Erdogan came across as a 'committed Muslim leader,' says Saudi journalist who interviewed him

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Ankara on Friday. (AN photo)
Updated 04 October 2016

Erdogan came across as a 'committed Muslim leader,' says Saudi journalist who interviewed him

JEDDAH: “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came across as a committed Islamic-oriented leader who is deeply concerned about the Muslim Ummah.”
That was the opinion of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the end of his special interview with the Turkish leader on Friday.
The interview was aired on the Rotana Khalejia TV channel on Sunday night and has since then become a big talking point on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets.
Sharing with Arab News the inside story of the interview itself and his impressions of Erdogan, Khashoggi said he was very impressed with most of his answers.
“From his language and from his comments, it is very clear that Erdogan thinks that the Muslim Ummah — he used that term — is under attack,” said Khashoggi.
According to Khashoggi, who has interviewed many world leaders in his long journalistic career, this conviction and the total concern for the Muslim Ummah is found only among deep-rooted Islamic-oriented Muslim leaders.
“We get a reflection of this sentiment when Saudi leaders speak,” said Khashoggi. “We noticed this in Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad and in the Pakistani leader, the late Zia-ul-Haq; they were very conscious of, and concerned about, the Ummah.”
Khashoggi said Erdogan had a very good grasp of the threats facing the Muslim world.
“It is in this context that Erdogan sees the strategic value of the Saudi-Turkish relationship,” he said. “Erdogan is very keen on, and committed to, strengthening Saudi-Turkish ties.”
One of the most significant aspects of the interview, according to Khashoggi, was Erdogan’s exceptional answer to the question about the status of the Iraqi city of Mosul.
“Erdogan always speaks against sectarianism and he is very cautious and diplomatic about making any controversial statement about Iran, but when I asked him about Mosul, he revealed his real self,” said Khashoggi.
And what was that real self?
“That Erdogan is a staunch Sunni leader who rejects Iranian influence and Iranian presence in northern Iraq,” said Khashoggi.
“This is what he said, ‘The people of Mosul are Sunni Arabs, Sunni Turkmen and Sunni Kurds and therefore, Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi (the notorious Shiite militia) should not be allowed into Mosul; Turkey and Saudi Arabia will not accept them and they will work against such a scenario.’”
“I liked that about him,” said Khashoggi. “His answer about Mosul showed where he truly stands on critical Muslim issues, and that, to me, is very reassuring.”
Khashoggi also liked the part of the interview where Erdogan reacted positively to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif’s statement that Saudi Arabia and Turkey were under attack and that they needed each other.
“He said, ‘Yes, we are. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are under attack,’ and then he went on talking about the damaging consequences of JASTA and how Turkey and Saudi Arabia must work together,” said Khashoggi.
Erdogan expressed complete solidarity with the Saudi point of view, said Khashoggi. “Not only that, he went further and instructed his foreign minister and justice minister to work with the Saudis in order to tackle this issue.”
During the interview, Erdogan reiterated that Bashar Assad must go and he described the Syrian leader as a criminal. “He expressed a lot of bitterness at what is happening in Aleppo. He said, “I am talking to Putin, I am talking to Obama, to European leaders, but not much is happening and the massacres are still taking place.”
The interview took place at the new presidential palace in Ankara. It was supposed to happen at 5 p.m. but actually occurred at around 9 p.m. “Erdogan was frankly tired,” he said. “Which is understandable for a leader who started working that day at 10 in the morning and finished at 8 in the evening.”
Khashoggi said it had been a long day for the Turkish president. “He hosted the crown prince at lunch that day and then we were told by the friendly presidential staff that the prime minister had arrived at the palace followed by the justice minister. One thing and another kept the president busy through the time for our appointment.”
Khashoggi does not know the number of people who listened to the interview, “but judging from the massive response on Twitter and social media, it is fair to state that Khalejia TV recorded one of its highest number of viewers on Sunday night.”
“The positive reaction that I saw on Twitter and social media tells us that the Saudi people wanted to hear something like this from Erdogan,” he said. “However, it is disappointing to note that some Saudis and Arabs, for their own particular reasons, always try to feed negativity about Turkey and try to damage the Saudi-Turkish alliance and Saudi-Turkish relations.”
According to Khashoggi, it was very evident that the Saudi people liked what Erdogan said. “Of course, there were a few voices that were critical of this and that, saying Erdogan was ambiguous; well, of course, leaders are often ambiguous to balance an answer.”
This was Khashoggi’s third interview with Erdogan. “I interviewed him the first time when he was the mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s; the second time I interviewed him was when he won the prestigious King Faisal Prize,” he said.
Did he look like a very confident leader of his nation, especially after the failed coup of July 15? Khashoggi’s answer was: “Oh, yes. Very confident.”


