Interview with His Excellency Ms Füsun ARAMAZ
Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Romania
Vasile Simileanu: Your Excellency,
Is Turkey at a time of reconsideration of geopolitical, strategic, diplomatic and cultural paradigms? What effects can it have on relations with neighboring countries? How about with the Black Sea riverain states?
Füsun ARAMAZ: An “action-oriented”, “innovative” but a principled foreign policy is a must in our trouble-ridden region and the world. This action-oriented, innovative and principled foreign policy is what we call Enterprising and Humanitarian Foreign Policy. A top priority for Turkey is to further strengthen her existing strategic relations with European and Transatlantic political and security structures. Turkey sees NATO as the linchpin of Euro-Atlantic security. We are a responsible and reliable ally for over six decades. Turkey is among the top five contributors to NATO’s operations and the eighth largest contributor to NATO in financial terms. As a negotiating candidate country, full EU membership remains a strategic foreign policy objective for Turkey. Given that Turkey is the fifth largest trading partner of the EU and the EU is the largest trading partner of Turkey, we expect to have strong cooperation and better engagement in all dimensions of our relations.
The peculiarity of Turkey is that she can focus on multiple directions at the same time. The Turkish foreign policy has a 360 view—it is multi-directional and multi-dimensional. The Balkans, Caucasia, Central Asia and Middle East are geographies with whom we share a fraternal and emotional bond. In these geographies, we must be a constructive partner in all aspects. We have all the capabilities to obtain concrete results from this togetherness based on our history. Our relationship with the West and the East complement each other. The more present and stronger we are in the West, the stronger we will become in the East. The more we are present in the East, the more our value will be in the West. The same goes for the North and South. Seeing these as alternatives to each other is a long outdated idea. Today’s reality has changed. The whole world has changed, Turkey has changed.
Vasile Simileanu: Madam Ambassador,
As a Consul General in Romania, you are not in the first contact with our country. You know the Romanian people and the Turkish-Tatar community in Dobrogea. You have generated bilateral cooperation strategies and promoted Turkey’s interests in Romania. You supported the Romanian projects in Turkey. How do you appreciate the current stage of the Turkish-Romanian bilateral relations?
Füsun ARAMAZ: Turkey and Romania traditionally enjoy very good relations. Our close cooperation dates back deep in history. Our already existing close interaction and solidarity moved to a new and vigorous phase in all fields by the Strategic Partnership that we established in 2011. Economic relations and collaboration in the fields of security and military represent the two substantial pillars. Our close cooperation within the regional and international platforms is exemplary. We value our strategic partnership and alliance within NATO. Turkey’s EU vocation sets an equally important element in our collaboration. We highly appreciate Romania’s strong support to our European integration process. We believe, our shared vision of European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes contribute much to our relations. In this regard, I take this opportunity to thank Romania for its staunch support to Turkey during its Council Presidency.
Our economic relations is a substantive driving force for our overall collaboration. Turkish businessmen were the primary group of foreign entrepreneurs to come to Romania after the 1989 Revolution. As of the end of 2018, our mutual trade volume has already reached USD 6.3 billions, standing Turkey out as the 5th largest trading partner of Romania and the biggest outside the EU. We continue our reciprocal efforts and coordination to hit our common target of USD 10 billions. Turkish investments also continue to flourish in Romania. Over 15.000 Turkish companies are registered in Romania with a total investment of an approximate USD 7 billion. Turkish companies in Romania operate in a wide range of sectors. Tourism is another area where we enjoy and witness the ever-growing people-to-people relations. Close to half a million Romanian nationals visit Turkey every year.
Being proud citizens of Romania, the Turkish-Tatar community sets the strongest bond between our two countries. This fact finds its perfect expression in the Dobrogea Model. We are proud to witness their achievements as well as their contribution to this beautiful country. We commend the exemplary inclusive policies of the Romanian state towards the Turkish-Tatar minority.
Vasile Simileanu: Excellency,
EU formats such as the European Neighborhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership are on the agenda of the United Europe. Turkey has a special partnership with the EU and can benefit from these strategies. What are the strategies promoted by Ankara?
Füsun ARAMAZ: As outlined in the EU Commission’s 2019 Country Report and Enlargement Package, Turkey not only is a candidate to the EU, it also is a key partner and actor in the region and beyond. Turkey has the ability to contribute to the regional and global policies of the EU. We have common aims and interests in important international matters.
Turkey has deep historical bounds with the EU’s wider neighbourhood. The Balkan region, for instance, is one where Turkey and the EU should further cooperate in order to advance their mutual interests. In this regard, Turkey supports the integration of the Balkans into Euro-Atlantic mechanisms.
