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FULL TRANSCRIPT: Ahmet Davutoglu

January 23rd, 2014
11:17 AM ET

The following is a full transcript of Christiane Amanpour's interview with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Foreign Minister Davutoglu, thank you so much for joining me from Davos [Montreux]. Welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Let me start by asking you about how you judge the success or otherwise of the Geneva 2 conference that has already started. You have said what’s happened in Syria is a shame upon humanity. Do you think that there really is a possibility of any kind of resolution or progress at Geneva 2?

DAVUTOGLU: There has been a very high expectation regarding this meeting. For many months, we have been preparing for such a meeting where two sides would be talking on the future of Syria. The first impression which I had today is that at least now we know the parties besides who will be negotiating and that is a success. The meeting itself was a positive step forward. But if you ask me about the general performance of two sides, to be frank, the regime side came here with a decision to accuse others rather than to start a serious negotiation. Unfortunately, the statement of Walid Muallem, it was not a surprise to us but it was really not a statement starting any process, but rather a statement accusing everybody else and making this very important meeting a platform of accusations. This was not very positive. But we hope Friday they will be more constructive.

AMANPOUR: Well, what is your reaction? Because he actually directly blamed Turkey and your prime minister for being the main reason behind all of this as they call it terrorism, behind the fights. If Turkey hadn't been involved, they said, none of this would have happened. Very strong accusations. What is your reaction to that?

DAVUTOGLU: In fact, I responded in the conference. I responded in a very clear manner. Two – three days ago there was no single terrorist activity in Syria. Why did this start? Because of oppression of the regime against peaceful demonstrators. Even until the end of 2011 there was not any armed resistance. Armed resistance did emerge when several Syrian officers, generals, had to defect from the army because of these massacres and oppression of the regime. And in the last three years around 2.5 million people became refugees, 700,000 of them are in Turkey. As I said in the meeting, are these all 700,000 refugees in Turkey, are they terrorists? The children, the women, everywhere in the region escape from this regime cannot be called a terrorist.

All the cities of Syria having been destructed by air bombardment, by Scud missiles, by barrel bombs, by chemical attacks and only the regime has that capacity. So it is – if there is one party to be blamed for what happened in Syria, it is the regime and its atrocities, its destruction and massacres. Turkey accepted…

AMANPOUR: Let me interrupt you for a second.

DAVUTOGLU: - policy of open door for the Syrian refugees.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about atrocities. You know that CNN broke a story earlier this week showing, according to a defector who was inside the Syrian regime and according to senior top-level international jurists, what looked to be evidence of systemic killing and torture of prisoners. The U.S. has now called for an investigation and others have called for this to be fully, fully investigated. What is your reaction to that? Do you think anybody will be held accountable?

DAVUTOGLU: It's not only would be held, should be held, must be held and congratulations for this very important breaking news two days ago which has proven that there were several crimes against humanity committed by the regime.
These photo evidences, authenticized (sic) and verified by very objective professional international experts, should change – should change the everything on the ground as well as everything on this negotiating table because all those photos are clear evidences, after Second World War we didn't see such a punishment of starvation like medieval ages. This is a crime against humanity and as Turkey and all the countries of Friends of Syria group, we were really very frustrated because of these hot evidences and we will follow up. All of those who committed this crime must be accountable. We didn't – we should not be doing the same mistake like what happened in Srebrenica. In Srebrenica some people tried to turn their eye and some tried to ignore Srebrenica for some time. But Srebrenica has happened and it was a shame for international community.
Now what happened in Srebrenica happened after 20 years in Damascus, in Homs, in Aleppo, everywhere in Syria and therefore all of those who are responsible for these crimes must be accountable and international investigation should start as early as possible in order to protect the basic values, universal values, all the different for the future of our next generations.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, clearly that was the call today among other calls to the Syrian regime. Do you have any belief that they will agree to an international investigation? They've already denied these allegations.

