating that he participated in the Transforming Education Summit organised by the United Nations Secretary-General on Monday and provided world leaders with a review of Türkiye's educational transformation, President Erdoğan said that he explained the revolutionary steps they have taken in the field of education and their commitments for the future at this summit.
President Erdoğan also stated that Türkiye's breakthroughs are watched with interest and envy by many countries.
Address to the 77th UN General Assembly
Expressing that this year's General Assembly meetings were held under the theme of "A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges", President Erdoğan said:
"This General Assembly was held at a time when the world faced significant developments and challenges, particularly in areas such as economy, food and energy. This meeting is also of special importance as it is the first General Assembly held after the Ukraine-Russia War. I addressed the General Assembly as the sixth speaker on the first day of the talks. In my speech, I put forward our views on issues that directly concern international peace and security. I also drew attention to the fact that the world no longer has the luxury of remaining indifferent to injustices and inequalities."
President Erdoğan also said they held a roundtable meeting with representatives of US think tanks at the event organised by SETA.
Expressing that he reiterated the same views there, emphasising the significant role Türkiye plays in the region and the world, in the light of current developments, President Erdoğan said that the meeting attendees were also acutely aware of Türkiye's crucial role.
Recalling that he also attended the reception hosted by President Joe Biden of the US, President Erdoğan stated that he then attended the event organised by TAİK (The Türkiye-U.S. Business Council) and DEİK (Foreign Economic Relations Board of Türkiye) with the participation of the representatives from the US business world. President Erdoğan stated that at this meeting, they exchanged ideas with the participants about the Turkish economy, investment opportunities in Türkiye and bilateral economic relations.
Meetings in the Türkevi building
Stating that the general meetings of the UN General Assembly also provided opportunities for many bilateral meetings and contacts, President Erdoğan continued:
"On the occasion of our visit, we held bilateral meetings with the UN Secretary-General as well as with some heads of state and government. At the heads of state level, I met with the leaders of Libya, Guatemala, Finland, Kyrgyzstan, and Austria. I received the prime ministers of Georgia, Germany, Spain, Japan, Lebanon, and the United Kingdom. After my address to the General Assembly, we had conversations with the Emir of Qatar, the presidents of Kazakhstan, the Republic of Korea, and the prime minister of Bangladesh in the same building. We had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the leaders of the United Kingdom, Japan, Israel, and Guatemala for the first time. Additionally, I received three different members of the US Congress, the President of FIFA and the President of the World Jewish Congress."
"We see that Türkiye's views are increasingly gaining support in a wider circle"
Stating that their meetings were held in the Türkevi building, which they inaugurated last year, President Erdoğan said:
"The Türkevi here was a great success of our efforts. Thanks be to Allah, having this Türkevi building in the United States directly across from the UN is a blessing from Allah. We gave our best efforts, and the goal was achieved. Now, we enjoy the results of our efforts in the meetings with all these leaders. I believe that the contacts I held in New York contributed to the current international discussions on the issues that are important for our country. Our consultations and discussions have been very helpful in bringing our attitudes and priorities on these issues to the international community's attention.
We see that Türkiye's views on regional and global issues are increasingly gaining support in a wider circle. In addition to the debates in the media and intellectual circles, the number of leaders voicing similar views with us is increasing at every United Nations General Assembly. Hopefully, as we progress in the process of building a great and powerful Türkiye, our contribution to global peace, tranquillity, and prosperity will increase even more."
"Our efforts for the establishment of peace between Russia and Ukraine continue"
After the evaluation of the visit, President Erdoğan also answered the journalists' questions.
When reminded of the partial mobilisation announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the latest situation in the Ukraine-Russia War, and asked, "How can a dignified exit be provided to the parties? Did these recent statements of Putin surprise you? What is your assessment of the latest developments?", President Erdoğan stated that the price that this war has made the people of both countries, the region and the world pay was apparent.
