President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “We voiced from the rostrum of the General Assembly that a fairer world is possible, as well as the responsibilities of the international community towards that end.”
President Erdoğan weighed in on the recent developments and answered questions from journalists at Turkevi in New York, US, where he was attending the 76th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
President Erdoğan noted that, for the first time this year, the UNGA meetings were held in a hybrid format, with nearly two-thirds of member states physically participating at the head of state, government, or ministerial level, and that, unlike previous years, some of the events were held online.
President Erdoğan noted that they attended the UN Food Systems Summit and the UN High-Level Dialogue on Energy via videoconferencing, and recalled that they first met with Turkish-American and American Muslim community representatives on Sunday, September 19 as part of their interactions in the US.
President Erdoğan stated that during the meeting, they both embraced the citizens and Muslims living in the US, and reiterated their yearning for a fairer world.
Erdoğan stated that they officially inaugurated the new Turkevi building on September 20 with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, numerous heads of state and government, foreign ministers and high-level local and foreign dignitaries in attendance. "I pray to Allah that the new masterpiece we have added to the New York silhouette will be auspicious for our citizens residing in the United States and our country," President Erdoğan said.
President Erdoğan recalled that as part of his visit, they attended an event hosted by the Foreign Policy Association and SETA DC on Monday, where they shared their views on foreign policy with prominent members of the American intellectual community and spoke to representatives from various American media organisations.
President Erdoğan also stated that as part of his economic interactions, they attended the Turkey-U.S. Business Council's 11th Turkey Investment Conference, where they examined the economic relations between Türkiye and the US with top representatives from the American business community.
“We reminded once again the importance of cooperation and solidarity”
Referring to his speech at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Erdoğan stated that they openly expressed their views on issues concerning international peace and security and said, “We voiced from the rostrum of the General Assembly that a fairer world is possible, as well as the responsibilities of the international community towards that end. We reminded once again the importance of cooperation and solidarity at a time when humanity is overwhelmed by the threat of pandemic and natural disasters and their severe consequences. We have articulated our state’s positions on a broad range of issues, from Syria to Libya, from the Jerusalem and Palestine conflict to the Caucasus, from Turkistan to Cyprus, and particularly on the recent developments in Afghanistan.”
Reminding that they shared the good news from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly that they would complete the ratification process of the Paris Agreement, President Erdoğan continued as follows:
“We frankly shared with our interlocutors our belief that it is compulsory for countries with historical accountability for the emergence of problems which led to climate change to also make the greatest contribution to the fight against climate change. As a country that is increasing its forest cover and emitting very little carbon dioxide thanks to its relatively modern technological infrastructure, we are determined to contribute to this effort as well. We will take steps in accordance with the issues specified in the Paris Agreement with the provision of the promised support to our country and within the framework of our national contribution statement. We present our nation with the carbon-neutral target as one of the first and most critical goals of our 2053 vision. As a country that has also put into practice the action plan necessary for harmonisation with European Union’s Green Deal, we strongly believe that we will successfully carry out this process.”
President Erdoğan stated that he held meetings with representatives of many states, governments, international institutions and non-governmental organisations within the scope of his visit, and in this context, he met with the Presidents of Croatia, Slovenia, Guinea Bissau, Poland, Ukraine, Finland, Burundi and Iraq; the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, Georgia and Albania, the Head of the Presidential Council of Libya and the President of FIFA as well as the UN Secretary-General. President Erdoğan said, “In other words, we had a total of 14 bilateral meetings during our time in the US. All of these meetings, except one that took place right after my address to the General Assembly, were hosted by our Turkevi building.”
President Erdoğan stated that he believed that his visit and contacts were extremely fruitful in terms of drawing the international community’s attention to their stance and priorities on current issues.
Developments in Afghanistan
After his evaluations, President Erdoğan also answered the questions of the journalists.
Upon being asked about Türkiye’s role and strategy in Afghanistan, President Erdoğan said:
“As I stated the previous day in an interview with a prominent American news outlet: Why did the US enter Afghanistan 20 years ago? What was it doing in Afghanistan, and why is it withdrawing now? Surely there must be a cost associated with this? And where will all these refugees go now? It is unimaginable for Türkiye to open doors and accept them. For us, this is not an open-air corridor.”
He stated that accepting such a thing is not easy; it comes with a cost and a price, and continued as follows:
“The US cannot declare, ‘Open the doors and let the Afghan people into Türkiye’. Indeed, we are not amenable to such a thing and do not permit it. Afghan people are our brothers and sisters. We have a shared history but this is not a simple case of brotherhood. We did the same thing in Syria, and the same thing occurred in Iraq. When we take all these into consideration, the number has reached almost 10 million with the people entering and leaving the country from the past to the present. Five million of them remain in Türkiye at the moment. The US is the one who must pay the price. The US must take action in this regard. However, such an atmosphere has not been observed thus far. At this point, the US does not seem to be concerned about opening the doors. However, if an inclusive and comprehensive administration is formed in Afghanistan, if we can hold some discussions with this administration, and if we can establish a truly healthy communication channel, we can begin planning for what might happen following these talks.”