DAVUTOGLU: Milosevic did not agree for an international investigation. And all those who committed this type of crimes in the past did not agree. If you ask them, I am sure they will not agree. But if there is an international community, if there is a U.N. Security Council responsible for the international peace and stability, we have to find other way in order to protect basic rights, basic values of human dignity, and in order to protect international order. Otherwise, if this becomes – I mean, unaccountable, similar crimes will be committed in other parts of the world, in other corners of the world which will destroy the international order and basic values of humanity.
So we shouldn't be asking to Syrian regime to accept such an international investigation. We have to do it, in fact, you did this as international, CNN international two days ago, international experts has proven that these are the authentic evidences of systematic tortures, systematic killings through starvation. And I think that international pressure should create a new psychology of human conscience. Otherwise, all of us, we will be responsible for in front of history and human conscience.

AMANPOUR: You refer back to Srebrenica, which of course, was in Bosnia; you talk about Milosevic, who was the president of Yugoslavia and Serbia. But, remember, he was indicted by a U.N. tribunal. Are you suggesting that President Assad should be indicted by a tribunal, by the ICC?

DAVUTOGLU: Yes, the – all these photo evidences made this – made it very clear that there are crimes against humanity. There are two ways now for the regime. Either they will be serious in these negotiations in Geneva and political transition will start to establishing a transitioning governing body with true executive power or the alternative is the International Criminal Court and all the other international – all the other steps of international law against the regime. They must decide what to do. Either they will accept the basic values of international order or they have to be accountable. Otherwise, and in the past, they use all the destruction and they were not accountable when they used chemical weapons. Now we have these photo evidences, if they think that they will be unaccountable, they will commit more and more crimes. We should not be watching just like observers. The U.N. should take the initiative as U.N. Security Council if possible. If not, international community should take this initiative and make them accountable.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Foreign Minister, this is the crux of the issue. Mr. Foreign Minister, not long ago, you and the United States and others were saying Assad will fall; Assad must go. It hasn't happened. It's been three years. He's still there. The war continues. The only people who suffer are the people and of course, all of your countries who have so many refugees inside. But it's the Syrian people.

There seems to be now a diversion of opinion even in Turkey, a divergence between perhaps you, perhaps the president, Gul, you know, some are saying actually we need to resolve this and perhaps, you know, we can't say Assad must go right now. Would you agree that there is a divergence of opinion and that there is a real quandary about what to do next after calling for his ouster has simply not turned out?

DAVUTOGLU: In Turkey, there is no such a divergence. Let me compare again with the situation in Bosnia. The war in Bosnia started in 1992 but until 1995, in three years, Milosevic was there, Radovan Karadžić was there and people were thinking that they would be controlling the situation. And indict Milosevic’s seat around the table. But what happened later, he was indicted and he became accountable. So of course, we should not be waiting another year and years for Syria because the loss of in Syria is continuing. But importantly here is on ethical base, there is no grounds for Bashar al-Assad to run the country after all these crimes. On political and strategic base, all of us, we know very well that even those who are supporting Bashar al-Assad, they know very well that Bashar al-Assad cannot control the country anymore and cannot re-establish stability, peace in the country. So there should be a new transitional governing body. That is a target of this conference. That is the only way of transition and transfer of power. Otherwise, this civil war will continue to create more and more sectarian tension and more security risks not only for Syria but for the neighboring countries. And we should not be victim of all these atrocities and unfortunately reluctance of international community to make those people who committed crime against humanity accountable in front of international community. Therefore, we have to be very decisive, very firm and that should be seen as a last chance for the regime to agree to form a transitioning governing body. Otherwise, we have to, all of us, we have to look and work for through all means how to keep the stability and how to prevent this type of atrocities on the ground.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Davutoglu, let me please move on to another big issue at home in Turkey, which was on display again on the foreign stage in Brussels this week, I guess yourself and prime minister were in Brussels. And let me read you something from ‘The Economist’ regarding the current situation inside Turkey. This is what ‘The Economist’ has just said: "Over the past year, Turkey has seen a crackdown on protests, corruption scandals, a purge of the police and judiciary, paranoid talk of foreign plots, an economic slowdown and more attempts to Islamicize the society."
Turkey once was viewed as the kingmaker of the region, and things are not looking too great right now. Obviously the European Union is concerned about the judiciary, about its independence, about purges, particularly in relation to this current corruption scandal. Are you concerned that all your efforts, you know, to try to join the E.U. are going to be for naught, that they could act on your membership because of what's going on with the judiciary?

