3. Muslim unity can prevent 2nd Sykes-Picot: Deputy PM
Muslim unity can prevent 2nd Sykes-Picot: Deputy PM

Muslim unity can prevent 2nd Sykes-Picot: Deputy PM

We should cooperate to end sectarian policies, and our unity works to spread stability in the region, says Numan Kurtulmus


Turkey’s deputy prime minister has warned of a “second Sykes-Picot” imperialist division of the Middle East, calling on the Islamic countries to join forces to prevent this.

In an interview published Tuesday in London-based Arabic-language daily Asharq al-Awsat, Numan Kurtulmus said, “The Islamic world should develop a clear understanding of the picture in the Middle East. A hundred years ago, the imperialist powers imposed the [1916] Sykes-Picot Agreement in the region that resulted in its division by borders, and now we are currently facing a project called the second Sykes-Picot.”

Kurtulmus urged “unity among the Islamic countries to confront their division along sectarian lines, which would tear them up.”

Pointing to Turkey’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia, he said, “We work to unite the Islamic world to prevent the division of its countries... Turkey does not want to see countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya, and others falling apart. We should cooperate to end sectarian policies, and our unity is the agenda to spread stability in the region.”

He added, “We see that Saudi Arabia is playing an effective role in this area. We now stand at a crossroads and a critical time: Either we surrender to the second Sykes-Picot or unite against sectarianism.”


The EU and Shanghai

On the future of Turkish-EU relations, Kurtulmus said, “We managed to keep firm relations with the EU since 1993, but unfortunately during that long period, sometimes Turkey faced double standards from the EU and some bias in its policies, and for example the EU offered a ‘special partnership’ to Turkey instead of offering full membership in the union.”

Kurtulmus also spoke about recent political issues between Turkey and the EU over “two concurrent processes,” namely abolishing visa requirements for Turks to enter the EU and stopping the flow of illegal migrants from Turkey to the EU.

“We consulted with political decision-makers in the EU and reached a program that includes around 73 reform steps in the Turkish legal system, and the scheduled date to abolish the visas was in June, and Turkey was keen to fulfil all the agreed requirements, including cutting the number of illegal migrants flowing from Turkey to the Greek islands to about zero [from 7,000 migrants per day in October 2015], but unfortunately the EU postponed abolishing the visas without any convincing explanation,” he said.

He continued, “The EU member states also let us down by failing to express support for democracy in Turkey after the [July 15] failed coup attempt, and the U.K. was the only member state that stood beside Turkey.”

Asked if suggestions that Turkey could join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization could cripple its EU membership talks and raise tensions, Kurtulmus said, “I don’t think so because Turkey has many advantages, geographically, culturally, and strategically.”

“We are members of NATO and are expecting EU membership besides our membership in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and others, and we belong to the Middle East and the Balkans as well,” he said.

“We have many tools that we use in our foreign relations and therefore our approach to the states of the Shanghai organization and even joining it is lessening the importance of our relations with the Western countries and our work to join the EU,” Kurtulmus said.

“Shanghai is not an alternative to the EU. It is our right to play all our cards and firm up our relations with all sides.”

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and aims for political, economic, and military cooperation.