Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otari said: "We see Turkey as representative of the Arab and Islamic World in the EU". Otari gave an interview to a Turkish daily and declared Syria's support for Turkey's EU membership. He also claims that Turkey can play a constructive role in US-Syria relations.
Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otari, spoke to Zaman after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Syria. In today's part of the speech, he said that the USA has no valid reason to intervene into Syria and an operation in these circumstances would be a "new colonialism."Otari also evaluated Turkey's EU membership, Lebanon policy and terror.
Q - USA accuses Syria of supporting terror. Do you support terror?
You have to stop here for a while. Can we call the struggle of a nation under an invasion 'terror'? They are fighting for their land and their rights. If you infer that the Palestinian struggle is terror then this is unacceptable. Also, the United Nations (UN) accepts this in this way. The situation is for international law. It is a very weird situation that today we are accused of defending ourselves and trying to save our land. Also, they intervened in Iraq by stating that there are nuclear weapons in Iraq. But there were no weapons. There are tons of these in Israel but nobody even talks about them. We gave an offer to UN saying "lets clean out the whole Middle East of its weapons of mass destruction" but our offer is still waiting on the table. If we come back to the terror issue, we are, of course, against all kinds of terror that targets civilians meaninglessly.
The USA does not Accuse Palestine of supporting terror but you. You are telling Palestine's reasons, what are your reasons?
If we look at near history we will see that the ones who call some body a terrorist, were their closest allies in the past. The USA used to support and save the people in Halab and today they call them terrorists. The USA used these people against us. These groups applied severe terrorist activities against us. The same thing happened in Afghanistan. Whose product is Bin Laden? They create a problem and then use their methods to solve it. Then the situation that comes up is used for accusing us. We only struggle to save the lands invaded by Israel. This is the same in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. If they call this terror, there is nothing to be done.
Q - Do you foresee a possibility that the USA may make a military operation?
First of all they have no reason to attack our country. Despite this, if something does happen, we will be back in colonial times. In such a situation we have the power to send the new colonists away as we did to former ones.
Q - Did you ask Erdogan to be a mediator between USA and Syria to solve the problems?
Erdogan frankly believes in the stability of the region and does his best for that. We did not ask him to be a mediator in this visit.
Q - The world relates the region's being the origin of terror to lack of democracy in the region. What does the Syrian administration think of democracy?
We have three priorities that we call "the golden triangle." Each of these priorities has the same priority. The first one is to save our land from invasion and to provide peace. The second one is to develop dramatically, and the third one is to supply democracy and freedom for the nation. These are all interrelated issues. In this frame we will take big steps to re-construct the political system in the near future.
Q - If peace with Israel is a condition for Democracy are you hopeful about this?
You should ask this question to Israel. The only country whose borders are not clear in the world is Israel because Israel follows an expansionist policy. Also, as long as the Sharon government exists we do not believe that there will be peace. In order to talk about peace the invasion should end. If this happens, then the establishment of peace is very easy.
Q - One of the reasons why pressure is applied on you is because of your soldiers in Lebanon; will you reconsider your Lebanon policy?
They have found many so called reasons to accuse us, because these did not work they brought Lebanon to the agenda. Lebanon is a neighboring Arabian country. Our relationship with them is normal. There is an independent government in Lebanon who was elected by the people of Lebanon the agreement between us and them is with the mutual consent of other Arabian countries. So we do not have to make explanations to anyone else for our mutual relationship. If we do not interfere with another countries' relationships, why should others interfere in ours?
Q - How do you accept USA's Extended Greater Middle East Project (EGMEP) that is said to bring democracy to the region?
I do not think that the USA cares about democracy. The USA considers its interests. Their strong relationships with countries that lack democracy reveals their double standard. As for me the biggest problem that the USA faces today is that nobody in the world believes what they say.
Q - Do you accept Turkey as an example for Arab World, what kind of a role do you expect from Turkey?
Everybody gives different meanings to this example concept. To me, not only does Turkey's struggle for democracy in the political arena but also the development that it had in social and economic issues are examples for us. We examine this experience and take lessons for ourselves. There are different developments in Turkey on political and religious areas. We observe the Justice and Development Party (AKP) experience and the policies of Erdogan very closely. Everybody can learn different things from every example. But the thing that is indisputable for me is the importance of Turkey for everybody. Electing Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu as Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), is a concrete sign of the importance that the Islamic World gives to Turkey. We are proud of contributing to his candidacy and being elected. This job naturally brings Turkey's acting more effectively in the region. Turkey's "Iraq's neighbors project" is mainly for Arab countries and this made Turkey an Arab country metaphorically. Also Turkey's close interest in the region added plusses to its geopolitical importance in the world.
Q - How do you observe Turkey's starting membership negotiations after the December 17 Summit, can this process prevent a clash of civilizations?
We observed this decision with great happiness. We are not only happy about this decision but we also support it. We also initialized the partnership agreement with the EU a month ago and we will sign the decisive agreement in the near future. Turkey is getting closer to the EU and it will make us stronger also. The EU process is not only good for Turkey but also for the Arab World. We hope the full membership happens in 3-5 years. We believe that Turkey will do this.
Of course Turkey will prove the counter argument of the civilization clash scenario. Turkey's entrance to the EU as a Muslim country will serve to tell the problems of Islam world to the West. We see Turkey as representative of the Arab and Islamic World in the EU, and this gives authorization to it.
Q - Do you think that one day you will also be a member of the EU?
Definitely! The last steps of the partnership agreement will be this. One day the whole region will do shopping with Euros. We have already decided to make our foreign trade with the Euro and so we changed our money reserves.
We support a Turkish School project in Syria.
The students coming Syria for university education encounter equality problems in Turkey. Will you be able to find a solution to this?
We talked about this topic also. This topic will be discussed in detail in the meeting that will be held between Syrian and Turkish Education Ministers. Also, there is an agreement on this issue, between the higher education institutions of the two countries. I think these agreements will be done and will be applied very soon.
Q - We have heard that there is a Pakistan college in Syria. How do you accept Turkish Government or Private sector to open Syria-Turk colleges in Syria?
In fact we have talked about these issues with Prime Minister Erdogan also. Of course we reached a consensus. The schools may be opened in the frame of the laws in Syria. If there is a project for this we are ready to support it.
Source: Zaman, 29 December 2004