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Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's First International Interview; Imagine a World
Aired October 6, 2014 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Today in Turkey, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu lays down his red lines for joining the fight
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AHMET DAVUTOGLU, FOREIGN MINISTER OF TURKEY: We want to have a no-fly zone. We want to have a safe haven on our borders.
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AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour. Welcome to the program from Istanbul.
When long-time Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president in August, he appointed his long-time foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu as
prime minister. And as the frontline city of Kobani just inside the Syrian border comes under increasing threat from ISIS, I sat down with the prime
minister for his first interview with the international press.
He tells me Turkey is willing to join the U.S.-led military fighting against ISIS but will bargain hard to establish a no-fly zone and safe
areas inside the Syrian border to prevent even more refugees coming to join the nearly 2 million who flooded into Turkey so far. He even says Turkey
might deploy ground troops. But again, only if the strategy is to go after Assad as well as ISIS.
At the Dolmabahce Palace here in Istanbul, Prime Minister Davutoglu told me about the furious row with the United States over the so-called Jihadi
Highway. And whether he could be the kinder, gentler face now of the Turkish government.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, welcome back to the program.
DAVUTOGLU: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Your parliament has voted to allow Turkey to take part in any military action in Syria and to allow NATO or American forces to use bases
What do you plan to do, because many people have said, hang on, Turkey is a NATO member, but it's not doing anything yet against ISIS?
DAVUTOGLU: Well, in fact, we have been doing many things against the crisis in Syria. We shouldn't be separating pre-ISIS and post-ISIS. Syria
is a big crisis. From the first early days of the crisis until now, no other country did more than Turkey, what Turkey did, against the attacks --
brutal attacks of the regime, as well as against ISIS.
In fact, last year in October, 10th of October, we declared ISIS as a terrorist organization by a cabinet decision.
AMANPOUR: Do you agree with the United States air campaign alone, which is directed only at ISIS and not at the Assad regime?
Do you agree with that?
DAVUTOGLU: This is necessary but not enough. And this, of course, the air campaign is necessary to deter ISIS. But if we do not develop such an
integrated strategy, what will be the next?
Then we can eliminate ISIS and other terrorist organizations that may come in.
AMANPOUR: OK, so the United States says it's not going after the Syrian regime.
So what do you plan to say to the United States?
I've heard about your desire for maybe a no-fly zone for safe havens.
DAVUTOGLU: When chemical weapons were used in Syria, we requested officially, from all of our allies, to have a much more firm policy against
the Syrian regime because these sectarian policies created a vacuum which was used by ISIS.
Therefore, today, punishing ISIS in Kobani, but ignoring the next step, may create much bigger problems in the future. We have to be very careful what
Why do we want to have a no-fly zone?
Because enough is enough. Turkey received one point -- almost 1.6 million refugees.
And every day they are coming.
You know, today from Kobani around 2,000 people came. Now, why -- when you look at the statistics, Christiane, the refugees increased because of the
airstrikes made by the regime and because of Scud missiles, because of barrel bombs.
It makes the refugee surge. If you want to stop the humanitarian crisis, there is a need of stopping airstrikes or heavy bombardment. This is so
important for Turkey because next step, what we are saying -- what we see as a very critical scenario in the future -- assume that you are
eliminating -- you -- we eliminate ISIS. It is difficult, but we do -- we do it.
The next day, the regime will do eight bombardments against Aleppo or against other cities, which will create a much bigger wave of humanitarian
DAVUTOGLU: It is a very request by us: we want to have a no-fly zone. We want to have a safe haven on our borders. Otherwise, all these burdens
will continuously go on the shoulders of Turkey and other neighboring countries.
AMANPOUR: If you don't get that --
DAVUTOGLU: No, we are getting --
AMANPOUR: -- what will happen?
DAVUTOGLU: Those who request something from us -- from us, should understand our needs, as well. This is not one side of the relation.
People, for example, people are asking us to receive refugees and they are praising us, OK. But at the same time, they are saying and please control
How can you control a border if, in three days, 180,000 people are coming?
In three days.
