Turkey’s public diplomacy is no longer run by the Foreign Ministry, but instead by the Presidency’s Directorate of Communication, Ünal Çeviköz, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) vice chair for foreign affairs, said at a budget meeting in parliament in Ankara on Nov. 18.
Addressing Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Çeviköz said: “In the Presidency Annual Report, it says that public diplomacy will be run in coordination with the [Presidency’s] Directorate of Communication. The [Presidency’s] Directorate of Communication has replaced you, esteemed minister. As a retired diplomat, who served for many years in the Foreign Ministry, it is my duty to tell you about my determinations and to remind you to pay heed to those who phase you out. Public diplomacy is no longer at the hands of the Foreign Ministry, are you aware of that?”
“We, with sadness, witness that the diplomacy that should be managed for Cyprus and East Mediterranean [issues] remain weak and ineffective. Are we going to defend the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus against the EU, which is on its way to apply sanctions to Turkey, by moving away from the EU? Or by not sending ambassadors to Syria, Israel and Egypt, which have coasts on the East Mediterranean? If the government is an aim to defend our rights by arguing and alienating our country, I would like to indicate the following: The policy of ‘precious loneliness’ has created a ‘worthless’ foreign policy,” Çeviköz said.
Turkey is also failing in regards to its foreign policy in Syria, said Çeviköz. “As the whole world waits for us to reduce our military presence in Syria, it seems that the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP does not have the intention to leave Syria. If it did, it would not have tried to institutionalize on Syria lands,” he said.
The CHP vice chair also touched on a recent United Nations report which says that Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters were responsible for the “war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture … and pillage” during Turkey’s Afrin operation in northern Syria last year. Çeviköz asked, despite this U.N. report, why Turkey launched its Operation Peace Spring again with the assistance of FSA fighters.
“I do not think that you are not aware of what kind of accusations Turkey currently faces because of these [FSA fighters]. In the lands referred to as ‘safe zone,’ an attempt is being made to settle Syrian Arabs, who are in Turkey and have never lived in those lands. It is impossible that you do not know that in many countries of the world, this is referred to as ethnic cleansing,” Çeviköz said, referring to the Turkish government’s emphasis on the transfer of large numbers of Sunni Arab Syrians into a traditionally Kurdish region.
“We are members of a party that believes in the equality of peoples. A foreign policy understanding that is based on foundations of ethnicity, religion and sects has collapsed. Turkey’s foreign policy in the current government period is bogged down and crashes into a new wall every day,” said Çeviköz, urging the need for a new foreign policy.
The CHP deputy chair also said that the budget allocated for Turkish Defense Ministry this year increased 15.92 percent compared to that of last year, whereas this increase was marked as only 1.76 percent for the Turkish Foreign Ministry budget. “Then I draw the following conclusion: Turkey is no longer applying a foreign policy based on diplomacy, but instead on military power. It is not possible for such a foreign policy to be harmonized with the discourse of ‘We’ll be powerful both in the field and on the table,’” Çeviköz said.