In a speech opening the new legislative session of Parliament on Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lambasted the US Congress for passing a law that enables the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, arguing the “individual nature of a crime” despite the fact that millions in Turkey are effectively suffering from collective persecution for their perceived ties to the Gülen movement.
Erdoğan also underlined efforts to halt Turkey’s growth and development as he spoke on a range of issues, from a failed coup attempt on July 15 to Moody’s decision to downgrade Turkey’s sovereign credit rating.
Citing efforts to undermine the government during the Gezi protests of 2013, Erdoğan repeated the argument that corruption investigations that came to public attention on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, were also attempts to topple the government and halt Turkey’s development. The main suspect in the corruption investigations, Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, is currently jailed in the US although he was cleared of all charges in Turkey after the Erdoğan government reshuffled the judiciary.
Reiterating his common narrative on the coup and accusing the Gülen movement of being the perpetrator despite the lack of credible evidence, Erdoğan said anyone who does not rule out arguments that the coup was staged is part of the coup as an accomplice.
The draconian laws implemented under the emergency rule introduced after the July 15 coup attempt, which Erdoğan called a “great gift of God,” notwithstanding, the president urged the parties in Parliament to work on a new constitution.
Erdoğan was also critical of the European Union as he accused the bloc of not keeping its promises to Turkey. He added that a visa liberalization agreement enabling Turkish citizens to travel freely in Europe should take effect this month. He challenged the union, saying that “it is up to them,” hinting at a further straining of ties with the EU.
Underlining his long-standing desire for a “secure zone” in northern Syria, Erdoğan urged for the establishment of an area free of terrorist organizations, including the People’s Protection Units (YPG). He was critical of efforts to pit the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against the YPG, stating that Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield had delegitimized any positive arguments about the YPG.
Emphasizing the fact that Turkey shares a long border both with Syria and Iraq, Erdoğan said those who do not share any border with those countries want to determine the fate of the region. “Turkey must be at the table,” he said, implying participation in negotiations on Syria.
As far as a possible operation on Mosul is concerned, Erdoğan said a likely operation would target the Turkmen town of Tel Afar as he vowed to protect the rights of Turkmens in the region.
Meanwhile, while Erdoğan was speaking, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy İbrahim Ayhan protested Erdoğan on social media by sharing a photo of him speaking with a comment saying that Erdoğan was explaining how he would like to realize his dictatorial dreams.
To protest Erdoğan, HDP Co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ did not attend Parliament’s opening ceremony.