AMANPOUR: So let me ask you about that --
DAVUTOGLU: So this is --
AMANPOUR: -- because you have become very upset.
DAVUTOGLU: This is --
AMANPOUR: So has President Erdogan been very upset. And there's been a big fight with Vice President Biden over the idea of the border and what
goes back and forth.
Why are you so upset about the notion that fighters have gone into Syria from Turkey?
Why are you upset about that?
DAVUTOGLU: This is really a very unfair accusation.
AMANPOUR: Are you saying no fighters, no support has gone to the --
DAVUTOGLU: What we --
AMANPOUR: -- moderates for anything, nothing?
DAVUTOGLU: What -- what we expect, Christiane, are two things: fairness and empathy.
DAVUTOGLU: First empathy: Americans, the United States of America has a border with Mexico and there are two states on both sides.
Is it easy to control all the borders?
One point six million people came. This is the combined total, combined population of Washington, D.C., Boston and Atlanta. You can imagine which
type of risks and challenges we are facing.
Either we will close the borders, which means nobody can come in, which will be against our culture
But if we had closed this border, I am sure there would have been a huge criticism against us, how Turkey can do this?
But if you open the border, of course, in three days, if 185,000 people come in, it is difficult to control everybody.
AMANPOUR: I'm confused because for years, Turkey has been talking about trying to help the moderate opposition inside Syria. Then Prime Minister
Erdogan told me that that was your policy, to try to help them.
DAVUTOGLU: That's right.
AMANPOUR: We know that the United States and others have been trying to send weapons.
Well, where do they come from?
They come through here. They're trained here.
DAVUTOGLU: There was no serious support by, unfortunately, by the friends of Syria to these groups. Many of these groups got these weapons, many of
them fighting against the Syrian Army or when they defect from the Syrian Army, they carry it (ph). And we didn't fight (ph) that we are supporting
moderate opposition, the Syrian National Coalition, by all means.
If others listened to our advice, our allies and the P-5, members of P-5, if they had protected and supported moderate opposition, today we wouldn't
be facing such a big crisis of ISIS.
AMANPOUR: There's a lot of talk in Washington right now -- I'm sure you've heard it -- the president, Obama himself, seemed to suggest that American
intelligence and American politics or whatever, the White House did not fully comprehend the rise of ISIS and the terrible state of the Iraqi Army.
Did Turkey warn the United States about the rise of ISIS --
AMANPOUR: -- and the state of the Iraqi Army?
DAVUTOGLU: Yes. Several times. We talked to our European and American colleagues that if there is no solution against these crimes against
humanity by the Syrian regime, there will be a rise of radicalism. At that time, there was no name of ISIS, but we were telling them.
Look, Christiane, this is really very disturbing as human beings. Three hundred thousand people were massacred by all means, including chemical
weapons. And we said chemical weapon is the red line. He used chemical weapons.
What happened to him?
AMANPOUR: You mean Assad?
DAVUTOGLU: Assad. And he used barrel bombs, Scud missiles to urban areas. We didn't do anything. He killed people by punishing by through hunger.
He surrounded cities, neighborhoods, and kept them hungry and we have seen a huge show in your programs, 50,000 photographs who were killed by his
methods, by Syrian regime. And everybody was silent.
And now, because of these crimes -- there was no reaction -- these radical organizations, I mean ISIS misused this atmosphere and told these people
the international community doesn't defend you. Nobody defends you. Only I can defend you by my own means.
This was the source of ISIS. At every stage, we warned, not only the United States, we warned all the international community, the storm is
coming. Do something.
But nothing has been done against Assad's regime. And now it is surprising and shocking for us, some leaders are suggesting and did suggest in some
meetings that we have to collaborate with the Syrian regime. Collaborating with a sultan (ph) against another one is not the way of -- or should not
be the way of international community.
AMANPOUR: Have you resolved the dispute with Vice President Biden?
President Erdogan said he would be history for me if he didn't apologize. I understand there have been conversations now between Vice President Biden
and President Erdogan.
Is that all OK?
DAVUTOGLU: It was really very disturbing for us, and we explained everything to our American friends.