He said that Türkiye had infrastructure and superstructure investments in Afghanistan, and they were not disturbed by them and could take such steps in the future.
Reform proposal for the UN
Upon the question, "Are you hopeful about this?", regarding his opinion that the UN, especially the Security Council, needs a comprehensive reform, in his book "A Fairer World is Possible", President Erdoğan said, "Of course, you cannot start without hope. When you set out, you set out with hope, and you give a signal to the whole world, to all humanity."
Asking, "What is this signal?", President Erdoğan continued as follows:
"Türkiye's view is this; the world is no longer under the conditions of the First World War, nor is it under the conditions of the Second World War. So let's give a signal to humanity. If we can all be in solidarity as the 194 countries, if we can push on this matter, with the whole media world and NGOs, then these permanent members have to control themselves again. Can we imagine a world between the two lips of these 5 permanent members? Does such a situation make sense? With 10 temporary members and 5 permanent members, let the 15 countries come together and steer the world as they please; no way! These 10 temporary members also complain about this. Because they tell them to just 'Raise their hands, lower their hands'. However they wish... Is this reasonable at all? The 10 temporary members there already know that they do not have a say. Now, they probably regret it. Then let's take such a step that will push the permanent members. As Türkiye, we are pushing and will keep pushing.”
Emphasising that they have expressed this in all international meetings and that they will continue to do so, President Erdoğan said, "We also say to the temporary members, 'You push it too.' We are calling out to Africa, 'Africa, will you always go like this? What role do you play at the United Nations as a temporary member? Is there anything you can achieve? Can you change anything, change the game?' No. Then, in order to change this game, we say, 'Let's all have a chance to become permanent members.' Even any African country that they don't care about at all should have a chance to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. If we can achieve this, a right will be acknowledged truly to all states in the world. Otherwise, such a world is not a viable world."
Upon the question, "Will you take a step to bring the other members together and reach a consensus in this direction?" regarding his suggestion that the reform should start with the abolition of the Security Council's veto power, President Erdoğan said, "I already talked about that radical step there. What is that radical step? In this regard, if all 189 countries except 5 permanent members take decisive steps, then we will corner these permanent members. There is a roadmap to corner these permanent members. What is this roadmap? With written impositions on the United Nations General Assembly on this issue and an intense worldwide pursuit, by convening an extraordinary general assembly if necessary, we may have the chance to take some steps."
When asked how he sees the course of Türkiye-US relations in the context of Afghanistan and Syria, President Erdoğan said: "I can't really say that there is a healthy process in Turkish-American relations. Why? Look, we bought the F-35s, we paid 1 billion 400 million dollars, and those F-35s were not delivered to us. The US must address this first."
Emphasising that they will do whatever needs to be done based on international law, President Erdoğan said: "It is impossible for us to accept that they are constantly bringing up the issue of S-400 before us. For us, the S-400 business is over. It is impossible for us to take a step back from here. The US needs to put this in the right place in international diplomacy and relations. But they have not been able to do so yet. We, as Türkiye, act honestly, our stance is honest, but unfortunately, the US did not act honestly, and it still does not."
“I cannot say we got off to a good start with Mr. Biden”
President Erdoğan stated that Türkiye and the United States had a trade volume of around 20 billion dollars and that they wished this to grow, adding that they took and would continue to take initiatives toward the defence industry.
President Erdoğan noted:
“They should also be aware that the old Türkiye no longer exists. This Türkiye bears no resemblance to the old one. With each passing day, we make strides forward in the defence industry, and we intend to do so in the future. However, they cannot say tomorrow, ‘Why don't you purchase the F-35s?’ We do not buy what you do not deliver. Then we will start knocking at other doors. That is what I said in my CBS interview here. Their correspondent asked, ‘So, are you considering purchasing from somewhere else?’ I replied, ‘We will do so if necessary,’ You are not going to give me the Patriot, and then when we purchase the S-400 systems, you are going to ask, ‘Why did you purchase the S-400?’ Türkiye purchases anything necessary for self-defence. If necessary, we will also begin producing them. We have already begun. We will now take this a step further. We will also, inshallah, produce our own unmanned combat aircrafts. They will see it as well. We are taking these steps. My hope is that as two NATO members, we will treat each another with friendship rather than hostility. However, the current trajectory of the relations as two NATO members does not look promising. Unfortunately, we were unable to achieve a favourable position with the United Nations during my 19-year tenure as Prime Minister and President. I had good working relationships with Mr. Bush [George W. Bush], Mr. Obama, and Mr. Trump, but I cannot say we got off to a good start with Mr. Biden.”
