On September 24th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the stand at the 74th UN General Assembly for his turn to speak. During his address he channeled his inner Benjamin Netanyahu showing colorful maps.
He spoke of an expanded “safe zone” in northern Syria that could include as many as 3 million people and stretch up to 50 miles, almost up to Raqqa. He said that it was time to open resettlement for Syrian refugees that currently live in Turkey.
“If this safe zone can be declared, we can resettle confidently somewhere between 1 to 2 million refugees. Whether with the US or the coalition forces, Russia and Iran, we can walk shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand so refugees can resettle, saving them from tent camps and container camps.”
He said he was hoping to establish a corridor with an initial depth of 30km (18 miles) and a length of 480km, enabling the settlement of up to 2 million Syrians, adding that “if we can extend the depth of this safe zone to a Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor line, we can increase the number of Syrians who will return from Turkey, Europe and other parts of the world.”
The expanded zone would then be able to contain up to 3 million people. The plan would require a international UN-donor led conference, with countries that house many Syrian refugees such as Jordan and Lebanon, and they would need to provide financial help to return the displaced people.
The other map Erdogan showed was a stab at Israel, thus he essentially channeled his inner “counter-Netanyahu”.
“Israel, which was almost non-existent in 1947, has continued until this day to seize Palestinian land with the aim of eliminating the state and the Deal of the Century will support those territorial ambitions,” Erdogan said.
“Where are the borders of the State of Israel? Is it the 1947 borders, the 1967 borders or is there another border that we need to know of?” he asked, clearly related to Netanyahu’s recent expansion promises in the West Bank and beyond.
“I am quite curious, what about this map of Israel? Where is Israel? Where does the land of Israel begin and end? Look at this map, where was Israel in 1947 and where is Israel now, especially between the years between 1949 and 1967?” Erdogan said.
The Turkish President then pointed to the map and said, “Look, this is 1947. The land of Palestine. There is seemingly almost no Israeli presence on this lands, the entire territory belongs to the Palestinians.”
He further condemned the US recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
“How can the Golan Heights and the West Bank settlements be seized just like other occupied Palestinian territories before the eyes of the world?” Erdogan asked.
In Erdogan’s view, the Trump Administration’s plan wished to destroy Palestinian statehood with the unreleased plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Is the aim of the initiative to promote, as the ‘Deal of the Century,’ to entirely eliminate the presence of the state and the people of Palestine? Do you want another bloodshed?” Erdogan asked. “All actors of the international community, and in particular, the UN, should provide complete support to the Palestinian people beyond more promises.”
The Turkish President said he supported a two-state solution on the pre-1967 line and warned the US that any other resolution would not work.
“Any other peace plan other than this will never have a chance of being fair [and] just, and it will never be implemented,” Erdogan said. “Today, the Palestinian territory under Israeli occupation has become one of the most striking places of injustice.”
Finally, in a short mention, Erdogan said that nuclear energy should either be free for everybody in the world, or should be completely banned.
He warned that the “inequality” between states which have nuclear power and those which do not undermines global balances.
“The position of nuclear power should either be forbidden for all or permissible for everyone,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish President also attended the UN Climate Action Summit.
He made several statements.
- Climate change is a global problem that knows no borders;
- Turkey is a regional leader in renewable energy;
- We will have transitioned to zero waste system in nearly 400 thousand residences by 2023.
Essentially, in his address to the UN General Assembly and the Climate Action Summit, Erdogan’s aspirations for Turkey to have a larger role on the global scene and for himself to be a sort of spokesperson for Muslims everywhere are becoming more and more apparent.