President Abdullah Gul stated that the Middle East region should be careful not to be dragged into a sectarian conflict, saying that sectarianism is a trap for Muslims and an indication of being uncivilized Today`s Zaman reported.
Speaking to Turkish journalists in New York, where he will attend the UN General Assembly's 68th meeting between Sept. 24 and Oct. 4, Gul noted that the Muslim world is experiencing now what Europe experienced during the Middle Ages. "A Sunni leader will become a dictator and you will stay silent. You will fight with a Shiite that knows what justice is. These are all indications of primitiveness and a big trap. There is a big responsibility that falls to leaders to avoid the emergence of an atmosphere of disunity. When such an atmosphere arises, soon polarization and divisions emerge," said Gul.
Gul maintained that the Islamic world does not have the maturity to solve the crisis, noting that organizations in the Islamic world are ineffective and they have divisions within themselves.
"The divisions became more apparent with the crises in Syria and Egypt. However, the important thing is to prevent the development of problems and to take measures accordingly. That's why Turkey has increased its mediating role in recent years. The problems in the Islamic world are related to leaders," said Gul.
The president noted that Turkey's visibility has increased at the UN due to the role it has played. "Previously, Turkey was only concerned with issues that were directly related to it. Today, Turkey has become a country that talks about various issues. It is a leading country in dealing even with issues that do not concern it directly," said Gul.
Saying that reform of the UN is one of the often discussed issues and that the structure of the world body reflects the era after World War II, Gul added that there are other countries that are stronger than the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
"There are many groups calling for reform. We are one of them," said Gul. Turkey is frustrated by the stalemate in the 15-nation UN Security Council (UNSC), where permanent members Russia and China have blocked attempts to pass a resolution criticizing the Syrian regime for bloodshed in the country.
Gul noted that the UN's position has been harmed in the eyes of the people, saying that the credibility of the world body has decreased. Gul recently urged the UNSC to listen to Turkey, one of the countries that is most affected by the Syrian crisis, very carefully.
Intervention without political strategy will not solve Syrian crisis
Gul stated that without a clear political strategy for a solution to the Syrian crisis, military intervention would not achieve results and underlined the importance of engaging with Russia and Iran, two key allies of Syria, on such a political strategy.
Gul maintained that Turkey always advocated that military intervention without putting forward a political strategy would not succeed in Syria, the country with which Turkey shares its longest border and is suffering from the effects of the civil war with an influx of refugees and violent clashes on the border.
Gul also noted that the biggest failure of the international community was not to make a unified decision and adopt a common attitude towards the crisis. "From the very beginning we failed to put forward a joint exit strategy for Syria that could be also supported by those siding with the regime. That's why developments have reached this point," said Gul.
Stressing the importance of Iran, the staunchest supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Gul noted that excluding Iran is not possible. "Iran is an important country. As Turkey is related to Syria, Iran is related as well. Although Iran was contacted many times for a solution, common understandings were not found. With such an approach, no result will come out of Geneva. Russia and Iran should definitely be engaged," added Gul.
Gul, who has recently urged the UNSC to listen to Turkey on Syria, said the conflict in Syria is Ankara's top agenda item for the UN General Assembly meeting and it is considered the most important foreign policy and national security issue for Turkey. "In the UN meeting, the most important issue for us is Syria. There is a lot of diplomatic traffic on Syria that is apparent as well as behind closed doors. What is happening in Syria is hurting us a lot. The use of chemical weapons in Syria, the killing of thousands of people -- we feel all this pain as a neighbor," said Gul.
Gul stated that the reason Turkey is very active in Syria is due to this closeness and that this activeness should be understood by others. "Issues such as increasing radicalism and migration directly concern us. Therefore Syria will always be a top agenda item issue for us," said Gul.
Turkey will not tolerate presence of radical elements on border
The president maintained that Turkey will not tolerate the presence of radical elements that pose a threat to Turkey and the region along the border with Syria, adding that if the crisis in Syria continues, the situation will become impossible to handle.
"First Syria and then the entire region will pay the price. We discussed this issue with all of our allies and also with Syrians. I urged everyone to be cautious. It is a tough period and a tough task," said Gul.
In the wake of an al-Qaeda affiliated group's seizure of a town near the Turkish-Syrian border, Gul recently said the country has taken all necessary measures against terrorism.
Al-Qaeda and other radical groups have started to play an increasingly prominent role in the current power vacuum in Syria, aiming to transform the country into a proxy battlefield as the revolt against the Assad regime escalates.
"The developments in Syria reflect on Turkey. One of the reflections of these developments is radicalism. Terrorism is included here, as well. These should all be considered. These are Turkey's most important issues. These are issues that we discuss with military officials in National Security Council (MGK) meetings. We will never tolerate the presence of radical elements that would pose threat to Turkey and the region," said Gul.
Gul also noted that Turkey is not "allergic" to the Kurds in Syria and has always considered them to be relatives.
Turkish officials are having talks with Saleh Muslim, the leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
"Talks are important in order to contain and lead and also to show good sense," said Gul.
US-Russia deal on Syria's chemical weapons should not be a bluff
Gul says Turkey welcomes the diplomatic breakthrough on securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, but, in a sign of skepticism that it will be implemented, he stated that the US-Russia deal should not be a bluff.
"A chemical weapons-free Syria is what we want. But this should not be a bluff and should be implemented in real terms according to rules. Also, do not forget that the situation in Syria is not just because chemical weapons are used there. It is very clear that while destroying the chemical weapons, the impression that other things can be tolerated should not come out," said Gul.
"We would like to say that Turkey supports the steps taken on chemical weapons without hesitation. However, these are not easy processes," said Gul.
Gul stated that Turkey has always been sensitive about preventing the acquisition of chemical weapons, noting that a Turkish diplomat, Ahmet Uzumcu, currently heads the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
"It is very important to verify whether Syria is free from chemical weapons or not. Once you produce these weapons it is very hard to get rid of them later. We once experienced such a situation when we were trying to clear mines at the Turkish-Syrian border. We paid a high cost. However, the US and Russia are countries that are aware of such costs. They cannot later say, 'It is too expensive, we cannot do this,' now that they have become guarantors. We are pleased but this is cautious optimism," said Gul.