Last week, the public agenda in Turkey has been busy with three main topics.
First topic was the statements made by both opposition and government politicians, regarding the current Afghan refugee crisis.
Second was the meeting between the Turkish President Erdogan and the Emirati Security Adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, hinting to a possible rapprochement between the two countries in the near future.
Third was the successes taken by the Turkish National Women’s Volleyball team in the European Volleyball Championship 2021.
Statements on the Afghan refugee crisis
As the Afghan refugee crisis grows in Turkey, politicians and state officials made statements regarding the situation, and some possible solutions/measures to be taken for Turkey.
The Turkish Minister of Defense denied false UK media reports that Turkey would set up an asylum processing center for Afghan refugees, saying that no such thing has been discussed, nor was it even possible.
“The British defense secretary did not talk about either Turkey or Pakistan. Such a thing was not discussed in the article penned by him, nor is it possible,” National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told the reporters, citing a guest op-ed by Ben Wallace, the British defense secretary, which indeed made no mention of either Turkey or Pakistan.
After the piece’s publication in the UK Mail on Sunday, some media outlets baselessly reported that Wallace had mentioned possible centers in Turkey and Pakistan.
The BBC Turkish later issued a correction and apology for its false reporting.
“The news in the UK press saying there are plans to establish an asylum processing center for Afghan asylum-seekers in Turkey does not reflect the truth,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also said in a written statement on Sunday.
Pointing to the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement in this regard on Sunday, Fahrettin Altun accused Turkey’s opposition parties for “insisting on lies and slander.”
He accused the opposition of “embracing this lie” and “attacking the government” without even reading a “single word of the article.”
“Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly made a statement and revealed that what was said did not reflect the truth. But unfortunately the opposition did not stop insisting on lies and slander,” Altun wrote on Twitter.
“Let us state that there is no such demand. Even if there is a demand, we will never accept it,” he said.
The Turkish President Erdogan said that Turkey is ready to hold talks with the Taliban if necessary, on Friday.
“If there is a knock on our door, we will open it for dialogue,” Erdogan told reporters on Friday.
He criticized the Western world and the Islamic world for their lack of interest and care for Afghanistan over the past two decades.
Turkey has been putting in the necessary effort for Afghanistan’s development and will continue to do so, the president asserted.
“The Afghan nation is comprised of our Muslim brothers and sisters, so of course, we will not close our doors to them,” he said.
“Many of our entrepreneurs and investors also have investments in Afghanistan and we cannot leave them behind.”
Ankara is continuing efforts to bring back Turkish citizens from Afghanistan, he said.
On the wave of migration from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, Erdogan said Turkey is currently hosting some 300,000 documented or undocumented Afghan migrants.
The purpose of the border walls being built is to prevent irregular migration, he clarified, adding that Turkey’s stance on migration is exemplified by the fact that it is home to nearly 4 million Syrian migrants.
“We didn’t close our doors to people who were fleeing their countries and seeking refuge in ours,” the president said.
On Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the conditions in Afghanistan have changed and Turkey is evaluating the new situation before taking any decision on its future role at the Kabul airport,.
Cavusoglu said it is too early to discuss whether Turkey has canceled its plans to continue to protect and operate the airport.
Noting that Turkey is “on the military wing of Kabul Airport,” Cavusoglu said: “On the civilian wing, there is chaos. There was also a problem with the landing and take-offs of the planes. Unfortunately, some people also died. We are very sad.”
Cavusoglu said that evacuations are ongoing from the airport, adding “We have brought back a group of our citizens.”
“Right now, our priority is different. We will make the decision about our soldiers together under the leadership of our President (Recep Tayyip Erdogan),” he added.
Cavusoglu said that Afghanistan’s top peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah, former President Hamid Karzai, and veteran politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are negotiating with the Taliban.
“We hope that they can reach an agreement among themselves by peaceful means,” he said.
The minister said, Turkey, like all other countries including the US, is willing to establish contact with the Taliban in a bid to protect its interests.
“It does not mean that we approve their rule or ideology. China, Russia, Iran are all negotiating with the Taliban. Everyone is being pragmatic,” he added.
“We also said, ‘we welcome their messages,’ but we said that we are cautious, that is, we should see them in practice,” he added.
On rights of women and children in Afghanistan, Cavusoglu said that Turkey has always been “sensitive” about this issue.
“We want women to freely exercise all their rights in Afghanistan,” he added.
On the other hand, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has demanded the government not to make any deal with the West that would bring more refugees from Afghanistan following Taliban’s takeover of the country.
“What is the government doing? It says it will talk to the Taliban. There is a 2,940-kilometer distance between Turkey and Afghanistan. The migrants are coming through Iran. Why do you talk to Taliban and not Iran?” Kilicdaroglu said on Twitter on August 17th.
He urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to make any deal with Western countries that would bring more refugees to Turkey.
Kilicdaroglu’s message came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested more cooperation with Turkey in handling the crisis in Afghanistan and a potential refugee influx from this country.
“The European leaders have started to say, ‘We should solve the Afghan refugee problem with Turkey.’ Why does the EU want to talk to Turkey and not Iran? We are not Afghanistan’s neighbor,” he suggested.
Meanwhile, the President of IYI (Good) Party, Meral Aksener has urged the government to pull back all Turkish troops from Afghanistan and criticized Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli after he said the troops must remain in the country.
