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Interview with Turkey's Abdullah Gul: Egypt should embrace secularism

In an interview, Turkey's President Abdullah Gul says that Egypt should embrace secularism based on a 'respect for all faiths;' that Russia's role in ending violence in Syria is key and Moscow needs to be engaged to act constructively; and that economic power in the world is shifting.

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In 2010, Turkey and Brazil convinced the Iranians to transfer half of their enriched uranium outside the country so it could not be used in weaponization. At that time they had 1,000 kilos of enriched uranium. For inexplicable reasons, this agreement was not realized – and it was not Iran’s fault. So, the opportunity was missed. Now they have 3,000 kilos.

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Last month in Istanbul there was a meeting of the P-5-plus-1 [the six nations negotiating with Iran], and Iran convened at our insistence because all the countries involved were not moving forward. This turned out to be quite a positive meeting that has now led to the [May 23 meeting] in Baghdad. The signs are good that both sides are acting this time in good faith.

Turkey’s position on Iran’s nuclear program is crystal clear: We are categorically opposed to the presence of weapons of mass destruction in our region. Attempts to develop or acquire WMDs might well trigger a regional arms race, leading to further instability. That is why we have always called for the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, including both Iran and Israel.

We support Iran’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. But Iran’s program must be transparent, and its leaders must assure the international community of its non-military nature.

Gardels: When you addressed the NATO summit in Chicago earlier this week, you said that the international community was not doing enough to stop the slaughter in Syria. What should the international community do that it is not now doing?

Gul: Since the so-called “cease-fire” was declared in Syria, 1,500 people have died. Scores of people are dying every day. We support the six-point Annan plan (negotiated by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan), but it must be fully implemented in every respect, which has not so far been the case.

This is where the international community comes in because it has been endorsed by the UN Security Council. The Security Council must act responsibly and insist on implementation of the full plan, or it will turn out only to have consolidated the existing Assad regime.

Gardels: Well, this brings us back full circle to the beginning of our conversation about the power shift in the world today. China and Russia, which are both on the Security Council, must take up their responsibilities in this respect.

Gul: Yes, Russia’s role is key. Russia, of course, cannot bear the responsibility of all the human rights violations, the tanks and artillery bombarding cities, setting fires and killing so many people. It is important to constructively engage Russia. That is an area where not enough has been done.

Abdullah Gul is the president of Turkey. He was interviewed by Global Viewpoint Network editor Nathan Gardels during his visit to the United States for the NATO summit in Chicago.

© 2012 Global Viewpoint Network/Tribune Media Services. Hosted online by The Christian Science Monitor.

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