After their closed meeting at the Cankaya Palace in Ankara, the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri and his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim held an extended meeting attended by the members of the Lebanese delegation, the Turkish Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu and a number of high-ranking Turkish officials and advisors.
After the meeting, Premiers Hariri and Yildirim held a joint press conference. At the beginning, Yildirim said: “I am very pleased to receive the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the presidential palace in Ankara. We held bilateral talks and a meeting between the two delegations that focused on the Turkish-Lebanese relations and issues of common interest.”
He added: “Thanks to the stance of the Lebanese people and the wisdom of the politicians in Lebanon, the crisis that took place in the country has been remedied and the national unity, which is very important to Turkey, has been enhanced. With regard to stability and security in the future, our country appreciates the efforts exerted. There is no doubt that the implementation of the policy of neutrality by Lebanon through unity and solidarity is very important.”
He continued: “We will increase our cooperation with Lebanon in the field of security and other sectors for the sake of Lebanon’s safety. As for the enhancement of the Lebanese infrastructure and the participation in the implementation of these projects, we decided to participate actively in the conferences of Rome and Paris. We aim through this to develop the Lebanese infrastructure through the participation of Turkish construction companies and institutions, thus contributing to the stability of the country.”
He said: “As you know there is a deep friendship between Lebanon and Turkey and very solid bilateral relations. In this context, the meetings taking place here will move our relations to the highest levels. Also the economic and trade issues as well as the cooperation in the field of security will develop. The volume of trade between Lebanon and Turkey has unfortunately declined during the last two years as a result of the Syrian crisis, the other crises that took place in the region and the civil wars. Therefore, we must remove these negativities and we discussed what should be done in this regard. It was an opportunity to assess these issues with Prime Minister Hariri and the accompanying delegation.”
He added: “The civil war in Syria started seven years ago, and there is no doubt that Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are the most affected in this crisis. The number of Syrians living in these countries is bigger than the number of those living inside Syria. There is one and a half million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, more than that in Jordan and more than three and a half million in Turkey. They are living far from their country and we in Turkey are offering all the possible support to the Syrian refugees, but unfortunately we didn’t receive the sufficient support from the international community in this respect.”
He continued: “In addition to the bilateral relations, we focused on a number of issues and exchanged views about international issues, particularly the ongoing “Olive Branch” operation. We provided detailed information to Premier Hariri on the operation we are carrying out in Efrin and that aims at eliminating the terrorist hideouts there. We have a longstanding friendship with the Syrian people and we seek to protect the unity of the Syrian soil, stop the attacks carried out against us from outside the border and preserve the safety, lives and properties of the Turkish citizens.
At the same time there are terrorist organizations like the PKK and the YPG. And there are Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds who live there and suffer the injustice of these organizations and we are seeking to eliminate this injustice. This is why the Turkish army continues its operation, with the Free Syrian Army, in this area. Unfortunately, this terrorist organization is carrying out campaigns against Turkey and claims that Turkey is killing innocent citizens there. But in fact they are the ones targeting the Turkish territories with missiles and a number of innocent citizens died as a result of this bombardment. Today, a 17 year old girl called Fatima martyred and another citizen was injured and is being treated now. Thus, innocent citizens are the target of such attacks inside the Turkish territories, while the citizens in the Syria territories are safe.”
He said: “We also discussed the regional issues and the future of Syria and ways to establish peace in this country. After “Sochi”, the “Geneva” path will begin under the auspices of the United Nations. All these activities will continue under the ceiling of the United Nations. As for easing tensions and ending the clashes, Turkey and the concerned countries have continued activities in this respect.
It was also an opportunity to discuss the developments in Jerusalem, especially after the surprise decision of the American President Donald Trump to announce Jerusalem as Israel’s capital that led to a major reaction all over the world. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is currently chairing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, called for an extraordinary summit in Istanbul that was attended by the Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who made a very touching speech and I thank him once again.
A decision was taken during summit to declare the state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital. The unilateral initiative of Israel and the United States was also rejected during a vote in the United Nations General Assembly. There is a chance to correct the mistake. We hope the United States will abandon its position so that the current problems will not multiply.”
Yildirim concluded: “I mentioned to Premier Hariri that the security and integrity of Lebanon’s territories, the political unity and the protection of its sovereignty are very important to us, just as important as Turkey’s stability and security. We will provide a greater support for the sake of Lebanon’s stability, development and security and to develop the bilateral relations. We will also continue our work on the international issues and our consultations together. Once again I thank the Lebanese Prime Minister and the accompanying delegation.”
For his part, Hariri said: “It was a great pleasure to meet with my friend Prime Minister Yildrim. It was an opportunity to discuss the bilateral relations between our countries and our governments and review the situation in the region.
I expressed to the Prime Minister my deep thanks for the rapid extradition by the Turkish authorities of one of the suspects in the terrorist attack that took place in Sidon two week ago. This reflects the full cooperation between the Lebanese and Turkish security services and between the Lebanese and Turkish judiciary, particularly in the field of combating terrorism.
The meeting was also an occasion to present the Lebanese government plan to strengthen the army and the security forces that will be presented soon in the Rome conference, and the infrastructure investment plan, which will also be presented soon in the Paris conference. I asked for the support of the Turkish government for these two vital projects and to encourage the Turkish private sector to participate in the investment plan, where we expect the private sector to participate in the third the investments.
Of course our points of view converged with regard to the our governments refusal of the American announcement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. I reiterated to Premier Yildrim that Lebanon is fully committed to the Arab peace initiative that was launched in Beirut Summit for a permanent solution based on a two-state solution, one Israeli and other Palestinian with Jerusalem as its capital.
We also discussed the ongoing crisis in Syria and we agreed that the only way out is a political solution that guarantees the integrity of the Syrian territories and the rights of all the Syrian citizens, especially the refugees. You know that Lebanon and Turkey host a large number of Syrian citizens who fled the war in their country. Lebanon wants to ensure a safe return of these refugees to their country. Meanwhile, we are coordinating stances with the Turkish government on facing the burden of the displaced by preparing for the upcoming Brussels II conference”.
After that, Yildirim held a lunch in honor of Hariri and the accompanying delegation.”