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Russia and Turkey are natural partners

Turkish PM Yildirim’s exclusive op-ed for TASS on relations with Russia

By Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım

In the evening of 15 July, Turkey was subjected to a coup attempt that was unprecedented in our history. Tanks rolled onto Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge and rogue Turkish fighter planes, which had been seized by members of Fetullah Gülen’s terror network [FETÖ], bombed our parliament. A well-known news presenter on state television was forced to read out a statement, by terrorists who were wearing military uniforms and directed by FETÖ.

While some 248 of our citizens -- who resolutely took to the streets and, mostly unarmed, faced down the insurgents -- were martyred, 36 FETÖ members who participated in the coup attempt and failed to submit themselves to justice were killed. The coup was an assault on a par with 9/11, the heinous attack on the Bataclan in Paris, or the downing of the Metrojet flight from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg.

As it turned out, what actually happened on July 15 was anything but a classical military coup d’état. The Turkish army had been infiltrated by senior level operatives of a terrorist organization whose seditious goals are shrouded in complete darkness, a foreign-led network founded and controlled by Fethullah Gülen. To this day Gülen continues to be protected in the United States and his organization draws on assets and support in the European Union.

Military officers taking part in the putsch have confirmed their membership of the Gülen network. There is forensic evidence which directly links them to their leader. A wealth of information shows how the Gülenists managed to penetrate strategic sectors in Turkey, establishing a “parallel state”. The network infiltrated Turkey’s judiciary and courts, its schools and universities, as well as the NATO air base Incirlik in southern Turkey from where the execution of the coup was coordinated.

Russia was among the first to offer us its support as the coup attempt unfolded, following a difficult period in our relations. This won’t be forgotten in Turkey. But that is not the only reason why the full normalization of relations between Turkey and Russia is our goal. Our countries have many overlapping interests. Prime amongst those is stronger international cooperation in fighting all forms of terrorism. We also need to find new concepts that can provide political stability in the region.

Turkey is now executing a counter terrorist operation rolling back the Gülen network’s vice-like grip on key sectors in the state. This is necessary to ensure justice is done to those who gave their lives for our country, but also to guarantee our security, just as it is necessary to once-and-for-all rid ourselves of DAESH.

While Turkey and Russia recognize the need to work closer together in anti-terrorism, not everyone seems equally convinced. We have encountered hesitation – not to say foot-dragging – from our European and American partners. Nice words are exchanged about defending civilization against terrorism. But the big terrorist networks challenging us today operate across borders. We cannot allow them to find sanctuary in one of our countries only to stage lethal attacks against others. To eradicate terrorism we need a forceful and united international front. And to obtain such a front Turkey and Russia should seek to establish a new, interest-based and more pragmatic type of dialogue with the great powers of the West, based on equality and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.

Global order is changing rapidly. The last year has shown how important our countries are to each other and to the region, economically and strategically. We should now work to end the ongoing tragedy in Syria as swiftly as possible. I believe the world is finally beginning to understand this can only be done if we look for diplomatic solutions that anchor the stability of the region in concrete national interests, not in vacuous political creed or lofty slogans. There are many other areas for cooperation on this basis in our shared Eurasian region. President Erdogan recently said there is no reason why Turkey should not work much more closely with the Shanghai Five. I would add that from a geographical standpoint this would be no more than logical.

Commerce is another area where we can each benefit from full normalization of relations between Turkey and Russia, and indeed surpass earlier levels of bilateral trade. Our ambition is to grow trade volumes to $100 billion annually.  Recently we made big advances in energy cooperation. Turkey is already Russia’s second largest gas export market. As the Turkish economy continues to grow at a steady pace, we have now agreed to build a new pipeline, adding capacity for Russian gas exports to over 15 billion cubic meters per year. We are ready to consider building a second line that could alleviate supply dependency in South East Europe on one single gas import pipeline. We also wish to finalize our joint work on Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey, which is scheduled to come online by 2023.

For Turkish business, Russia has become the main destination for construction services. There is much Turkey can offer particularly in trade. Over the years Turkey has become a leading tourist destination for Russians. We really hope many Russians will again visit Turkey in 2017. You can rest assured that you will be welcomed with open arms.


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