Event Summary: A Conversation with His Excellency Fuat Oktay, Vice President of Turkey
On Wednesday, September 2, 2020, the SETA Foundation at Washington, DC hosted a distinguished panel with His Excellency Fuat Oktay, Vice President of Turkey.
Vice President Oktay began by saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed down Turkey’s foreign policy agenda as it has made critical developments in the past few months. While the world has a long road ahead, he is confident that Turkey will continue its active and constructive engagement in international affairs through its human-oriented and principled approach. When discussing the US-Turkish alliance, Vice President Oktay called it an indispensable relationship that has had the resolve to overcome a number of challenges in the last few decades. This alliance is a cause for good and both countries should work to build upon common interests. From Turkey’s perspective, the main challenges in its relationship with the US are its support for the PKK/YPG, lack of initiative with Gulen, suspending Turkey from the F-35 program, and sanctions coming from Congress. He called on the US to eliminate these points of contention in order to reap the full benefits of the US-Turkish relationship. Additionally, he noted that Turkey purchased the S-400 from Russian in the unfortunate absence of alternative options from its allies, including the US. This coupled with anti-Turkish sentiment in Washington serve as a hindrance to the alliance. Once this mentality is abandoned, the two NATO allies can address mutual grievances. During the question and answer portion of the discussion, Vice President Oktay used maps of the eastern Mediterranean to clearly explain Turkey’s activities and rights. He called Turkey’s maritime delimitation agreement with Libya its “red line” and said that they are unwilling to renegotiate in this area. By making it clear that all Turkey’s drilling and seismic research is taking place within its continental shelf, Vice President Oktay pushed for dialogue to resolve these critical issues with Greece. In terms of Turkey’s relationship with Lebanon, the two countries share common values on both the governmental and individual levels. Turkey provided assistance to Beirut in the aftermath of the explosion and is working to revive Lebanon’s economy. Lastly, with the US presidential election coming up in November, Vice President Oktay cautioned the US and other countries against involving Turkey in their domestic politics. Without showing favoritism toward one candidate or another, he insisted that he looks forward to strengthening the US-Turkish alliance before and after the election.