Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence
Turkish Foreign Policy and Turkey-Ireland Relations: Engagement with Ambassador of Turkey
I thank the Chairman and wish the ambassador a good afternoon. He is very welcome to the committee. I congratulate him on his recent appointment to Ireland. I apologise for being late in joining the meeting. Much like other colleagues, I was tied up in the Dáil Chamber dealing with the budget, which is a not insignificant event going on as a backdrop within the Dáil today.
I have a number of questions and issues I want to try to address this afternoon. I will pick up the topic on which the Chairman finished, which is the whole issue of Cyprus. It is an issue on which I have been very vocal and one of the many reasons for which I wanted an engagement with a representative from the Turkish Embassy. I am, therefore, glad to be able to raise the issue directly with the ambassador today.
In my mind, the occupation by Turkey of northern Cyprus since Operation Atilla in 1974 must not only be condemned but the ratcheting up of tensions by Turkey, certainly over the last year or more, has really added to tensions rather than to the prospect of any peaceful resolution to the issue. As I stated, this has gone on now since the occupation of northern Cyprus in 1974.
I will not labour some of the points the Chairman made around tangible talks and efforts which are, in my mind, being taken by Turkey to undermine any prospect for talks. Last year, there were major tensions in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and much of that would have stemmed from the Turkish position and rights around exploration for oil and gas. Is the position of Turkey really ultimately about controlling large sections of the Mediterranean Sea for oil and gas? Is that influencing any positions being taken by Turkey with regard to a peaceful resolution?
I have a number of questions. Perhaps we will deal with them first and maybe the ambassador will want to come in at that point. Over the last number of years, an approach has been adopted by Turkey on the international stage and particularly in that region, which I believe to have been a very unsettling position. We see that in terms of the Turkish involvement in the recent Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh. The Turkish intelligence transferring of jihadis from places such as Syria into the midst of that conflict was widely reported. The ambassador might address the Turkish involvement in tensions and hostilities in that particular region, what involvement Turkey had in it and what involvement it still has to this day. The use of drones, for example, which were used to target Armenian civilian populations, was widely reported. He might address that issue.
While I am talking about the transfer of jihadis from places such as Syria, it was also widely reported that Turkish intelligence again transported thousands of jihadis from places like Idlib in Syria into Egypt. Again, I listened intently to what the ambassador had to say in terms of why Turkey was involved in the situation in Libya. I will pose the point that the involvement of Turkey actually ratcheted up tensions within the region, particularly the transferring of thousands of jihadis into that particular conflict zone. The ambassador might also touch on that.
I have a couple of other issues, one of which is the treatment of the Kurdish population and Kurdish people by Turkey. We see that in terms of the ongoing attempts to ban a Kurdish political party, namely, the Peoples Democratic Party, HDP. I want to ask specifically about the ongoing efforts by President Erdoan and Turkey to ban the HDP. What is the rationale for that? Why has the decision been taken to outlaw political activity?
With regard to the ongoing tensions within the region concerning the Kurdish population, we see continuous incursions into Iraq by Turkey to target Kurdistan people, much to their annoyance and rightfully so. Ongoing incursions into Iraq are an intrusion into another country against international law. We also see the unlawful occupation of large sections of Syria. I mentioned the Idlib province already. We see it right along the northern borders of Syria and the southern borders of Turkey.
I noted with interest comments made yesterday by President Erdoan that in my mind were almost an indication that there was going to be a renewal of military hostilities against Kurdish people in those regions. I would like to get a view from the ambassador on the illegal occupation of Syria, the ongoing hostilities against the Kurds and their right to self-determination.
The final issue I want to raise with the ambassador is the that of the prevention of violence against women and combatting domestic violence. Of course, I am talking about the decision taken by Turkey to withdraw from the Istanbul accord. That was the 2011 Istanbul Convention, which was ratified by Turkey in 2012 and to which it was the first country to sign up. The decision by Turkey to withdraw from the accord is a retrograde step. It has been condemned and rightfully so. I utterly condemn the position taken by Turkey on its withdrawal from the Istanbul accord.
I will pose this question to the ambassador. What is the rationale for the withdrawal from the Istanbul accord? Ongoing violence against women is obviously prevalent in society right across the world and it must be condemned. Signing up to conventions such as this must be welcomed. I do not believe enough has been done internationally to target the ongoing issues of persecution and violence against women. Any withdrawal of positions by a government or by a country with regard to any measures to protect women in society anywhere in the world must be condemned. What is the rationale? I do not think any rationale would stand up to scrutiny. I would be interested to hear what the ambassador has to say to try to defend that indefensible position, however.