“What is left from Afghanistan? Why should our troops stay there? Stop talking nonsense just to please the United States and withdraw our soldiers from this swamp,” she said on Twitter.
On Wednesday, the Turkish Armed Forces started the evacuation of the military personnel in Afghanistan back to Turkey. The Turkish contingent was serving since 2002 with the NATO/ISAF missions, mainly providing security services to the airport and Kabul area.
Possible rapprochement with the UAE
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received the United Arab Emirates (UAE) National Security Adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Wednesday. Both sides discussed bilateral and regional developments, according to a statement by Turkey’s Communications Directorate.
They also discussed UAE’s investments in Turkey, the statement added.
Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, hailed the meeting as “historic and positive” on Twitter.
“Cooperation and economic partnerships were the main focus of the meeting,” he said.
“The UAE continues to build bridges and consolidate relations, and just as the priorities of prosperity and development drive our internal direction, it is also the locomotive of our foreign policy,” he added.
President Erdogan has also hailed the new ties being built after many years.
“We discussed what type of investments could be made in which areas,” Erdogan said in a television interview.
Erdogan said he hoped to talk with the UAE’s de facto ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and for closer economic ties in talks that the heads of Turkey’s Wealth Fund and investment support agency would pursue.
“We will be in a position to meet Mohammed bin Zayed in the upcoming days,” Erdogan said on Wednesday, adding that the meeting had been arranged after talks between the countries’ respective intelligence agencies.
“If they continue in a good way with their counterparts, I believe the United Arab Emirates will make serious investments in our country in a very short time,” Erdogan said.
“I hope we will resolve the problems in the region, as people who belong to the same culture and religion. I care very much about having major actors in the region talking to each other and negotiating.” he added.
Some analysts suggest that this visit could be a new beginning, however some careful steps should be taken especially in the zones of conflict between these two countries in the recent years.
Serkan Demirtas from Hurriyet News, evaluated the visit, saying that “The rare visit by the senior UAE official should be read in this larger picture. It’s an important step, but questions will continue to linger because of the differing interests of Turkey and the UAE in different conflict theaters, such as Libya, Syria and Somalia, etc.”.
The UAE has been courting Ankara since the turn of the year.
In January, the UAE’s then-minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, suggested that relations between the two rivals could be “recalibrated”.
“We don’t have any problems with Turkey, like border issues or other such issues,” Gargash said during a Sky News Arabia interview, adding that if Ankara were to cut off its “support to Muslim Brotherhood” it could “recalibrate its relations with Arabs”.
The UAE subsequently eased pressure on Turkish businesspeople and restarted flights between Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Then, in April, Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed called his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to exchange seasonal pleasantries during the holy month of Ramadan. It was the countries’ first direct contact in five years.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s recent steps against the Muslim Brotherhood, including a request for Egyptian opposition channels to take popular political programming off air, are believed to have been welcomed in Emirati government circles.
“The main disagreement on the Muslim Brotherhood died down because they aren’t in power anywhere anymore,” a third official said.
When asked about the Turkish response to the UAE attack on the Turkish airbase in Libya’s Watiya last year, the official was confident but declined to elaborate. “They paid for it in the field in Libya,” he said. “It is time to move on.”
“We have reached an understanding on Libya, and relations between Turkey and Egypt also improved. We don’t need to fight forever.”
EuroVolley 2021 successes of the Turkish Team
2021 CEV Women’s European Volleyball Championship had begun on August 18th.
Serbia, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria jointly host the 32nd edition of the organization by the European Volleyball Confederation (CEV).
24 teams compete in 4 groups in the tournament.
At the end of the group stage, top four teams in each group will advance.
The Round of 16 and quarterfinals will be played in Bulgaria and Serbia, while semifinals and final will be host by Serbia.
The group stages of the championship are played on August 18-26 and the Round of 16 will be held on August 28-30.
Quarterfinals and semifinals will be played between August 31 and September 3, while the final and the 3rd place match will be held on September 4.
Turkish National Women’s Volleyball Team competed in Group D, which were hosted by Romania in the championship.
Turkey had finished the group stages flawlessly, by defeating Romanian, Ukrainian, Swedish, Finnish and Dutch teams.
The volleyball team defeated Romania 3-1 on Wednesday, by 23-25, 25-10, 25-20 and 25-17 at Cluj-Napoca’s BT Arena.
The volleyball team beat Ukraine 3-0 in their second group match on Friday, with set scores of 25-14, 25-19, and 26-24 at the BT Arena in Cluj Napoca, Romania.
The game paused in the second set as Croatian head official Ksenija Jurkovic needed medical attention on the side of the field.
She switched with second referee Sabine Witte of Germany after receiving treatment.
The team beat Sweden by 3-0 on Sunday, at BT Arena in Cluj Napoca with the sets of 31-29, 25-21, and 25-11.
Turkey won in straight sets over Finland on Monday with sets of 25-19, 25-12, and 21-15 at BT Arena in Cluj-Napoca.
The Turkish team beat the Netherlands on Tuesday, with 25-21, 25-21 and 25-20 at the BT Arena in Cluj Napoca.
Turkey will face the Czech Republic on August 29th at the Kolodruma Sports Hall in Bulgaria in the Eight Final round.