G20 thinkers consider migration issues and youth unemployment in the COVID-19 era

Updated 20 October 2020

G20 thinkers consider migration issues and youth unemployment in the COVID-19 era

  • Think 20 engagement group discusses the challenges facing migrants, and ways in which they might be overcome

JEDDAH: Members of the G20’s Think 20 (T20) engagement group on Tuesday discussed migration, ways to tackle youth unemployment, and how innovative policies and programs to encourage cross-generational engagement might be developed.

The webinar for the T20’s Task Force 9 on Migration and Young Societies was hosted in cooperation with Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies. The participants included representatives of research centers, government bodies and civil-society organizations.

The event featured two panel discussions that focused on the ways in which migration might shape the future, and how new digital platforms will affect the experiences of migrants, women and children.

During her opening speech, Princess Maha bint Mishari, the lead co-chair of the task force, emphasized the severity of the demographic challenges faced by societies and migrants, and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on “already vulnerable” groups. She said the challenges facing young people, women and migrants have been heightened by economic and educational shutdowns, closed borders and lack of healthcare infrastructure in many places.

She also noted that under King Salman, Saudi Arabia has made remarkable and unprecedented progress on many levels, politically, socially, economically and developmentally.

“These achievements are the pillars of the Vision 2030 reform program, (and show) that the Saudi leadership is committed to its pledge to build a state for the future and consolidate its position in the G20,” she said.

Paolo Magri, the executive vice president and director of the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, said that efforts to address migration issues require a multilateral approach involving countries of origin, transit and destination.

“This is especially true in light of the rising disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “On migration, the pandemic has been a source of disruption in migration channels, the international agenda and capacity. These three major disruptions might endanger the prospects of improving migration governance.”

Amal El-Ouassif, a specialist in international relations at the Policy Center for the New South, discussed trends in African migration, changes caused by the pandemic, and the lessons that can be learned from experiences during the health crisis.

“It is important to understand what we expect in the near future,” she said. “Intro-African migration will predominantly remain within the continent, as 80 percent of migration happens within the continent.”

She added that G20 countries have a vested interest in African migration issues because much of the migration in Africa is to countries that are G20 members.

Fahad Al-Sharif, a senior research fellow at King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, highlighted some of the factors that have affected global migration over time, including early movements of humans, the two world wars, and now the pandemic.

“Many types of migrations have emerged through time, depending on the geographic, socioeconomic and push-and-pull factors,” he said. “For example, forced migrations caused by civil wars, natural disasters and ethic cleansing, among many other things.”

He also discussed legal and seasonal migrations, as well as undocumented migrants and issue of migration during the pandemic.

“Countries should deliver policies in support of irregular migrants,” Al-Sharif said. “Even though COVID-19 proved our unpreparedness and vulnerability, it also created a new opportunity for us, as individuals and countries, to engage in finding new, creative, compassionate and usable policies to face the future.”

He also offered some recommendations for ways in which the needs of undocumented migrants can be better addressed in the COVID-19 era.

“We should increase trust between these communities and health authorities,” he said. “We also need to assure communities that their members will not face any punishment.

“We also have to implement a system that allows undocumented migrants to call emergency services without the threat of retaliation. Moreover, we need to develop more robust and long-term cooperation with foreign embassies to facilitate the identification of undocumented migrants and their presence in their countries.”

The webinar concluded with a speech by Ziad Eyadat, the director of the Center for Strategic Studies, and closing remarks by Fahad Al-Turki, chair of the T20.

Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20 this year and the group’s annual summit is due to be held in Riyadh in November. The T20, a network of think tanks and researchers, is one of several independent G20 engagement groups led by organizations from the host country. They focus on different sections and sectors of society and work to develop policy recommendations that will be presented to G20 leaders for consideration.

The Migration and Young Societies task force focuses on finding ways to develop skills and opportunities among young people, and encourage macroeconomic and microeconomic policies that address high youth unemployment, demographic changes, economic growth and the reform of social systems.

It is one of 11 T20 task forces working to develop research and policy recommendations on issues such as economic development, climate change, women and youth, technology and innovation, multilateralism, financing, food security, access to water, and methods of solving complex problems. They operate under the presidency of King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, and King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.