President Erdoğan indicated that certain countries avoided responsibility for issues such as Afghanistan, Syria, and irregular migration and, upon being asked, "The US administration, in particular, is almost in ‘after me, the deluge’ mode, despite its ostensible emphasis on diplomacy. How would you interpret the current situation?”, he responded as follows:
“Of course, people would say the same thing to him if he uttered ‘after me, the deluge’”. If the United States is unable to influence the situation in Afghanistan at the moment, it is critical to evaluate it. Can we argue that the United States is currently directing or shaping the situation in Afghanistan? No. It has abandoned everything and is departing. However, it will now come at a cost. What will be the cost? When you consider the weapons currently in the hands of the Taliban, you will realise that these are American weapons. As a result, they will have to pay for it. This gets me to my next point. Thousands of trucks loaded with weapons and ammunition were delivered to terrorist organisations during the Trump administration. I expressed and told Mr. Trump about it several times. Now, in the Biden era, the same issue prevails. Biden began supplying weapons, ammunition, and equipment to terrorist organisations. We will not stand by and watch it happen. We are keeping a close eye. When the right time comes, we will tell them what needs to be told.”
After being reminded of his statements that the Paris Agreement will be submitted for parliamentary approval and that Türkiye has reservations about it, President Erdoğan was asked "Has Türkiye given up on its reservations? Or has the opposing party's position shifted? Or are we talking about the start of a new process that will compel this one?" President Erdoğan responded, "We haven't given up on this stance. There is no such thing."
Recalling the trilateral conference he held with former President Francois Hollande of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the time, President Erdoğan noted:
“We stated during this trilateral conference, ‘If Türkiye is a developed country, it should be treated as such. If it falls under the category of developing countries, we must assess it appropriately. To begin, you must make that choice. You must also make the payment required by this decision to us.’ Of course, they stated at the time that they would make this payment, but they did not. Obviously, at this stage, all investigations will be conducted by the relevant officials, and when the Parliament reconvenes, we will bring it to the Parliament. We will bring this process forward, especially in Glasgow, and as Türkiye, we will reveal our views on climate change through the messages we will deliver in Glasgow."
Meeting with Putin
Upon being reminded of the recent attacks in the Idlib De-escalation Zone and the upcoming meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on September 29, President Erdoğan emphasised the importance of the bilateral meeting with Putin in response to the questions "What kind of messages do you aim to convey on this issue? Do we expect any results from this summit?"
Noting that no meetings between delegations would take place apart from the bilateral meeting with Putin, President Erdoğan said, "This will not be a meeting only on Idlib. At the same time, we will discuss bilateral relations between Türkiye and Russia as well as the situation in Syria. We will discuss how far we've come in Syria and where we are going next. We will certainly reach a critical decision about Turkish-Russian relations during a meeting without third parties."
Pointing out that Türkiye and Russia are two critical countries in the region, President Erdoğan stated, "When I say two critical countries, I should also add something else: So far, we have not observed any problems in our relations with Russia. When we look at the trade volume, we see that we are in a strong position with a progressively increasing transaction volume. We occasionally face difficulties in taking developments in Syria to a more favourable level. We are, nevertheless, able to overcome them as a result of the actions taken by myself, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs."
“Inshallah, we will construct a route connecting Iğdır to Azerbaijan”
Noting that intense efforts were ongoing in Azerbaijan, President Erdoğan added the following:
“Mr. Ilham Aliyev, for example, can meet and speak with Mr. Putin whenever he wishes. The same is true for me. We can communicate with one another in a very short period of time. Of course, far more importantly, the steps we have taken thus far will, inshallah, result in the construction of a route connecting Iğdır to Azerbaijan. This will also include a railroad. Construction of this route will be a crucial step. There is what we refer to as a five- or six-sided platform. Currently, Pashinyan is sending out positive signals regarding this subject. Along with these favourable signals, we will now take some steps in this direction. In other words, inshallah, we will have the opportunity to further elevate the region's level of peace. Certainly, these issues will be discussed during our meeting with Mr. Putin at the end of this month. Thus, inshallah, Türkiye-Russia relations will enter a much stronger and more positive phase.”
Election in Germany
President Erdoğan responded “Not as long as me..." to a remark that Germany's elections will be held on Sunday and that Chancellor Merkel is one of Europe's longest-serving leaders.
President Erdoğan commented as follows to a question on Merkel's impact on relations between Türkiye and Europe:
"I must clearly state that our relationship with Merkel following Schröder was quite favourable, but Schröder's way of administration was the most successful among German chancellors. Our relations with Schröder were really different. Indeed, after Schröder, we had good relations with Chancellor Merkel. She communicates with me frequently, and I communicate with her frequently. That is how we conducted and continued this process. Of course now, I don't know whether Armin Laschet would win the election or not, but our bilateral relationships with Armin Laschet were also positive.
I wish for the election of a government that, in the next phase, would enrich both the relations of Turkish citizens living in Germany and the relationship between Türkiye and Germany. Because we have a significant population there, and these people should not suffer. Thus, we will be able to, inshallah, continue this new chapter with a government that is committed to strengthening Türkiye-German relations. In this respect, whoever that may be, we will always further our ties with them in the future. For instance, we have taken some steps. We had relations with Germany in the defence industry. More importantly, we took steps to improve the submarine ship's machinery. Now, I believe that if we can successfully continue to take these steps and maintain our strong march forward in the defence industry, Türkiye-Germany relations will take a dramatic turn for the better. I say, ‘Let whichever government would be auspicious for both countries come into power.’”