Turks are pushing ahead towards EU membership


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Such statements do exist. Usually Armenian Diaspora states that in 1915 during WWI the Ottoman army killed a lot of Armenians. In 1915 the Ottoman Empire was in war with tsarist Russia. When the Ottoman army attacked the Russian army in the Easter territories of the present Turkey, Russians equipped Armenians living in these territories. Armenians lived in the whole territory of the Empire, but those living in the Eastern part, were equipped by Russians and attacked the Ottoman army from the rear. That is why the Ottoman government was forced to take certain measures and deport those Armenians to Southern Anatolia so army can be safe from the rear. During this deportation some Armenians perished, because of battles with Armenian militia and clashes with the local people or because of severe climate conditions of Eastern Turkey. I can add, that in those days less than 1,5 million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire. Scientists, who analyzed the data of those days, state that about 300 thousand Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire. It is unclear, why the number of perished is 1,5 million, when only 300 thousand lived in the Empires territory. To my point of view, these statements are not right. It may be also added, that during those military attacks 200 thousand Turks living in the Ottoman Empire perished as well as Armenians did. A lot of people were killed during sporadic clashes with Armenians, because of hostility between Armenians and the local people of Eastern Turkey. Both sides – Turks and Armenians – lost a lot of their people, though it is not right to declare that 1,5 million Armenians perished. Armenians were not treated they way it is stated.

Gintaras VISOCKAS

Today studio “Slaptai” (by director Gintaras Visockas) is visiting in the Turkish Embassy in Vilnius. We are interviewing H.E. Mr. Oguz Ozge, Turkish Ambassador to Lithuania. The main theme of the interview: is it possible for Turkey to join the EU quickly? Should the EU be afraid of Turkey’s membership?

Gintaras Visockas: What is the present political, cultural and economic situation in Turkey?

Oguz OZGE:
Firstly, I would like to tell that Turkey is pursuing to join the EU in the shortest possible time. At the present moment we are holding successful talks with the EU. We understand that this is a complicated process, though we are making preparations and believe to achieve our goals by 2013. At that time Turkey will be ready for a full membership in the EU.

Political processes are successfully under way in Turkey. Democratic system is functioning properly, parties are obeying constitutional order and Turkish citizens are enjoying all rights established in the Constitution. I believe there will be no political obstacles for Turkey moving towards EU membership. As for economics, I would like to mention that for 10 years already we are having custom agreements with the EU. At the present moment Turkey’s economy, industry, service sector, agriculture is dovetailed with the EU. As for economy, so we have a market economy: everything is functioning freely, and according to my point of view, this area functions according to the EU regulations for free economy system. As for culture, Turkey is a multi cultural country. Cultural life is also defined by the Constitution, so we hope the future will also be bright.

Gintaras Visockas: What would be your answer for those believing that Turkey favors Muslims fanatics?

Oguz OZGE:
Firstly, I would stress, that in Turkey we do not look with favor towards Islamist fanatics. One can notice that recently world is leaning to conservatism. So religiousness is getting stronger. Turkey is also influenced by this tendency. In Turkey people are also appreciating Islamic ideals, Islamic values, though one cannot state that these values are being uplifted to a lever of fanaticism. We are against portraying Islam as fanaticism. Every society may include some people supporting fanaticism, though I do not believe that this may endanger Turkey as a country.

Gintaras Visockas: In Lithuania we are often get information about terror acts in Turkey – blast in restaurants, hotels and on streets. Who are those organizing acts of terror and why they are doing so?

Oguz OZGE:
This is PKK, a terrorist organization. We are taking security measures against it. Due to the efforts of Turkish security and military forces activity of this organization on the Turkey’s territory was effectively restricted. At the present moment it has its bases in the Northern Iraq where the Iraq central government’s control is very low. So it has quite unrestricted opportunity organizing terror attacks across Turkey’s borders. I guess, due to some successful military campaigns against them, at the present moment their power and forces are subdued. They are organizing terror acts in Turkey so to convince public that they still exist.

Gintaras Visockas: What are your relations with Greece and Kurds at the present moment?

Oguz OZGE:
Our relations with Greece, especially economic, are prospering. Bilateral trade rate is constantly growing. There are few political issues which are under discussion. We believe that successful development of economic relations will have a positive impact and will help in solving political issues.

