CNN International

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Fareed Zakaria: When it comes to Syria, one country has been arguing for military action for a long time, Turkey. It’s a country, which shares a five hundred mile border with Syria and has had to absorb and influx of half a million refugees from that country. Some neighboring states accuse Turkey of allowing Jihadist to run rampant in Syria. This week, I sat down with the President of Turkey, Abdullah Gul. We talked about Syria of course, but also about the recent turmoil inside Turkey. In June, the country was convulsed by Gezi protest, what started as a demonstration against plans to build a shopping mall in a public park, grew to a much broader protest, involving tens of thousands. The government responded with force about which I asked the President; did they go too far? You would be fascinated by Abdullah Gul’s answer. Listen  to our conversation.

Fareed Zakaria: Mr. President, welcome.

President Gül: Thank you.

Fareed Zakaria: We have to start with Syria. Are you disappointed that President Obama has chosen not to take some kind of military action in Syria? Your government has been urging military action for a long time.

President Gül: No, it’s not the military action. In fact, of course, the military action is the last resort. But we insist that there should be a comprehensive political strategy first. I think this is missing from the very beginning.

Fareed Zakaria: But a lot of people look at Turkey’s policy, which has been; support for the rebels, very tough against Assad, urging that he leave and say you’ve not been able to help create a real political opposition, unify the rebels, find the moderates that, well for two years this has been the effort, there isn’t that much to show for it.

President Gül: Yeah, well, I think I have to remind first that at the beginning, we work hard to find out the peaceful solution for this. At least six months, we work very hard. We visited several time. But unfortunately, there was no response. There was no real response that time. It’s not the problem of Turkey, first of all, but we are the neighbor. So what’s happening in Syria is having consequences, immediate consequences on Turkey. Therefore, Turkey is very active in this issue. And this should not be misunderstood that Turkey wish war, or Turkey wish to attack on Syria. No, that’s not correct. What we want to see that this situation should not continue like this.

Fareed Zakaria: But you want Assad gone, you…

President Gül: We want, we want a very sound, well-calculated political solution for there.

Fareed Zakaria: Do you think that, these current efforts to, for Assad to get rid of his chemical weapons. Will they work? Do you think there needs to be a threat of military force to implement these agreements?

President Gül: Look, we should not fool ourself. Is it really going to be real, cleaning or not? If it is going to be a real cleaning, that will be wonderful. That will be good for everyone. But if it is going to give some time, and at the end, still there will be chemical weapons there, so that would be a loss of time.

Fareed Zakaria: I have to ask you a few questions on Turkish politics. There many people who say that Turkey, Istanbul lost the bid for the Olympics because of the way the government used force in the protests in Gezi park and this was part of the, part of the mishandling that resulted in Istanbul, which was the favorite, to lose the Olympics to Tokyo.

President Gül: I don’t think that was the only reason.

Fareed Zakaria: The demonstrations.

President Gül: Well, demonstrations, I mean, you see the demonstration in everywhere. You see it’s not changing the life, you see. And at the end, the demonstrations, you can see the same kind of demonstrations in London, in Washington, in developed countries.

Fareed Zakaria: We don’t see as much force used against the demonstrators.

President Gül: Well, well, at the beginning, what we saw there, that, that were similar use with the developed countries’ problems, with the people were, I mean, they were criticizing some projects and then the government got the message at the end, you see. But later on, some radical groups hijacked this and definitely I mean the police has to protect the life of the others. There were some overreaction. Our legal system is going through that. And those, they reacted, they made an overreaction, they are going to be punished, definitely.

Fareed Zakaria: Mr. President, pleasure to have you here.

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