*Turkey, determined to remain a staunch NATO ally
Turkish Ambassador to Romania Osman Koray Ertas gave assurances on Tuesday that his country will respect its international commitments that concern democracy, human rights and rule of law.
At a press conference dedicated to presenting the post-coup situation, he gave assurances that Turkey is determined to remain a staunch NATO ally that will continue to contribute to the Alliance’s security and that Turkey’s commitments in this regard will not experience any change. Moreover, Ertas said, “there is no need to worry regarding a Turkey-Russia rapprochement.”
As for Turkey’s relations with Russia and Iran, Ertas said nothing has changed from one year previously; the relations, he added, were already strong, which does not preclude Turkey from being a strong NATO ally, while also being critical of Russia for the annexation of Crimea. Turkey knows its commitments and place in the world, added the ambassador, saying that what Turkey did was resume normalcy and restore the situation to before the Russian aircraft was shot down last November.
The Turkish diplomat also expressed the Turkish authorities’ determination to develop and strengthen the Strategic Partnership with Romania as well as bilateral economic ties.
The ambassador also discussed how President Erdogan is seen after the failed coup. Osman Koray Ertas tried to dismantle “the erroneous perception, present in Romania too”, that President Erdogan is allegedly the epitome of “evil” and that he can decide everything by himself, acting as “a monarch” or “an emir.”
He said there is a kind of obsession abroad with Erdogan, adding that, unfortunately, he noticed the same in Romania. Erdogan, he said, is no monarch, no emir; Turkey, he added, has an Opposition, a government and a Parliament and the president does not do anything on his own; he has no such authority, since there are institutions and laws in Turkey that decide what to be done. Such image of Erdogan is distorted, the ambassador commented when asked about the wave of arrests and dismissals from office taking place in Turkey after the attempted coup, but also about the talks on the reintroduction of the death penalty.
The diplomat explained that the Turkish President is not the one who detains or dismisses all these persons, because he does not have the “authority” to do such a thing, but that there are laws and institutions that are acting democratically. Ertas said that the same goes for the state of emergency decreed in Turkey, a measure adopted by the Government, not the President, in order to enhance public safety. “There is a wrong perception that Erdogan is a symbol of evil,” he said.
He explained that the state of emergency was not declared in order to restrict fundamental human rights and freedoms, because nothing will change in the daily lives of Turkish citizens as far as their freedoms are concerned.
Erdogan, said Ertas, has no authority to introduce the death penalty by himself, and he himself said that if Parliament sends to him a proposal for the death penalty to be reinstated, he would accept. People are very angry after the failed coup and a detailed discussion will take place but any discussion is premature now, added the ambassador. “We were all shocked by what happened.”
He said Turkey’s state officials are aware of an Amnesty International report claiming people in Turkey were subjected to torture after the failed coup, adding that officials took the report very seriously.
There will be no vengeful attitude and everything will be done within the limits of the law, said Ertas, adding that no ill treatment of detainees, guilty or not, will be tolerated. Any complaint will be taken very seriously, and torture will not be tolerated in Turkey, the ambassador said, adding that there could be ill treatments now because of how unique the situation is, but all such cases will be checked individually.
He reminded that Turkey knows very well its obligations in line with international treaties in what concerns the death penalty, and pointed out that all these things will be taken into account.
The Turkish Ambassador to Romania stated that during President Erdogan term in office, but also during the period in which he was Head of Government, the state adopted many modernisation and reform measures, including in the human rights and freedom of expression domain, and Turkey recognised “some mistakes made in the past,” including in what concerns the Armenians, so that the criticisms levied against Erdogan in regard to anti-democratic tendencies are groundless.
Ertas said tourists continue to arrive in Turkey, foreign investors have not lost confidence and the baking system is very strong.
“Decision regarding the Romanian schools that are allegedly financed by Fethullah Gulen belongs to the Romanian officials”
The Turkish ambassador to Romania said that a decision regarding the Romanian schools that are allegedly financed by Fethullah Gulen – the US-based cleric whom Turkish authorities accuse of being behind the failed coup in Turkey on July 15 – belongs to the Romanian officials, but Turkey raised the alarm on this issue.
Asked whether he maintains his opinion that some of the teachers in the charter school network that also operates in Romania have ties with Fethullah Gulen, the ambassador confirmed that it is unchanged.
He also quoted a director of such a school from Constanta who – in response to an earlier interview of the ambassador – had said that they are looking up to Gulen because Romanians revere towering personalities such as poet Mihai Eminescu and playwright Ioan Luca Caragiale, and that in general this community has a positive opinion about Gulen.
Elaborating on his stance, the ambassador added that it is up to the Romanian officials to decide on the matter.
“In a foreign country”, said Ertas, “I cannot point fingers and say they are doing this or that. The only thing I can say, he added, is that ten years ago the Turkish society overall and even the Turkish community of Romania considered Gulen’s sympathisers to be harmless, friendly and moderate Islamists, but now it is obvious that their dark side is a serious danger to Turkey’s security”.
Ertas added that the Turkish officials urge caution in Romania and also worldwide.
“We are simply sounding alarm not only in Romania, but all over the world”, he said, adding that they “will continue to warn national governments, some of which have already taken action”.
Answering a question regarding the stage of the overtures to have Gulen extradited, the Turkish diplomat said that Turkish authorities are in close contact with their American partners and that they continue to collect evidence and testimony regarding the cleric’s involvement in the coup, in order to use them in the official extradition proceedings. In the meantime, Turkish authorities have asked for support in order to prevent Gulen from fleeing to a third country.