Damascus is in a much better position today vis-à-vis its opponents in Syria thanks to the help it has received from Iran, President Abdullah Gul has said Hurriyet Daily News reported.
"For Iran, Syria is a matter of life and death. For us, it is a humanitarian issue. For Russia, it is a matter of warm seas, the only stronghold issue. It keeps saying 'I will end the war.' I had said earlier that the rhetoric of the Western world was strong but that would not be reflected on the field; it was only valor," he said while returning to Turkey from a trip to Rome.
"[Today], it is Damascus which has the stronger hand. How did it come to Geneva?" he said.
Speaking about Turkey's security risks in Syria, Gul said: "There is no [place] to be very optimistic about Syria's future. If a transitional government with power had come out of Geneva, maybe that could have fuelled hope for the future. That didn't happen. The next aspect we need to focus on are the threats and risks for Turkey that are being created in the environment that has emerged. Many groups have emerged in this uncertain environment," he said.
"The issue there is not the clash of the regime and the opponents. There are so many groups among the opposition that there are clashes among themselves," he said, noting that this was also happening right along Turkey's 900-kilometer border with Syria. "You never know where this will lead you. These kinds of situations instigate and create radicalism, extremism."
'A threat similar to Afghanistan'
Commenting on the chaos of war zones, Gul said: "After all, in such an environment, all of those people who have started fighting to save their country enter such madness that unlikely, unexpected groups emerge... You never know where they will end up... We have seen it in Afghanistan. For this reason, our regional perception of the threat of today and that of four or five years ago are very different. The biggest threat of that time was the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] terror. Today, we look and see many groups in this environment. We all need to be more careful today. I want to say that our southern border has become more difficult. If our Armed Forces choose not to interfere today, maybe tomorrow it will have to face a force it cannot manage. For this reason, you need to let professionals deal with this."
Despite noting Ankara and Tehran's differences on Syria, Gul said the two countries needed to work together on the Arab republic.
"It is very satisfactory that a new era has started in Iran's nuclear issue ... These developments may pave the way for Iran to be engaged in Syria. It will also relieve the world ... that starting such a dialogue with Iran has increased the possibility of solving the issues politically. I and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke about how it was a must that we act together in Syria and work on several alternatives. We delegated our foreign ministers for this matter. There is indeed a new opportunity which calls for a mutual effort. Whoever looks after its region, then it is doing a good job. If Turkey and Iran are very close on the topic of Syria, if they can be engaged in a very sincere cooperation, then we can make suggestions to the international community and our proposals may be taken into
consideration. We can pull the Western world; they can pull the other side into this matter," he said.
Responding to claims in the Western media that Turkey is supporting radical components in Syria, Gul said: "This is slander created to escape their inadequacies, guilt and responsibilities. Their words and actions never accorded with another in Syria. They are guilty... You need to act according to your discourse. They could not. Now, when these radical components emerged to fill the void, they are trying to accuse us on that. They are trying to cover up their own responsibilities and divert attention."
Gul said Turkey and Egypt were like two sides of the same coin while talking about foreign policy issues. "Egypt is a very important country for us. It is an eastern Mediterranean country. If we do not cooperate with Egypt, then the Mediterranean will be only the Bay of Antalya for us. Egypt and Turkey are like two sides of the same coin. There are highly intricate issues such as the exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean."
Gul, meanwhile, refrained from commenting on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's words that "a parallel structure has also tapped the president's phones."
"We should move past these topics and look at the major agenda before Turkey. If you tamper with anything, there will always be a lot to talk about," he said.
Gul also praised Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli for the stance he adopted after one of his party's advisers was killed in Istanbul's Esenyurt district in a shooting last week.
"I have watched Mr. Bahçeli's speeches. He adopted a discourse with common sense, responsibility and far from agitation. I appreciated that very much," Gul said.
The president also emphasized that if there were mistakes in major criminal cases, they had to be corrected.
"If there is a mistake, if there are examples of 'the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike,' then of course they need to be tackled. It is a requirement of the rule of law to correct them. There are ways for this; and all of this would be made within the system, not disrupting the system, not creating chaos, without showing it as if the institutions were totally incorrect," he said.
'We should pull ourselves together before 2015'
Gul also talked about the year 2015, the 100th anniversary of the events much of the world recognizes as the Armenian genocide.
"The years 2014-2015 are important years for us. In international platforms, Turkey will be facing several difficulties. Three or four years ago, with our brightly shining light and as a country that had many friends, we thought we could overcome these much more easily. Now, of course, the world conjuncture, our conjuncture, et cetera, while we are dealing with lots of other things domestically, these things will, frankly, maximize the difficulties," he said.
"There are several studies from our governments starting from three-four years ago on this matter. But what is most important is that we should pull ourselves together, we should move beyond these topics we are discussing today and not inflict [problems] on ourselves. We should multiply those things; remind them over and over again the value of being friends, being together with Turkey," he said.