Not only do we support the EU candidacy of Balkan countries, we also support the EU’s alternative regional policies such as the European Neighbourhood Policy or the Eastern Partnership. We believe that these policies can have a positive impact in bringing further stability and prosperity in our wider region.
Security in a time of global threat and terrorism is another foreign policy topic where Turkey-EU cooperation is vital. The measures taken by Turkey amid severe threats emanating from the Syrian conflict and instability in Iraq have been essential for safeguarding the security of the EU and its members. Turkey was also the key actor in overcoming Europe’s migration crisis.
Vasile Simileanu: Your Excellency,
Regional strategies promoted by Turkey have a major impact on Romania. In this context, we are talking about the Polond-Romania-Turkey strategic trilateral, these states being also partners in the missile shield. How do you appreciate the bilateral relations in the field of military cooperation? What other formats are being considered to be developed at the military level, in order to diminish the security risk in the Black Sea region?
Füsun ARAMAZ: As confirmed by the three Foreign Ministers at their last meeting in Ankara (on 19 April), the Turkey-Romania-Poland trilateral Ministerial Meetings have proven to be a vibrant and efficient forum for exploring opportunities for further cooperation. This includes exploring ways and means of further displaying solidarity in NATO.
The three Ministers decided to make use of this trilateral forum to translate cooperation into concrete action, including in the Black Sea region, in particular by assisting capacity building efforts in partner countries. Turkey and Romania are closely cooperating in Black Sea security both bilaterally and at NATO. Close consultations between the two countries continue to contribute to more effective implementation of NATO’s Tailored Forward Presence (tFP). Turkey stands in solidarity with Romania at NATO and supports as appropriate, the initiatives that Romania launched to contribute to NATO’s enhanced deterrence and defence posture in the regions.
As per the bilateral relations, we enjoy a close cooperation with Romania. We are two close allies and neighbours in the Eastern Flank of NATO. Turkish and Romanian armed forces interact closely at every level and through a broad spectrum of collaboration areas, be it military exercises, mutual training programmes, port visits by our two navies, personnel exchange, or exchange of views and opinions on cooloperation modalities on regional security threats. We support all of these components with regular and reciprocal high level visits.
Vasile Simileanu: Excellency,
Negotiations with neighbors have seen developments and involutions, depending on Turkey’s guidelines. How do you appreciate the relationship with Ukraine – in the context of the occupation of Crimea by Russia – Armenia – in the context of the deployment of Russian A-107 on the territory of this state and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh – with Cyprus and the Republic of Moldova – on the Gagauz community?
Füsun ARAMAZ: Turkey’s position regarding the crisis in and around Ukraine is clear and solid. We fully support Ukraine’s territorial integrity including Crimea. We believe the Donbas conflict should be solved through appropriate diplomatic measures compatible with international law. Full implementation of Minsk agreements is important in this respect. OSCE Ukraine Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) is a vital mechanism, which we will keep supporting. We welcome the appointment of Ambassador Halit Çevik as the next Chief Monitor of the Mission.
Crimea and the well-being of Crimean Tatars is a key issue for Turkey. We are a country that hosts more than 3 million citizens of Crimean Tatar descent. We follow the human rights situation in Crimea closely. We also help Crimean Tatars voice their concerns in international platforms. In fact, we have co-sponsored all Crimea related resolutions at the UN.
Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Armenia on 16 December 1991. Turkey supported Armenia’s integration with international and regional organizations. We also invited Armenia to join the Black Sea Economic Cooperation as a founding member, although this country is landlocked. We also sought normalization through the Zurich Protocols in 2009. But the continuing Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the intransigence of the Nagorno-Karabakh clan prevailing in Armenia have been deal-breakers. President Serj Sargsyan declared the Protocols null and void in March 2018. The absence of any improvement in the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations has prevented progress in the Turkish-Armenian relations. Conversely, progress in the Armenia-Azerbaijan dimension can facilitate the Turkey-Armenia dimension.
A settlement in Cyprus will definitely contribute to the security and prosperity of the entire Eastern Mediterranean region. The Greek Cypriots’ understanding of a settlement is to integrate the Turkish Cypriots into their existing state as a de facto minority. If this mentality remains unchanged, a new partnership state cannot be established. The latest statements of the Greek Cypriot leader show that he is still far away from shifting this mentality. Regrettably, the Greek Cypriots do not accept the political equality of the Turkish Cypriots, and they do not want to share the power and prosperity with the Turkish Cypriots. We maintain that only a negotiated settlement based on dialogue and diplomacy can be sustainable. We will not accept to initiate a new process of negotiations only for the sake of negotiating. Therefore, before starting talks, we all have to agree on what we will be negotiating and how we will conduct these negotiations, together with all modalities and parameters. We are ready to take up any settlement model (federation, confederation, two state etc.) as long as the political equality of the Turkish Cypriots is secured and the security needs of the Turkish Cypriots are met.