As for Kurds, so they are Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin. They are enjoying all the constitutional rights, and are full citizens of the Turkish Republic. In Western Turkey there are more Kurds than in Eastern. They happily coexist with Turks, though there are attempts to prove Kurds do not want to live in the Republic of Turkey and they want their autonomy in South East Turkey. It is true, that there may be some willing to get such autonomy. I can only confirm that Turkish citizens – Turks, Kurds and others – are all equal citizens in Turkey. They are equal in the eye of the law and all are equally enjoying civil rights.

Gintaras Visockas: What would be your answer to those, who accuse Turks of committing genocide against the Armenian people?

Oguz OZGE:
Such statements do exist. Usually Armenian Diaspora states that in 1915 during WWI the Ottoman army killed a lot of Armenians. In 1915 the Ottoman Empire was in war with tsarist Russia. When the Ottoman army attacked the Russian army in the Easter territories of the present Turkey, Russians equipped Armenians living in these territories. Armenians lived in the whole territory of the Empire, but those living in the Eastern part, were equipped by Russians and attacked the Ottoman army from the rear. That is why the Ottoman government was forced to take certain measures and deport those Armenians to Southern Anatolia so army can be safe from the rear. During this deportation some Armenians perished, because of battles with Armenian militia and clashes with the local people or because of severe climate conditions of Eastern Turkey. I can add, that in those days less than 1,5 million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire. Scientists, who analyzed the data of those days, state that about 300 thousand Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire. It is unclear, why the number of perished is 1,5 million, when only 300 thousand lived in the Empire’s territory. To my point of view, these statements are not right. It may be also added, that during those military attacks 200 thousand Turks living in the Ottoman Empire perished as well as Armenians did. A lot of people were killed during sporadic clashes with Armenians, because of hostility between Armenians and the local people of Eastern Turkey. Both sides – Turks and Armenians – lost a lot of their people, though it is not right to declare that 1,5 million Armenians perished. Armenians were not treated they way it is stated.

On 6 September of 2008 a historical football match between Armenian and Turkish football teams took place in Yerevan. The Armenian president invited the Turkish president and they both watched the match. This is the first time in history when the Turkish president visits Yerevan. I guess this was the Turkish President’s goodwill gesture and it will assist improving relations between our two countries.

Gintaras Visockas: What would you answer to EU leaders stating that Turkey is still not ready for the EU membership? Is it true that Turkey is still not read for the EU membership and is it really wishing to join it?

Oguz OZGE:
It is true there is still homework to be done. We understand that we must do it as quickly as possible. While negotiations between the EU and Turkey go on, Turkish laws must be harmonized wit the EU’s. We believe that by the time of accession we will have accomplished our homework.

Gintaras Visockas: What is your judgment on the conflict between Georgia and Russia? What are Turkey’s relations with Russia at the present moment?

Oguz OZGE:
Firstly, situation in Georgia. In our view, Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected. This view is not based only on the fact that Georgia is our neighbor. We are also supporting position that Georgia’s independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty must be respected without any exception. Bilateral relations with Russia, which is a very important trade partner for ours, are developing in economic field. We are importing gas and oil. I may say that Russia is our biggest trade partner, so we pay a lot of attention to our bilateral relations. I strongly believe that relations between our countries should be based on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. We have a lot of historical experience with Russia. There were times when we were friends; there were times when we were enemies. There were a lot of military conflicts between us. In XVIII-XIX centuries 14-15 wars took place. That is why both countries know well value of piece and understanding. I guess that bilateral relations with Russia are developing in that mood.

Gintaras Visockas: Lithuanians like Turkey because it is a country where they can get a quality rest for a moderate price. In what way Lithuania may interest Turkey? How would you assess bilateral relations between our two countries?

Oguz OZGE:
In 2007 71 thousand Lithuanians visited Turkey with tourist visas. We hope that in future the number will reach 80-85 thousand. In Turkey Lithuanians get good accommodations, sun and warn sea, as well as Turkish hospitality.Due to our cultural situation and traditions Turks are positive towards foreigners. It is assumed that nations should coexist. Lithuanians find atmosphere in Turkey friendly, and this is the main reason why they go there.

Bilateral relations with Turkey are good. In May of 2008 Mr. G.Kirkilas, Prime Minister, came to Turkey on an official visit. We assume that our bilateral relations have much space for development in economy sphere. Turks are often coming to Lithuania on business, searching for new contacts and room for business. Lithuania is not popular among Turkish tourist. Firstly, it is rather hard to get visa. Tourist agencies more willingly organize trips to Estonia and Latvia, because their visa requirements, at least for visas acquired though tourism agencies, are not so strict. I assume that more tourists would come to Lithuania provided this visa issue solved.

Gintaras Visockas: I would like to thank H.E. Ambassador for his interview.


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