AK Party's Cavusoglu: Iran is acting in a sectarian way

AK Party's Cavusoglu: Iran is acting in a sectarian way

The AK Party's deputy chairman responsible for foreign affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, has slammed Iran for adopting a policy of sectarian division in the region and stressed that Iran has justified this by blaming other countries for being sectarian Today`s Zaman reported.

"Today, Iran's fault is this [making the distinction]. Iran acts in a sectarian way, which is so wrong, so dangerous. These are the things that we oppose," Mevlut Cavusoglu said, adding, "Iran pursues a sectarian line; furthermore, it takes a back seat."

Tehran is accused of adopting a sectarian-orientated attitude and pursuing a sectarian policy in Iraq by excluding some Shiite and Sunni groups. At the beginning of last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged Iranian officials to cooperate with Turkey in its efforts to stop Sunni and Shiite sects from clashing in politically fragile Iraq. The clashes in Iraq didn't stop and more than 4,000 people have been killed since January this year. Shiite-dominated Iran has been also exposed to critical barbs on providing weapons, money, troops and training for Bashar al-Assad's forces, to help the Shiite-affiliated Alawites, who have ruled Syria for decades, to be victorious and to annihilate the Sunnis.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Today's Zaman, AK Party's Antalya deputy Cavusoglu shared his Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) experiences and assessed the recent diplomatic developments in Turkey and its neighbors as well as the upcoming parliamentary elections and Turkey's EU bid.

'Turkey raised its criticisms when the violence increased in Syria'

Commenting on allegations that Turkey has alienated itself with its foreign policy, Cavusoglu said foreign policy is not like having a garden of roses without thorns. Cavusoglu stated that Turkey has problems with its neighbors because of its Syria and Iraq policies; however, he said the problem with the Syrian government doesn't stem from any misdeed from Turkey.

Cavusoglu said Turkey has adopted a principled attitude from the beginning on the Syria issue and underlined that Ankara believed that stability in Syria could be assured at the beginning of the unrest in the country with a number of reforms back then.

"We shared our suggestions and experiences with the Syrian government on what else can be done [to end the war in Syria]. And there was a road map [that Syrian President Assad accepted]. Afterwards, Assad, as well as not adopting this roadmap, started to increase the violence against the [Syrian] nation. That's when Turkey raised its voice," the deputy said, stressing that Turkey has adopted the same attitude since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, unlike other foreign countries that changed their stance according to developments in Syria.

Turkey, which once enjoyed good relations with the Syrian government as it did with Egypt, broke ties with Syria's authoritarian leader, Assad, when the Syrian president couldn't meet the expectations of his nation and the unrest in Syria turned into a bloody civil war.

Responding to claims of tense relations between Turkey and the Gulf States due to their differing stances on the recent events in Egypt, Cavusoglu said that the difference of opinion regarding Egypt does not have any negative effect on economic relations. "Differences on Egypt should not be perceived as a deep crisis. There are no divergent opinions in other matters [between Turkey and the Gulf States]. Things will normalize," added Cavussoglu.

Turkey doesn't take sides on Egypt

Cavusoglu also mentioned allegations of Turkey's favoring the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He said Turkey has bad experiences with coups, so it can understand Egypt's situation.

"Both as a political movement and as a country, we suffered a lot from the military coups. That's why there is criticism about the [Turkey's] foreign policy. However, we will be proven right on the Egyptian issue as our favoring one side or making a distinction among the Egyptian people is not possible," Cavusoglu said about allegations that Turkey is favoring the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Ankara's comment on the Egyptian army intervention, on July 3, was one of the most severe compared to other countries. Known for its close relationship with President Mohammed Morsi, the first democratically elected leader of Egypt who was ousted by the military, AK Party described the Egyptian military intervention as an unacceptable act. Ankara's act was perceived as Turkey's taking Muslim Brothers side because of its good relation with the Egyptian party. The Turkish government refused to disseminate rumors by saying that Turkey stands by the will of the Egyptian people as Morsi was elected by their votes.

When the AK Party came into power in Turkey in 2002, Western states had the same concerns about the ruling party because it was an Islamist party, Cavusoglu says, adding that after the reform program that the AK Party carried out, those nations changed their opinions about Turkey.

Cavusoglu said Turkey's efforts to help popular movements in the Middle East and North Africa were misinterpreted and Turkey has become labeled as a radicalized state. "Changing this perception abroad is possible with our [AK Party's] efforts; we have to continue doing reforms. The reform package is a part of democratization in Turkey," added Cavusoglu.

Regarding the Arab Spring, Cavusoglu said that Turkey and Western nations have different concerns about movements in the Middle East. "While Turkey is concerned about whether the demands for democracy by the people and economic stability will be fulfilled in the Middle East, the West fears the new governments in the region will get out of control, or get radical Islamists in their terms," said Cavusoglu.

Other countries are disturbed about Turkey growing stronger

Highlighting that Turkey has significant weight in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), former PACE President Cavusoglu stated that with more six deputies, Turkey can change the balance of PACE. Turkey, which became a member of the Council of Europe on Aug. 9, 1949, has 12 representatives in PACE unlike Russia, Germany, France, the UK and Italy, which have 18 seats in PACE.

Cavusoglu said Turkish representatives in PACE have started to see the same concerns that the EU countries have against Turkey. The AK Party deputy noted that other countries have been disturbed about Turkey as it has been growing stronger with its principled and fair stance against other countries like Russia and Balkan states as well as European countries.

The AK Party deputy explained that there is a 12-point list that Turkey must fulfill for its PACE membership and it has completed nine of these; however, he criticized the rapporteur that watches Turkey in the post-monitoring period for wandering off topic.

Accepting that Turkey's agenda and the priorities of the country could change after the monitoring process, Cavusoglu said the rapporteur and thus the report were not objective, adding: "Tension [in PACE] needs to be defused to pass the post-monitoring dialogue process.

In June 2004, PACE decided to cease monitoring Turkey, declaring that the country had "achieved more reforms in a little over two years than in the previous decade" and had clearly demonstrated its commitment and ability to fulfill its statutory obligations as a member state of the Council of Europe. Then the assembly resolved to continue its "post-monitoring dialogue" with the Turkish authorities on the 12-point list of outstanding issues.

Evaluating Turkey's EU membership process, Cavusoglu said that they are hoping for a more "balanced" EU progress report than last year. "There is a change in France's attitude [towards Turkey's EU membership]. They are more flexible [about this issue]. But Germany should also change its stance. As long as those states do not change their attitudes, we do not think there will be progress in the EU process. If we can bring the 2004 Brussels spirit back, then we would have success," said Cavusoglu.

Cavusoglu also mentioned the visit of Turkish goverment officials to the US in mid-May, which he also participated in. Defining the visit -- one of the most "productive" ones -- Cavusoglu said every issue was discussed openly and Obama was very sincere, and the US president explained what he can or cannot do on the Syria issue.

"We told the US about the need for intervention in Syria [before the intervention discussion came from the chemical weapon use in late August] when thousands of people were killed... However, the US also has some drawbacks... The American nation doesn't want any intervention after its mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are also assertive statements of [the US President] Obama at the time of his first election, though he agrees Assad must go," Cavusoglu said, adding that they also discussed other options on Syria at the Turkish government's Washington visit.

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