Turkey’s Foreign Minister Presses for ‘Zero-Tolerance Policy’ against Terrorism

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu says better cooperation from Europe and consistent actions from the United States are necessary.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke on several topics affecting his nation Tuesday, including steps to better combat terrorism. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
March 30, 2016

By Kevin Dunleavy

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu urged for a “zero-tolerance policy” against terrorism Tuesday, saying that the March 22 attacks in Brussels could have been prevented with better cooperation from Europe.

In a speech at the George Washington University, Mr. Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey deported suspected terrorist Ibrahim el-Bakraoui and warned Europe about him. Mr. El-Bakraoui participated in the Brussels attacks that claimed 35 lives in the city, blowing himself up at the Brussels Airport.

“We deported him to Amsterdam, even though he’s a Belgian citizen, and we informed both the embassies of Netherlands and Belgium,” Mr. Çavuşoğlu said. “Unfortunately Belgium authorities didn’t take any measures.”

According to Mr. Çavuşoğlu, Turkey has deported more than 3,250 suspected terrorists to their home countries in Europe. Some of those deported, however, have been allowed to fly back to Turkey.

“During the coalition meetings, I ask my colleagues from European countries how that can happen,” Mr. Çavuşoğlu said. “And the simple answer is freedom of movement.

“We have to have more will to fight terrorism,” Mr. Çavuşoğlu said. “These incidents have once again shown that all countries must employ a zero-tolerance policy against terrorism.”

Mr. Çavuşoğlu, in his second term as Turkey’s foreign minister, is in Washington to participate in this week’s Nuclear Security Summit. He met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, and they reaffirmed their commitment to battling terrorism.

In his speech Tuesday, Mr. Çavuşoğlu touched on other topics that affect his nation.

He said that Turkey has placed a priority on settling the division of Cyprus. The island-nation has been split since 1974 when a Greek-supported coup prompted an invasion and occupation of the north by Turkey.

“We have the opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem this year,” Mr. Çavuşoğlu said. “We are hoping to reach a lasting and viable settlement in this year, possibly after elections in the south.”

Mr. Çavuşoğlu also addressed Turkey’s refugee problem. The country hosts more than 3 million refugees, many of them from Syria.

“The situation on the south of our borders has created one of the most serious humanitarian disasters of modern history,” Mr. Çavuşoğlu said.

He said Turkey has spent more than $10 billion on aid to refugees, while receiving only $462 million in aid.

“This is like a joke,” he said. “We need to see that this burden is shared by the international community.”

The topic that dominated conversation, however, was terrorism.

Mr. Çavuşoğlu said that the world should stop making distinctions between terrorist groups. He pointed out that while the United States considers the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist organization, it doesn’t classify its affiliates—the Syrian-based PYD and the armed wing YPG—the same way. Mr. Çavuşoğlu said these affiliate groups were responsible for recent attacks in Ankara.

“In the fight against terrorism, there can be no double standards,” he said. “Designating the PKK as a terrorist organization and then cooperating with the Syrian branch, the PYD, will only lead to more terror attacks.”

Zack Abaci, a George Washington engineering student from Istanbul, was glad a representative of his country had this kind of forum.

“It’s good for U.S. citizens, especially students of the Elliott School, to see a different perspective, a more Turkish perspective on the issues in the Middle East,” Mr. Abaci said. “If Turkey is able to amend the situation, it could be extremely positive for Turkey, the European Union, Africa, Middle East and Asia. We’re right in the middle.”