Emphasising that nobody should have the mindset of making this price even worse, President Erdoğan said:
"We are pleased with the steps we have taken, nevertheless. For example, efforts have been undertaken today to exchange hostages. Two hundred prisoners of war were exchanged today between Russia and Ukraine as a result of the diplomacy traffic I had conducted with Mr Putin and Mr Zelensky. This prisoner exchange, which was mediated by Türkiye, is a crucial step toward putting an end to the conflict. Our efforts for the establishment of peace between Russia and Ukraine continue. I thank Mr Putin and Mr Zelensky for enabling the prisoner exchange. I would also like to thank all my friends who contributed to this process.
This development made us very happy. In this regard, both Mr Putin and Mr Zelensky have facilitated this step that we have taken. Our relevant officials are currently observing the process, and the exchange of these hostages has begun."
"Türkiye has believed in the power of dialogue and diplomacy from the very beginning"
Stating that as Türkiye, they have exerted efforts to establish peace from the very beginning, President Erdoğan stated that they always attached importance to diplomacy under all circumstances.
Pointing out that they took a principled and conscientious stance within the framework of international law, President Erdoğan went on to say:
"We declared that we would play a mediating and stabilising role in regional and global crises. Our role as a global mediator and leading position in diplomacy forces us to take more initiative. Türkiye has believed in the power of dialogue and diplomacy from the very beginning and sought to prove it. Türkiye has now collected the result of its belief in the power of dialogue and diplomacy with this hostage exchange. This particularly gives us great joy.
On the other hand, we have also called on Russia to cease its military operations and withdraw its forces from Ukraine at every opportunity, starting from February 24. We restated our calls in our last meeting in Samarkand. We have made various initiatives in the presence of both Russian and Ukrainian leaders and world leaders to open the path to peace. We will continue our efforts to ensure peace and stability in the future as well."
"The United Nations has not been able to end the war, nor has it found a solution to the energy and food crises"
Stating that they would continue their telephone diplomacy by calling the leaders of Ukraine and Russia as soon as they return to Türkiye, President Erdoğan noted that the dialogues between their officials and their interlocutors continue.
Underlining that the UN, in particular, should take the same initiative and put up greater effort to address the issue, President Erdoğan went on to say:
"Unfortunately, the United Nations has not been able to end the war, stop the bloodshed, nor has it found a solution to the energy and food crises that emerged as a result of the war. Although the UN Secretary-General's efforts on this issue in establishing the grain corridor have restored the confidence in the UN to some extent, it is certainly necessary to make more efforts to put an end to the war. This is a process that should be conducted not only by me but by the joint efforts of all world leaders. Everyone should push this channel. In other words, anyone who has more or less an acquaintanceship with Mr Putin should discuss these matters with him and press the issue. Same with Zelensky. Otherwise, adopting carious negative approaches towards these leaders would not produce the results we expect. On the contrary, I think this kind of approach would only increase the deaths and destruction there even more."
"I'm hoping that a whole new future awaits the TRNC following its recognition in the upcoming period"
When asked whether there would be any concrete steps regarding the recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and what kind of steps can be expected from the world in this direction, President Erdoğan stated that Türkiye's policy regarding the TRNC was unambiguous and non-negotiable.
"We do not see the TRNC as any country. We have embraced it as almost ourselves; we see it that way, and we will see it that way," said President Erdoğan, and noted that he also touched upon the TRNC issue during his meetings with President Putin of Russia.
President Erdoğan said, "I have talked to him about this issue on many occasions. We have repeatedly told all the leaders we have hosted in our country or visited abroad about our just struggle in Cyprus and reiterated that the issue should be resolved in a just and permanent manner."
Stating that they would be pleased with the start of direct flights from Russia to the TRNC, President Erdoğan said, "One of the most significant aspects of this matter is that Russia, obviously, has a high tourist potential. And one of the most significant sources of income for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is tourism. I believe that such a surge in tourism to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will lead to a major economic leap for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It is already a country with outstanding tourism infrastructure. Inshallah, the outcomes in this regard will propel the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus much further. I'm hoping that a whole new future awaits the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus following its recognition in the upcoming period."
