Erdoğan addresses Syria crisis, EU-migrant deal at UN speech

During his speech at the UN assembly, Turkey's president urged global powers to seek a solution to the Syrian war and act to end the refugee crisis.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, US September 20, 2016.

Updated Sep 21, 2016

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday urged members of the UN General Assembly to work toward a swift political solution to the Syrian crisis. 

International actors, including the EU, are “expected to rise to the occasion” and meet their responsibilities by contributing more in assistance, financial and otherwise, Erdoğan told the 71st United Nations General Assembly Council. 

“Barbed wires and high walls will never provide the security you are looking for,” he said, urging regional and global leaders to action.

“We cannot lose any more time” in achieving a political settlement to the Syrian conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, he continued. 

In his speech at a leaders summit on refugees on the sidelines of UN General Assembly, Erdoğan said Turkey had successfully fulfilled its commitment to the EU under the refugee deal inked in March.

“As a response to this, the promises made by the EU to Turkey were unfortunately not kept,” the Turkish leader said.

The deal aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

“Turkey was left alone since the beginning of Syrian conflict and once again I think we are facing the same consequence,” he added.

Turkey is going to overcome the refugee burden, he said, but according to Erdoğan, the EU can never “account for the inconsistency they have displayed in the face of such a fundamental humanitarian crisis.”

The deal included a 6 billion euro ($6.8 billion) aid package for Turkey to care for millions of refugees it is hosting.

Turkey hosts the maximum number of refugees worldwide, Erdoğan said, sharing Turkey's plans about what to do for refugees in future.

"As Turkey, with a humanitarian-centered approach, we have kept our borders wide open to those fleeing tyranny and oppression,” he said.

The number of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Turkey has reached 2.7 million.

According to Erdoğan, Turkey has allocated $25 billion in total, $12 billion from the government’s budget, while the rest came from non-governmental organizations and municipalities in the country.

The country has received only $525 million from the international community, Erdoğan said.

Addressing the challenges Turkey faces amid the refugee crisis, the president said there are about 835,000 Syrian children in the country who have reached schooling age and about 310,000 of them have been enrolled in school programs through non-governmental organizations and other civilian initiatives.

He called on the world to share the burden and contribute to the education of the victims of the Syrian civil war.

Ongoing Syrian conflict

In addition, the Turkish leader also criticized the international community for its failure to address conflicts going on in the world with specific emphasis on Syria. 

"The [Bashar al-Assad] regime is condemning people to famine and suffering, in order to encourage them to surrender or to die,” Erdoğan said.

"The UN and the Security Council should no longer tolerate the regime's policy,” he added.

He said Ankara had “no expectations with regards to the territory of Syria”, and attaches great significance to an undivided Syria.

Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield on August 24 to re-establish stability and peace to a region in despair, Erdoğan said.

Supporting moderate opposition fighters against DAESH and terror groups on the border, the operation has converted the border stretch from a “belt of terrorism” into a “belt of peace” and “propped up the self-confidence of” opposition fighters, the president said.

Turkish forces and opposition fighters supported by Turkish armor and aircraft “wiped out” DAESH in the area, and resettled the local inhabitants of Jarabulus and al-Rai, he said.

Countries urged to protect themselves against FETO 

The Turkish leader demanded international action against the US-exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of orchestrating an aborted coup d'etat against the Turkish government in July.

Erdoğan said the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) was a threat to all nations where they operate.

"I would like to call on all our friends to take the necessary measures against the Fethullah Terrorist Organization in their own countries for the future of their own people and their well-being," he told the UN General Assembly, referring to Gulen's movement.

According to the Turkish president, the failed coup was “aimed at the global democracy as well”.

FETO is infiltrating state institutions, influencing the society and dominating economy “under the disguise of education, dialogue, tolerance, non-governmental organization and ostensibly good intentions,” he said.

Permanent-member System Outdated

In his remarks, Erdoğan also criticised the permanent-member system of the United Nations Security Council.

He said the “representative nature of the Security Council” must be ensured so that the UN system can become “much more effective, just and fair”.

“Do not even consider remaining silent,” he said, calling on world leaders to be strong in telling the truth and acting upon it. “Only then can the world achieve the levels of justice she yearns for,” he said.

Erdoğan also touched on Islamophobia, describing it as an “alternative name to racism and discrimination”, urging governments to do more to thwart it.