Suddenly, after all these good meetings, when the leaders from an ally such as the United States accusing us, this was unbelievable and unacceptable.
I immediately responded that it is unacceptable.
And nobody can blame Turkey because of the mistakes committed by P5 in U.N., not responding to such a humanitarian crisis when we are in -- when
we received millions of refugees.
AMANPOUR: But is it OK now?
DAVUTOGLU: Now, yesterday, when he called our president, we were together with President Erdogan in his home here for celebrating Eid and I
personally said, yes, he apologized and now it is over.
But I hope no other leader in the future will accuse a country who worked so hard to respond to a humanitarian crisis.
AMANPOUR: Very few people think that airstrikes alone are going to work to defeat ISIS. Obviously, the Free Syrian Army -- it will take a long time,
more than a year, to stand them up properly.
The Iraqi forces, the same, if they ever get stood up properly.
The United States is not going to put boots on the ground.
Isn't Turkey the only plausible ground force that can go inside and do something?
DAVUTOGLU: Here, we are ready to do everything if there is a clear strategy that, after ISIS, we can be sure that our border will be
protected. We don't want the regime anymore on our borders pushing people against -- towards Turkey. We don't want other terrorist organizations to
be active there.
So we have a national strategy. The basic parameters of this national strategy is humanitarian parameters, which we are receiving Syrians and
Iraqis. We want this humanitarian policy on the other side of the border.
Second, the military strategy, security. If there any threat against our national security, we will take all the measures -- all the measures if
AMANPOUR: Could I just be sure that I've understood you?
Turkey, under certain circumstances, is prepared to put boots on the ground in Syria?
DAVUTOGLU: If others do their own part.
AMANPOUR: So if the plan would be to also degrade the Assad regime, that's one of your conditions?
DAVUTOGLU: Of course. Of course, because we believe that if Assad play -- stays in Damascus with these brutal policies, if ISIS goes, another radical
organization may come in.
And if Assad continues with this sectarian policy and massacring all the people and the international community doesn't do anything, this will be a
very bad example for other countries to do the same.
So our approach should be comprehensive, inclusive, strategic and combined --
AMANPOUR: Got it.
DAVUTOGLU: -- integrated strategy, not just to punish -- to satisfy our public opinion, to punish one terrorist organization, but to eliminate all
terrorist threats in the future and also to eliminate all brutal crimes against humanity committed by the regime.
AMANPOUR: I understand.
I just want to come back to Kobani. There have been loud and serious voices saying that Turkey should help save Kobani, because, yes, they're
Kurds, and maybe you see them as foes, but if you don't, it could cause a huge number of problems amongst Kurds in your own country and
humanitarianly it would be better if you did.
Are you prepared to save Kobani?
DAVUTOGLU: We will do everything possible to help people of Kobani because they are our brothers and sisters. We don't see them as Kurds or Turkmen
But if there is a need of intervention to Kobani, we are telling that there is a need of intervention to all Syria, all of our borders.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, stand by.
We'll be back right after this.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
We're continuing our discussion.
And now we're going to turn to domestic issues.
You have just been appointed, a month ago, prime minister. You were foreign minister.
Prime Minister Erdogan is now President Erdogan.
Let me first ask you, many say the cabinet looks virtually exactly the same and that President Erdogan is still in a position of supreme power and
What is different about this cabinet than the one that he was prime minister over?
DAVUTOGLU: This cabinet, of course, I made some important changes, not in number, but in the positions. That was my own choice. I don't want to
make big changes because there will be new -- another election in 2015. So there's a well established cabinet, all of them I know. They were my
colleagues in the cabinet.
And we have only eight months for a new election. So for me, the continuity and (INAUDIBLE) is very important. But at the same time, there
are new members of the cabinet who -- who are very -- who been very active in Turkish politics and now the cabinet in that sense is both dynamic and
also having a very strong experience about the relation between president and prime minister.
At the end of the day, President Erdogan is not part of party politics. He is not a member of our party anymore, because according to the constitution
he has to resign; he is -- he cannot involve in politics with taking one side. He's avoiding (ph) politics and he's, in that sense, out of the
AMANPOUR: Nobody really believes that, though.
