A chat with the Turkish Ambassador

Terrorism, Turkey-EU relations and the reliability of media  


On the third day of the International Careers Festival, we had the chance to listen to Murat Salim Esenli, Turkish Ambassador in Italy, who held his speech on terrorism at the simulation of the UN Security Council.

After outlining a timeline of terrorism and the diverse tools used at different points in time, he pointed out the lack of a common definition of terrorism at an international level.

No shared vision makes impossible to create a shared strategy to face the issue.

According to the Ambassador, a widespread mistake is considering terrorists as part of “subspecies”. Instead, he suggested that “we should recognize that they are humans like us, but they use human potential for negative aims”. Terrorists, indeed, are smart because they use political and religious beliefs as powerful means to attract followers. So, if we want to fight terrorism, we should first acknowledge the intelligence of our enemies.  


Another crucial aspect is that the association of Islam with terrorism is misleading. In fact, as Mr Esenli explained, one of the fundamental teachings of Islam is that killing a person means killing the whole mankind. Therefore, terrorist groups claiming of operating in the name of Jihad have no religious base whatsoever.

The Ambassador goes on, underlying that terrorist groups are monitoring closely the resolutions made by the Security Council, since their silence means their inability to react.

Then, he focused on Turkey’s position on terrorism, listing the terrorist groups operating in his country: PKK, YPG, DHKPC and FETÖ. Their combination is a burden for Turkey, especially the latter, which triggered the failed coup d’état of 15 of July 2016.


Among the questions of the audience emerged the one posed by the French delegate, who asked the Ambassador how to distinguish the thin line between terrorist groups and resistance movements. Mr Esenli replied that the answer could be found in the concept of self-determination of people outlined in the UN Charter. However, according to him, this concept should be analysed carefully, because the first concern should be preserving the unity of the country. Moreover, liberation movements should reconsider their means, because they cannot claim legitimacy if they keep using terrorist methods.


At the end of his speech, he kindly gave us an interview.


Q: What do you think about the depiction of Turkey by the European media?


A: We feel that the European media has not been fair towards Turkey, they seem to be very inclined to pick negative elements, making broad generalisations. This is bringing a certain division between the Turkish communities living in Europe and that of Turkey. We feel that media has a very serious responsibility in doing an accurate reporting. When we start making broad generalisations we are led to the wrong conclusion, thinking that the conclusion drawn by the media is correct.


Q: The European Union has a polarized attitude towards Turkey. On the one hand, EU desperately needs Turkey to cope with the refugee crisis, on the other hand, it tries to retard its access to the Community. What do you think about this contradiction?


A: Well, I think that this contradiction is absolutely enormous because we have made this huge sacrifice hosting 3 millions Syrian refugees. Turkey is now holding the largest refugee population in the world and we have so far spent 25 billion US dollars. In 2015 with 1 million of Syrian refugees, the entire European institutions were shaken and unprepared. When we make a comparison on the economic front, we could realize that Turkey is a country with 8 hundred billion US dollars of GDP, and then when we look at Europe, especially EU, 15 trillion US dollars of GDP and 5 hundred million people. And they cannot handle 1 million people. This is a huge shame. And still with that, we try to help our EU partners. And the media still does not appreciate Turkey’s efforts on the humanitarian front. They also do not recognize that Turkey is fighting against five different types of terrorist organizations, so we are making a contribution on the security front of our NATO members and EU partners. On the humanitarian front, on the security front and then we are constantly criticized.

The EU of course is a country we would like to have more chapters open with, we would like to intensify our relations, and hopefully come to point where we could become a full member.


Q: Just one more question, have you got any piece of advice to improve the relationship between Turkey and the European Union?


A: In terms of our relationship with European Union, our door is always open. In 2016 we had three summits. During one of them, we managed to strike the 18 March Agreement, that was fundamental to stop the flow of refugees from Turkey to Greece. We, as Turkey, have been fulfilling all of our commitments and, at the same time, we expect EU to fulfil its commitments. But it does not. And that’s why we have a certain frustration. And the EU is very quick to define itself as extremely innocent in that. We find that to be very far form the truth, because we made our accords, we are fulfilling our commitments, they made their commitments and we expect them to honour theirs.


Beatrice Petrella, Francesca Lanzillotta and Paola Giuntini

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