"We support the use of diplomacy in resolving all crises and problems"
When asked, "As a leader who has attended both the SCO Heads of State Summit and the United Nations General Assembly, do you anticipate any changes and developments in the Russia-Ukraine equation and Türkiye's guiding stance? There was a grain corridor surprise, for instance. Putin also concurred that it could not have occurred without Türkiye. During this process, will such fresh developments emerge in both the Shanghai and UN equations?" President Erdoğan replied:
"First of all, I witness the return of our people-centred diplomacy with genuine appreciation in the eyes of both the leaders and the people wherever we travel around the world. From the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine War, our sole objective has been to end the bloodshed and establish peace. Since the 2014 annexation of Crimea, we have constantly reaffirmed our commitment to Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political unity.
Since the beginning of the Ukraine-Russia War, we have stressed that Russia's current actions are unjustified and unacceptable. Similarly, we reiterated the same sentiment regarding Crimea in 2014. While supporting Ukraine on political, humanitarian, and technical levels, we have worked to maintain the dialogue channels open. The talks we've had and will have, as well as our efforts, are solely for peace. We support the use of diplomacy in resolving all crises and problems. Obviously, we must constantly emphasise that human life is valuable. However, we must communicate this to both sides. We have stated this to both the Ukrainian and Russian sides and will continue to do so. We will, Inshallah, keep discussing this matter with the leaders after returning. We want to see results as quickly as possible."
Upon being asked, "In your address to the United Nations General Assembly, you utilised photos to illustrate Greece's stance on the Aegean. What was their subsequent approach when you met with the leaders? In addition, you offered the leaders you met a collection of books compiled by the Directorate of Communications. Do they now refer to the country as 'Türkiye'?" President Erdoğan stated that he presented this collection of books to every leader he met and that the material was very well-prepared. He said, "Foreigners had no trouble understanding that we were referring to our country by saying 'Türkiye.' They even hang nameplates as Türkiye in certain locations," stressing that all of them are the product of strenuous efforts. President Erdoğan added:
"We prepare thoroughly for every meeting, talk, and speech, as well as conduct rigorous research, enabling us to appear confident in front of the leaders. We have utilised and continue to utilise visual and written materials to reinforce our approaches. We also had the opportunity to illustrate our UN General Assembly speech with various images. The inclusion of these elements also improved our speech. One of the images I displayed depicted the dead bodies of 9-month-old Asım and 4-year-old Abdülvahap, who lost their lives when the Greek coast guard sank their boats. Those who contacted me inquired about this the most. We intended to teach the world a lesson by displaying a photo of these children's dead bodies, and I believe we have done so. It is impossible not to be touched by the photo of baby Asim and Abdülvahap. They need to be widely disseminated and recognised on a global scale."
"Are they starting to see things our way now?"
Referring to the statement made by President Joe Biden of the US regarding the United Nations Security Council, President Erdoğan stated:
"Did Biden's remarks, particularly about the United Nations Security Council, demonstrate our rightfulness? Are they starting to see things our way now? Now, they say, 'Let's raise the number of both permanent and temporary members,' but I have a different opinion. I contend that it should not be divided into permanent and temporary categories; rather, it should be uniform, and a completely rotating membership structure must be implemented. Right now, there are 193 members there. This rotating membership scheme must be used with the 193 members. If there were twenty members, there should be a rotation of all 20 members. These members should be rotated every two years, with the rotation continuing in the form of 10-10 and everyone remaining in the system for one to two years as a permanent member. Raise your hand, lower your hand... The United Nations must terminate this era. In fact, members of the Security Council should have a significant impact on this issue."
"All 193 countries should receive their fair share"
Noting that Japan and Germany are asking why they are not included, President Erdoğan stated, "Similarly, Türkiye asks, 'Why are we not included?' This issue must be resolved immediately. Twenty permanent members can be rotated by tens; with this rotation, all 193 countries should receive their fair share. Therefore, they all can assert, 'I also have authority there, and I am using or have used it.' The path must be cleared for this. I believe they will arrive at the same conclusion."
President Erdoğan remarked that Biden's statement is, in fact, a road map and that this road map is not easily achieved and added: "Beginning with statements such as 'The world is bigger than five', or 'A fairer world is possible,' we have arrived at this point. I believe we can also accomplish this."