Even though we do not have common borders, we always consider Moldova as a neighbor and an important partner. Raising our relations to strategic partnership during President Erdoğan’s visit (17-18 October 2018) is a clear proof of our solid cooperation. We would like to see strong and prosperous Gagauzia, in strong and prosperous Moldova. We encourage Gagauz leadership to discuss their issues openly and directly with Chisinau, but Chisinau should also reach out to them.
Improvement in the functioning of the autonomy of Gagauzia is important for them and for Moldova’s domestic harmony. After parliamentary elections in Moldova, we closely follow the elections for the Governor (Bashkan) of Gagauzia (30 June 2019). We are about to finalize the opening process of our Consulate General in Comrat. We provide development assistance not only to Gagauzia but also all over Moldova.
Vasile Simileanu: Madam Ambassador,
Economic, cultural, political and diplomatic relations play an active role in promoting national interests at international level. What are the bilateral formats with Romania and the EU? Please give us the points of interest for both states.
Füsun ARAMAZ: Turkey-EU relations have a long history dating back to 1963, the signing of the Ankara Agreement. Since then, Turkey has become a candidate country in 1999 and has started membership negotiations in 2005.
The contractual basis of our relations with the EU is thus our accession process. Association Council and Committee meetings are the main mechanisms we have with the EU regarding our accession process. We also have high-level political dialogue as well as dialogue meetings and consultations on regional issues and high-level sectoral dialogue mechanisms, such as energy, transport, economy, migration, counter-terrorism etc.
However, no dialogue or cooperation mechanism can substitute our accession process. Turkey’s strategic objective remains EU membership. The full potential of Turkey-EU relations can only be fulfilled once Turkey joins the EU.
Vasile Simileanu: Your Excellency,
For the Black Sea countries, the geostrategic situation is not convenient. Russian expansions in Crimea and East Ukraine may cause some negative developments in riparian states through hybrid manifestations but also through social instability. From my point of view, the acute migration faced by Turkey is a hybrid manifestation. Do you consider strategies to mitigate regional risks?
Füsun ARAMAZ: The Black Sea should be a sea of peace. Responsibility to protect peace and stability in the region belongs to all littoral states. Unilateral actions go against international law and negatively affect the stability in the Black Sea. After the recent incident near the Kerch Strait, President Erdoğan got in touch with his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts to de-escalate in the region. Turkey will keep contributing to all of the efforts to resolve the conflict in Ukraine.
Irregular and uncontrolled migratory flows may constitute potential threat to regional/national security on the grounds that such movements enhance the rate of organized crimes including human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Such criminal activities are often difficult for states to quickly identify and take preventive measures.
Mass migratory movements are often used by politicians as means to gain public vote. Political actors depict migrants as potentialy “dangerious, risky persons, criminals or even terrorists”. Citizens, who are already concerned with the sudden migratory flows and encountered with individuals from various background becomes easy target for the anti-migrant discourses of politicians. In return, negative approaches such as islamophobia, xenophobia, racisim etc. can be developed among public and the social harmony within communites are severely disturbed.
Certain terrorists may attempt to introduce themselves as asylum-seekers at the border of the receiving countries. As asylum-application is received in accordance with the verbal declaratation of the related person. Hence, there are various cases where a so-called “asylum-seeker or applicant” is first registered and after a certain amount of time identified as a terrorist or criminal. Once states detect this situation it might be difficult to trace down and locate such persons which causes immediate threat to the internal security of host-countries.
Vasile Simileanu: Madam Ambassador,
Energy resources have played and play an important role in regional and European security. Turkey is a geopolitical impact actor. What common strategies will be developed in relations with Romania in the medium and long term?
Füsun ARAMAZ: Diversification of energy sources and routes with a view to ensuring energy supply security constitutes an important element of Turkey’s energy strategy. We also aim contribute to the energy security of Europe, including the South East Europe.
Energy is a convenient field for furthering our bilateral cooperation with Romania. We see Romania as an important player of the region in the energy sector. Romania not only has a good experience in natural gas production and storage, but also manages well a balanced energy mix including the renewables, nuclear energy and coal, besides natural gas.
We have a similar understanding with Romania regarding the importance of interconnectedness and regional cooperation in the field of energy. Like Romania, Turkey supports initiatives that increase interconnectivity in the Balkans and beyond. The Southern Gas Corridor as well as the Turk Stream projects provide good examples in this regard.
In sum, we see a good potential for cooperation with Romania and are ready to encourage our relevant authorities to increase their exchanges.