DAVUTOGLU: No, no --
AMANPOUR: With due respect, Mr. Prime Minister, many people believe that you say the constitution says this, but apparently there's an attempt to
change the constitution after the 2015 elections. Mr. Erdogan has pretty much talked about that.
DAVUTOGLU: Well, we want to change it.
AMANPOUR: To give the president more executive power.
DAVUTOGLU: Yes. I, also told -- no, not only this, I also told and I promised to my people that there is a need of a new constitution because
this constitution is a product of a military coup d'etat.
But the main change of the constitution is -- will be directed to human rights and not state-centric constitution. In fact, it is very
The military made the president very strong against the elected prime minister in 1980s, in order to limit the prime minister's position and
power. But their assumption was, in the future there is always a military president in Turkey.
Of course, there is a need of a rebalance of the system. But at the end of the day, in Turkey, the executive powers, the legislative powers, the
judicial powers are separated and the president is out -- is not part of -- is not a party of these -- of these power sharing.
So these are two. But the harmony between me and President Erdogan is two friends, is two leaders who carry all the responsibilities in party and
continue. Nobody can reject this.
AMANPOUR: Well, there are people who hope that you might bring a different mood to politics in Turkey.
As you know very well, Mr. Prime Minister, especially as foreign minister, traveling around the world, you must have heard many of the criticisms.
You've certainly read them -- an increasingly autocratic, authoritarian Mr. Erdogan.
This is what Mustafa Akyol has written in "The New York Times" recently. And he's, as you know, a columnist and an author.
"Although Mr. Erdogan chose him," -- you -- "because they seem to agree on all major issues, Mr. Davutoglu could still help Turkey by bringing his
gentle, polite and smiling persona to the country's bitter and hate-filled political scenes."
Can you be a peacemaker?
DAVUTOGLU: First of all, the assumption is wrong.
What is the assumption?
AMANPOUR: You're not gentle and smiling and polite?
DAVUTOGLU: No, no, no. That -- not that assumption, the first assumption. Not Akyol's assumption, but what -- the assumption that Turkey had
autocratic tendency in the last years. In many aspects -- in fact, there has been many reforms in the last three or four years.
Therefore it is a wrong assumption, accusing Erdogan as an autocratic tendency.
About my style, Erdogan has his personality and this does not mean these are alternative to each other. These could be complementary and inclusive
in that sense. And I will, from academic life until now, I have the same personality; my personality didn't change and will not change.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Davutoglu, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
DAVUTOGLU: Thank you. Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: And coming up next, stealing the --
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where great cultural artifacts, religious sites such as Istanbul's beautiful blue mosques were
no longer. Well, it's never going to happen here, of course, in Turkey, but across the border in Syria and in Iraq, thousands of years of history
are under assault.
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AMANPOUR (voice-over): Throughout the years of Syria's brutal civil war, we've seen so many monuments destroyed, the Great Souk and the Mosque of
Aleppo under increasing threat.
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AMANPOUR: And with the advent of ISIS, a whole new level of destruction.
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AMANPOUR (voice-over): Jonah's tomb in Mosul, a shrine to an ancient imam, have been simply blown up.
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AMANPOUR: During the gathering of world leaders at the United Nations last month, Secretary of State John Kerry said this heritage has to be protected
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: ISIL is not only beheading individuals, it is tearing at the fabric of whole civilizations. It has no respect for
life. It has no respect for religion and it has no respect for culture which, for millions, is actually the foundation of life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: As Secretary Kerry also said, they are stealing the souls of millions. But it's not just ISIS. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
destroyed shrines and mausoleums when it rampaged through Mali. A fire was set at the great library in Timbuktu, turning thousands of years of special
And although archeologists tried to put these things back together again, just think of the Buddhas in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, the Taliban blew them up
with explosives in 2001. And although people have promised to try to reconstruct them, it hasn't happened yet.
And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can watch all our shows anytime online at amanpour.com, and follow me on Facebook and
Twitter. Thank you for watching and goodbye from Istanbul.