"The Greek Foreign Minister is not my counterpart"
When asked whether the stance on refusing to meet with Greece would continue and his thoughts on the Greek Foreign Minister's statements, President Erdoğan replied:
"The Greek Foreign Minister is not my counterpart, so I have little to say about him. If he wants to communicate, he must speak with Mr Çavuşoğlu (Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs). However, the Prime Minister is unfortunately unaware of their status with Türkiye. We have not been a government that favours reducing the number of Greeks in Türkiye. In contrast, whenever I travelled to Bozcaada and Gökçeada, for instance, I always asked a few Greek citizens residing there, 'Where are your children?' They said, 'They are in the United States.' 'Bring them to live here,' I suggested. They stated, 'We cannot bring our children from the United States.' What does this indicate? It indicates that they have no desire or yearning to reside in Türkiye. Otherwise, our door is wide open. If they did not have citizenship, we would grant them citizenship. Once, I had a very meaningful memory of a Greek man whose family would not allow him to marry a Turkish girl. I told him, 'If you ask for my help, I will do my best.' Another thing is that the Holy Synod is required to have a particular number of members. The number of Holy Synod members had fallen to seven. Since it lacked a minimum number of members, I told Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, 'Bring the priests from outside Türkiye, and I will grant them Turkish citizenship, as they must be citizens of the Republic of Türkiye, so that the Holy Synod could be established.' That's how they obtained the required number. However, the Greek Foreign Minister is unaware of these. They stay in the dark. Our door is always open, and we can even grant them citizenship."
President Erdoğan emphasised that no Greeks were expelled from the country during his term and continued: "However, their persecution of our citizens and cognates in Western Thrace has reached unprecedented levels. Recently, they have even expressed a desire to appoint our religious officials there. How could they possibly comprehend the situation and organisation of our religious officials? Have we gone to such lengths? Were we attempting to appoint priests and others here? No."
"F-16s are currently seeing a favourable trend"
When asked, "What is the current status of F-16s? Will the F-16 talks pave the way for F-35s as well?" President Erdoğan stated that they are currently considering purchasing F-16s. President Erdoğan added that he had constructive talks with President Joe Biden of the US on this topic and met with several Republican senators to discuss the same matter.
President Erdoğan noted that Minister of National Defence Hulusi Akar is engaged in discussions with his counterpart and continued:
"F-16s are currently seeing a favourable trend. We hope that this positive climate will persist. I believe this endeavour will yield results as soon as possible. Mr Biden and I could not engage in a lengthy conversation during the reception. We may have the opportunity to discuss these topics via telephone diplomacy later, but for now, we will continue with the meetings of our Minister of National Defence and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Currently, developments are trending in a positive direction."
"We will also be taking action in the Caucasus"
Upon referring that Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, made remarks blaming both Türkiye and Azerbaijan during his visit to Armenia and being asked, "Will this visit be a blow to the stability established in the South Caucasus following the Karabakh war?" President Erdoğan replied:
"Pelosi's visit does not give her the authority or the weight to impact the current situation in the Caucasus. I believe she has disturbed numerous settings. There is no need for hyperbole. Currently, we are making preparations. When we return, we will conduct the necessary actions. Prague will soon host the upcoming European Political Community summit. We are actively assessing whether to attend the Prague summit. If we attend the Prague summit, Pashinyan may as well. I guess he considered whether or not we could meet there. Perhaps we can have a separate meeting with him to discuss these matters, but we will also be taking action in the Caucasus. We are currently in the planning phase. We will address these issues with my brother Ilham Aliyev and take appropriate action."
Economic relations with Russia
Upon being reminded that European Union and the US were scrutinising the joint ventures with Russia in banking and asked, "Could a tendency such as sanctions against Türkiye emerge?" President Erdoğan noted that the Mir Card is a step between Russia and Türkiye, that the competent authorities are evaluating the steps to be taken on this matter, and that they would act accordingly.
President Erdoğan added, "Alternative options are available. The issue, though, is that different versions of these sanctions exist. These are not compatible with either friendship or the regulation of our economic relations. What will our next steps be? Our relevant ministers are discussing these options to determine the alternatives. Following these meetings, I hope to assemble my staff in Istanbul on Friday. We will hold a meeting and make our final decision at that time."