DAVUTOGLU: First of all, let me say our meetings yesterday in Brussels were very, very successful and fruitful. For us, membership to E.U. is a strategic objective and yesterday the meetings in this direction we took many important decisions together with E.U. leaders, President [inaudible], President Barroso and all other E.U. leaders.

AMANPOUR: But they said that the rule of law had to be paramount.

DAVUTOGLU: This I called in our ambassador's conference last week.

Yes, there is no doubt that there is rule of law in Turkey. And as it was emphasized in our ambassadors' conference last week, where all ambassadors came together, there are three basic principles of the success of Turkey in last 10 years, very strong democracy and democratization process, a very dynamic economy and very active and efficient diplomacy.
I think all those observers, objective observers, would agree that there is not any other country which had such a success story in the last 10 years based on the democratic and democratization packages, which was the last one was on 30 September last year. And that democratization process is continuing parallel to solution process on Kurdish issue and very dynamic economy. In last 10 years our economy has growing four times from around $230 billion. Now we have more than $800 billion. And our foreign – our diplomacy is so efficient everywhere in the world, in Africa, in Latin America, they open 35 new embassies and in all international issues Turkey is leading the peace, stability and prosperity through economic development packages in several parts of the world.
So we are self-confident; our democracy will be stronger. Our economy will be much more dynamic in the future. And our foreign policy will be much more efficient. There should not be any skepticism about this visionary feature of Turkey. This rising trend in Turkish economy, politics and foreign and diplomacy will continue in coming years.

AMANPOUR: Again, everybody will be delighted to hear you say that you are committed to democracy. Europe and in fact the United States is concerned about a drift towards authoritarianism, most particularly with the attempt to control the judiciary in this corruption scandal.
I want to ask you specifically – your relations with the United States. It used to be that between 2010 and like last year, there seemed to be a very close relationship between certainly President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan, between the United States and Turkey. But over Syria, Turkey seems to feel a little bit betrayed by the U.S. reluctance to get involved. Over Egypt you have a different emphasis on supporting different parties, depending on what's going on right now.On various issues, you seem to be drifting apart.
What is the state of your relations right now with the U.S.? Is there some trouble there?

DAVUTOGLU: Turkish-U.S. relation is one of the best structures relations in international scene. There are several mechanisms through which we have a close coordination, consultation. Even today I had a very comprehensive meeting with Secretary Kerry. Of course, sometimes even allies may disagree on certain policies. And may have different opinions. Important thing is how to discuss these different opinions and how to create a synergy out of these differences. I am confident to say that a Turkish-American relation today on different fronts is one of the basic pillar of international stability. In our region, there is a huge transformation in the Arab world. You can imagine from south of Turkey up to Morocco, up to North Africa, and to Afghanistan, there is a political transformation and on west in E.U., there is an economic crisis. But in this geography, Turkey is a country of stability and prosperity for last 10 years. And such a life is an asset for U.S., and same, U.S. is an asset for Turkey as a global power and we, for us, our relation is strategically important, not only for two nations, but for international community as well. Therefore, those who are trying to give an impression that Turkey, Turkish-American relation is not as good as before is misleading. The difference of opinion on Egypt or sometimes on Syria – in fact, on Syria, we have the same perspective. And we have the same perspective as well for the democratic transformation of this systems in our region. But if there is any difference, we are talking, we are consulting. As I said, we are trying to create a synergy out of these differences. There is no such a problematic dimension in our relations.
About Turkish domestic situation, as I said, there is a strong democratic mechanism, traditions and values, more important values in Turkey in all democratic societies sometimes there are differences in the terms of relations between executive and legislation or sometimes between executive and judicial powers, like what happened in United States a few months ago, because of a difference of opinion between the legislative and executive power, between Congress and the administration. There was a crisis. But democratic tradition of United States was able to overcome this crisis and Turkey is a democratic country. We've overcome all these small crises, which is natural in democracies like us and dynamic democracies. At the end of the day, you will see that Turkish democracy will be stronger, Turkish economy will be more dynamic and Turkish foreign policy will be continuing to be more efficient.

