The main opposition party’s leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has urged the Turkish government to take lessons from the Syrian conflict and not to deploy troops to Libya as Ankara and Tripoli have agreed on a comprehensive security and defense deal.
“What are we in Libya for? For what were we in the Syrian marsh? The government has to take lessons from what happened in the Syrian marsh,” the chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) told the daily Hürriyet in an interview on Dec. 16.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s warning came after Turkey and the United Nations-backed Libyan government inked a memorandum of understanding on security and defense cooperation which would constitute a legal framework for the deployment of the Turkish troops in Libya.
The memorandum was approved at the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission on Dec. 16, but the opposition parties voted against it on the grounds that it would make Turkey a party to an ongoing civil war between the two factions in the oil-rich country.
CHP officials expressed their support to another memorandum signed between the two parties that provides the delimitation of the maritime jurisdiction areas in the Mediterranean Sea. But they say they won’t approve sending troops to Libya as it would put the lives of the Turkish soldiers in danger. The government needs to get the consent of the parliament for the deployment of troops to other countries, and it requires a simple majority.
‘Montreux Convention should not be amended’
CHP leader has raised his concerns over the government’s plans to merge the Black Sea with the Marmara Sea through what it calls the “Canal Istanbul” project and its impacts on the 1936-dated Montreux Convention that regulates the free passage from the Turkish straits.
For Kılıçdaroğlu, Canal Istanbul is a project that can not materialize and it serves for the government to distract the public attention from socioeconomic problems.
“I am of the opinion that it has been brought back to the agenda in order to remove key issues like unemployment, the economic crisis from the agenda. With which resources will it be done?” Kılıçdaroğlu asked.
Those who are discussing the project should be scientists, experts and not politicians, the CHP leader said, describing Canal Istanbul as being a completely irrational plan.
Kılıçdaroğlu also touched on discussions to what extent the 1936-dated Montreux Convention would be affected in the case that Canal Istanbul would be constructed and function as an alternate seaway.
“Even opening a discussion on the Montreux Convention in the context of the Canal Istanbul is against Turkey’s interests. We should stand against even probable efforts that would put Turkey’s delicate gains over the Bosporus on the table,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “Breaking the Montreux Agreement would lead to a series of negative developments in regard to Turkish-Russian relations.”
The government says Canal Istanbul will reduce the sea traffic of the Bosporus and therefore avoid major accidents that would endanger the safety of Istanbul with its 16 million people.
‘Turkey-US should refrain from sanctions language’
Upon questions, Kılıçdaroğlu evaluated the current state of ties between Turkey and the United States in the wake of the latter’s attempts to sanction Ankara for its unilateral military operations into Syria and the former’s threat to shut down U.S. bases on its soils.
“Our wish is to see the reconciliation of ties between Turkey and the U.S.,” he said, urging both sides to follow common sense and a mature understanding. “Sanctions would lead to further strain in ties and to an irreversible break-off. Both sides should refrain from it,” he stressed.
On a question about whether Turkey should bar the U.S. from using the key military bases, İncirlik base and Kürecik radar site, in retaliation, Kılıçdaroğlu advised the government to engage in dialogue with Washington instead of threatening it.
“Using this language in almost every incident is against the interests of Turkey. Instead, an approach that prioritizes diplomacy through keeping dialogue channels open should be embraced.”