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Extended Interview: Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

June 1, 2010 at 8:15 PM EDT

MARGARET WARNER: Mr. minister, thank you for joining us. First of all, what’s the latest on getting the people who were on the ship released from Israel?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU, Turkish Foreign Minister: Unfortunately, our citizens and the citizens of many of 32 countries are still kept in Israel. Some of them are injured, some of them so-called arrested, and we are still negotiating with Israeli side. We expect that all of our citizens will be released without any conditions in a few hours in front of us.

MARGARET WARNER: Now the Israelis are saying that they were all offered essentially a free ticket to go home and that most of them refused.

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: No, they want to keep some of them, even those who are injured. They want to keep in Israel to take them to court. First of all, it is illegal. These citizens, Turkish citizens, and other citizens of other countries were taken from international sea illegally. They were taken as hostage. It is illegal because they were taken from international sea, not from the territories of Israel or territorial waters of Israel.

Israel doesn’t have any right to take them to court, because capturing them is itself illegal. We will not accept any court case, anything against these civilians. All of them must be out of Israel. Since Israel wants to send only some of them and keep the rest, those who lost their friends. Their friends were killed, some of them were injured. Of course they don’t want to leave them behind. That’s the reason why some of them do not want to come back.

MARGARET WARNER: Now Prime Minister Erdogansaid today that the relationship between Turkey and Israel will never be the same.How serious is this breach?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: It is very serious because as I said according to the law, the ship in international sea belongs to the country of flag.It’s a clear violation of Turkish sovereignty.It is an attack against Turkish citizens. We had difficult relations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but they didn’t attack our citizens.Throughout, in the last 87 years of Turkish republican history, first time a state is attacking our citizens.We cannot tolerate this.

MARGARET WARNER: But is this breach do you think irreparable?Is this a crisis in an otherwise fairly strong relationship, though it’s had some problems in the past year, or something worse?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: Yes. It depends on Israeli action. If they release our citizens without condition, immediately, all of them, if they formally apologize because of this illegal action in international waters, and if they allow independent international investigation,and do all the necessary results of this investigation,of course we will think about improving our relations with Israel.


AHMET DAVUTOGLU: If not, the consequences will be very tough. Turkey has a strong state tradition and has the power to protect its citizens. Either we will recover through these steps, or it will be a real problem.

MARGARET WARNER: Now you mentioned the investigation that the Security Council called for last night, an impartial one. What is your understanding about who will conduct that investigation?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: We can work out the technical details.

MARGARET WARNER: But you expect it to be a U.N.?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: U.N. secretary-general could be mandated. U.N. Security Council could be mandated.

MARGARET WARNER: And will Turkey cooperate as well. For instance, if the investigator wants to look into, say, the background and the motivations of the group that was behind this flotilla?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: No. Because this action was against civilian convoy, and in this convoy there were more than 600 people from 32 countries, from 32 countries. No body can judge on this. There were around 50 members of parliament from European countries. There were religious representatives of Christianity, Jews and Muslim communities. It is a civilian-composed group.

If they violated Israeli territorial waters, yes. If they had harmed Israeli citizens, yes, they would be questioned. If they violated any international law, yes, they could be questioned. But if they didn’t harm any Israeli citizen, if they didn’t violate Israeli territorial waters or territories, from where Israel gets this right to board a ship and arrest and hijack citizens of other countries?

MARGARET WARNER: So are you are saying that if the investigators wanted to look at whether this was designed as a provocation, I’m talking now about what the Israelis are charging, designed as a provocation that this was a group — may I just finish — if they want to look into all of that, you’re saying Turkish citizens wouldn’t cooperate, or the Turkish government would not facilitate that?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: No, if there is such an investigation established, of course, the rules will be discussed among us in the United Nations Security Council. There we can discuss all the details. But first we have to question. Even though assume that this happened 72 miles away from the coast of Israel, 64 miles away from the blockaded area. OK? Plus, who says that blockades of Gaza are legal and legitimate?According to the U.N. Security Council decision 1860, Israel must end siege of Gaza.So it is illegal.And for an illegal decision, you are acting another illegal activity against the citizens of other countries.

MARGARET WARNER: So I’m still trying to understand whether Turkey will cooperate fully with the investigation.

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: Yes of course. We are requesting an investigation.Turkey will fully cooperate.But we expect the same thing from Israel as well. And from other countries as well.There are other countries involved.There are citizens of Greece, there are citizens of Italy, Britain…So all of us. There are even Americans citizens. Citizens of the United States should question how they were taken out of the international sea.

MARGARET WARNER: You said this morning thatyou were disappointed in the statements that came out from President Obama and from the State Department yesterday.Why? And after your meetings do you feel that you’re going to get anything more?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: I shared our views and concerns with Secretary Clinton.It was a very, very constructive meeting. More than two hours — two and a half hours. I am sure now we understand each other much better.We gave all the evidence. Where it happened and what had happened — the background. The United States is our strategic ally.We are working together in many fronts.I am sure they understand us much better.

Yesterday’s statement from our perspective was weak, because it was an attack against the citizens of members of NATO, Turkey and other countries by a non-member of NATO. Therefore, we want to have full solidarity within NATO as well.

MARGARET WARNER: And so what are you looking for from the United States now?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: We hope that the United States will work with us to ease the tensions.And they know how it’s possible.We discussed today.They know our position.We don’t want to escalate the tension, we want to ease the tension.But there are certain conditions for that.

MARGARET WARNER: Are you still looking for the United States to issue a stronger condemnation?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: Yes, I think this deserves stronger condemnation.


AHMET DAVUTOGLU: You mean the United States or —

MARGARET WARNER: If the United States does not?

AHMET DAVUTOGLU: No we are today, as I have said, we have spoken and they understood our perspective I am sure.

MARGARET WARNER: Alright, Mr. minister, thank you so much.