AMANPOUR: Finally, is the United States on the right side in Egypt?

DAVUTOGLU: Of course you should ask this to Secretary Kerry and about their position. But I can tell you that in Arab Spring, Turkey, as Turkey, we followed a policy of principles. We supported democratic transitions, like in Balkans in 1990s which the democratic transition was difficult in Eastern Europe as well. But it was successful. And in the Middle East, we have been supporting after Arab Spring the democratic transitions. Therefore, in Egypt, we didn't support this group or that group. We just supported a process of election and we disagree – I mean there our position was against this position against an action and against an elected president. Otherwise, that is not such a difference between Turkey and U.S. It ultimately that there should be a democratic transition in the region. Of course, we hope that Egyptian democracy will be reestablished. And we trust the Egyptian society and Egyptian strong tradition, civilization tradition, and success of Egyptian democracy will create a new atmosphere. And the failure of Egyptian democracy will create failure of similar experiences in other countries.
That was our position. About U.S. position, we agreed before military coup that this transition should be supported. But regarding the post-military coup situation, there were some differences of opinion, not only between us but in international community. But that was our position basically.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Davutoglu, thank you very much for joining me.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Could I just ask you quickly one question about Iran? Because there's a big mystery about Iran. Mr. Foreign Minister, there seem to be a really strange diplomatic mess over inviting Iran and then disinviting Iran to the Geneva 2. Can you tell me what happened? Iran says one thing, the U.N. says another thing.

DAVUTOGLU: Yes, in fact, as Turkey, we were in favor of participation of all important players to Geneva 2 in order to make it a success. On Sunday, Mr. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called me as well, asking our support. And I told him that Turkey will be supported for any initiative to make Geneva 2 successful. Later, I personally spoke with Javad Zarif, minister of foreign affairs of Iran, in order to agree on the basic parameters of Geneva 1 or at least to respond to the invitation letter of Secretary-General in a positive way.

But later I understand that either there was a misunderstanding or maybe there was a change of positions. I don't know the background in that sense. But there was not such a statement from Iranian side and the invitation was withdrawn. But at the end of the day, Iran is an important region country, can contribute to this process as part of a solution. Therefore, they should be engaged, like what happened P5+1 Iran talks. But at the end of the day, everybody should agree on the principles of Geneva 1 communique. Otherwise everything will be discussed again and again. And there should be a common ground for any meaningful negotiation. We hope that in coming days and weeks, there will be a new approach regarding Iran's role in Syria by them and also in this type of conferences.

AMANPOUR: All right. And I have to ask you one more question. What is your best hope, your best hope for Geneva 2?

DAVUTOGLU: There will be two here, two criteria, of the success of Geneva 2. One is improving humanitarian situation on the ground and preventing similar massacres or atrocities in the future. Second is forming a transitional governing body. At the end of the day, these two objectives should be achieved. What I hope is maybe at the beginning, it will be a tough negotiation. Today we have seen this. If Syrian regime is serious and if there's a political will by the side of the Syrian regime in the sense of committing themselves to Geneva 1 communique, we can make progress. And all countries who have contact with Syrian regime should tell them that the base of these negotiations is Geneva 1, which means a new government transitioning governing body will be formed by those who do not have blood in their hands. If they accept these main principles, there can be a progress and a success. But if they reject this basic principle of Geneva 2 – Geneva 1, and try to make a diplomatic, tactical manoeuvre here in Geneva in coming days, that will not be helpful and there cannot be any hope from these talks.
But at the end of the day, Syrian people will decide for their own future. What we are trying to do is to open the way for such an ultimate decision by Syrian people. But we have to agree on the basic principle that those who have blood in their hands should not be having any role in the future of Syria.

AMANPOUR: Once again, Foreign Minister Davutoglu, thank you so much for joining me.

DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. Thank you very much.

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