Erdoğan calls Syrian ceasefire 'stillborn'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his visit to the US has spoken about the collapsed ceasefire in Syria, his desire for Fethullah Gülen to be extradited to Turkey and the US supplying weapons to the PYD.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses the United Nations General Assembly.

While speaking to NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the week-long ceasefire in Syria as "a stillborn baby."

The ceasefire ended catastrophically earlier this week after a small amount of humanitarian aid reached war-ravaged Aleppo and a UN aid convoy was bombed.

When asked by Mohyeldin whether the Washington-Moscow brokered cessation of hostilities deal was dead, Erdoğan said, "Unfortunately, it is a stillborn baby, a period of 48 hours was initiated and then a week was discussed if the first 48 hours were successful, but it never happened. The cessation of hostilities was significantly interrupted."

The US has put the blame squarely on Russia for either carrying out or not preventing the bombing of the UN aid convoy, in which aid workers were killed.

The Turkish president once again reiterated the necessity of a no-fly zone over parts of Syria.

"This region in question should have been officially declared as a no-fly zone, and unfortunately no leader from around the world seems to have agreed," Erdoğan said. 

They have been talking about this necessity from time to time, but no concrete step has been taken forward.

On Thursday, Erdoğan said Turkey’s ongoing Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria aims to open up a 4,000-5,000 square kilometre "safe zone" covering regions where Ankara will build settlements to allow Syrian refugees in Turkey and any other would-be refugees to return to and be given shelter.

The NBC interview comes after the network faced a backlash from the Turkish-American community and independent media groups over its coverage of the bloody July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey.

On the night of the failed coup, before Erdoğan appeared on CNN Turk over Facetime and called on citizens to defy the putsch, NBC sent a tweet quoting a "senior US official" as saying he had sought asylum in Germany but was rejected.

The claim was dismissed by Ankara as disinformation and a blatant lie.

Erdoğan says US supplying weapons to PYD/YPG 'a source of concern'

The Turkish president in an interview with Bloomberg in New York on Thursday said the United States arming the PYD/YPG "is a source of concern" for Turkey as these terrorist organisations pose a threat to the country.

"Three days ago, America landed two planes loaded with weapons. Where? In Kobani. For whom? For the PYD and YPG," Erdoğan  said, referring to a Syrian city within sight of Turkey’s southern border.

"A very serious mistake is being committed before the world’s eyes," he added.

The president slammed attempts to justify arming and outfitting the PYD and YPG because they are fighting DAESH.

"Now, Al-Nusra is a terror organisation. Al-Nusra, in the same way, is fighting DAESH. If those who fight DAESH are not terrorists then Al-Nusra too, is not terrorist."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) speaks during an interview with Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait (R) in New York, on September 22, 2016.

Erdoğan said that the PYD and YPG are affiliates of the PKK terrorist organisation that is fighting Turkey. "They are together. They are the same."

Erdoğan reiterated his call for the international anti-DAESH coalition – made up of 65 countries – to "bring down DAESH" without involving such groups. "Don’t worry about that. We can do that together."

Trying to distinguish between "good" and "bad" terrorist groups constitutes "wrongdoing against Turkey," Erdoğan added.

Erdoğan also stressed that those who give weapons to the PYD and YPG are strengthening future threats to Turkey:

"Right now we are worried by the organisations you defend. These pose a threat to our country." 

Regarding a possible safe zone in northern Syria, he said that world leaders such as US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, and even Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously agreed to the proposal.

But once we say let’s move forward on this, unfortunately, this step was somehow not taken.

Erdoğan said Turkey wants infrastructure and shelter to be built in the proposed safe zone so Syrians need not leave their country to flee the war.

FETO and the failed coup attempt

Regarding Ankara’s request for the extradition of Fetullah Gülen, who lives in the US and who Turkey says is the mastermind of July's failed coup attempt, Erdoğan said, "We trust our political partner [Washington], and we want our political partner to give the proper response."

"We hope there will not be any mistakes," he said. 

"It is useful to give it a little time. But you know, no country can have plans without alternatives … It is not possible for a country like Turkey to have no alternatives."

Asked whether he believes any part of the US Government – including the CIA or State Department – played a role in the coup attempt or knew about it beforehand, Erdoğan replied: "It does not interest me whether they knew or not before the coup, what is important is the period after the coup.

"My people are asking this. If we held a referendum and asked: Who is behind this coup? The answer the Turkish people would give is FETO [the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation]. Ok.

"Where is FETO? In America.

"How many years has he been there? He has been there for 17 years."

Erdoğan added that Ankara had sent the US authorities 85 boxes of files showing that Gülen and his followers are responsible for the coup, but still has not gotten a positive response.

Asked whether he believes that is the behaviour of an ally, Erdoğan replied: "This is what saddens us."

"All the documents, for example, testimonies, have been given," Erdoğan said, adding that Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar’s aide – coup-plotter Lt. Col. Levent Türkkan – has admitted that "Pennsylvania is behind this," and that the night of the failed coup, Akar’s kidnappers even tried to get him to talk to Gülen over the phone. 

"All this is in the records, so what are we going to prove?" Erdoğan asked. 

"We are strategic partners, we are together in NATO, we want him, give [him], and let us try [him]. Let’s do what is needed.

But they said the court is going to decide. I’m sorry, but we can’t wait for these kinds of decisions from these kinds of courts because this crime was not committed in the US, it was committed in Turkey, so let us make the decision.

AA, TRTWorld and agencies