Presentation by H.E. Ambassador Şakir Özkan Torunlar, Consul General of Turkey in Jerusalem, Security Sciences Faculty, Jericho, Palestine, 17 January 2012

Şakir Özkan Torunlar 17.01.2012
CONTEMPORARY TURKEY, IT’S SECURITY AND FOREIGN POLICY


Governor of Jericho,
Generals,
Chief of Police of Jericho,
Dear Officers,
Dear Friends,
Sisters and Brothers,

It is an honour and privilege to give a lecture at the Palestine Academy for Security Sciences whose graduates, since 2008, contribute to the peace and security of Palestine and Palestinians.

I would like to begin my presentation by saluting all the departed souls of the Palestinian Security Forces who lost their lives in defending their country on the way to freedom.

I have no doubt that the members of the audience in this room, like every single Palestinian, do have deep knowledge about Turkey, as well as our common history and culture. I am also sure that some of you have visited Turkey, at least once. All of you have an idea about Turkey and deep rooted and time tested Turkey-Palestine relations. I have to underline right at the beginning that my presentation does not aim to teach anything to anybody. Together, we will try to revise briefly what most of you already very well know, and exchange opinions.

Dear Friends,

Next year it will be the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. In 1923, a modern republic, under the guidance of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was born out of the ashes of the disintegrated Ottoman Empire, which today’s Palestine and Turkey were part of. Since then Turkey has been pursuing a policy of “Peace at Home and Peace in the World”, an enduring legacy of Atatürk. Combined with its democratic and secular political system, robust free market economy, social tradition of reconciling modernity with cultural identity, Turkey’s foreign policy has always been a generator of security and stability in its region and beyond.

The primary objective of Turkish foreign policy is to help secure and nurture a peaceful, stable, prosperous and cooperative regional and international environment that is conducive to human development at home and abroad.

Turkey pursues this objective by following a principled and proactive foreign policy that employs a broad spectrum of peaceful means. These entail, membership in NATO, full integration with the EU, promoting good neighbourly relations and economic cooperation, extending humanitarian aid and assistance to the less fortunate, participating in peace-keeping operations and contributing to the resolution of disputes as well as post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction efforts. As an active member of the globalised world, Turkey employs a multi-dimensional foreign policy that reconciles West with the East and North with the South. With its geographic location and close historical and cultural ties across a vast landscape, Turkey serves as a crucial bridge for dialogue between cultures at the heart of Eurasia. This multi-dimensional nature of Turkey’s foreign policy is best reflected by its membership in a wide range of leading international and regional organizations.

In light of the troubling global developments, the need for a true dialogue among different cultures continues to be a high priority on the agenda of the international community, which I believe everybody in this hall shares with me. Following the events of September 11 in the United States, Turkey hosted a first ever joint forum of the European Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in 2002. It is known to everybody that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon carries on the Alliance of Civilizations initiative with stronger support which was launched by his predecessor in 2005, which aims to facilitate harmony and dialogue by emphasizing the common values of different cultures and religions. Turkey, with its deep-rooted tradition of mutual understanding, tolerance, dialogue and respect for other cultures and religions, has undertaken to co-sponsor this initiative together with Spain.

Dear Friends,

In the early years of the Republic, the focus was on internal restructuring. An extremely radical, but equally successful campaign took place for the modernization of the country, covering a wide range of areas from legislative reforms to women’s rights as well as rule of law and secularism. In the field of international relations, priority was given to resolving the problems pending from the previous years such as paying the debt of the 600 years old Ottoman Empire and resolving the border issues. Relations with neighbours were marked by a cooperative spirit and mutual understanding. During World War II Turkey remained a non-belligerent ally of the anti-Nazi coalition until the last months. Following the War, Turkey became a founding member of the United Nations in 1945 and the Council of Europe in 1949. It joined the NATO in 1952.

Membership in NATO is a natural outcome of Turkey’s western vocation. Since the beginning, NATO has been the cornerstone of Turkey’s defence and security policy. Membership in NATO has provided Turkey with a security umbrella, verified its link to the West and its values, and strengthened its transatlantic ties.

During 60 years, Turkey has been a staunch member of NATO in a volatile region. During the Cold War era, Turkey made a substantial contribution to the security and defence of the Alliance in general and of Western Europe in particular by guarding the southeastern flank of the Alliance against the Warsaw Pact.

Having the second largest army within the Alliance after the United States, Turkey contributed to peace in terms of deterrence. For a country with limited resources, this came at the expense of great sacrifices. Given the nature of its geostrategic location and emergence of new security challenges to international and particularly European security interests, Turkey is obliged to maintain a realistic deterrence capability.

In the post-1990 era Turkey found itself at the centre of a large landscape, a new geography called Eurasia. With its democratic experience and economic development as well as its multiple ties with the majority of the newly independent countries, Turkey has supported the transformation efforts in Eurasia.

No need to remind most of the members of the distinguished audience here that in the post-Cold War era, international peacekeeping has gained new significance. Turkish Armed Forces and Police, participate in various missions from Afghanistan to Kosovo, from Mediterranean to Macedonia, Congo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lebanon, Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia, Sudan, Georgia and East Timor, and most recently in the high seas off the coast of Somalia.

Turkey-EU relations took an important turn towards full membership in 2004 and accession negotiatons started in October 2005. Despite the attempts of some governments among the EU member countries to slow down the negotiations process, we believe that when they are successfully concluded, it will demonstrate the EU’s determination to unify Europe without creating new dividing lines. If interpreted in terms of strategy, Europe will have a stronger say in global and regional issues with Turkey’s membership.

Turkish-American relations are based on ties of friendship, partnership and alliance. Cold War years were the time frame which the security dimension of the relationship was more pronounced. In the post-Cold War period the already existing strategic relationship has gathered width and depth. Both countries closely consult, coordinate and cooperate, as appropriate, in conflict prevention and crisis management, containing regional conflicts, curbing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and combating terrorism and extremism, illegal drug trafficking and other manifestations of organized transnational crime.

A very important item on Turkey’s foreign policy agenda is Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots who saved themselves from a possible ethnic cleansing on the island, founded their independent state of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, in 1983. It is just a happy coincidence that the day of Declaration of Independence of the Turkish Cypriots and the Palestinians is 15th of November.

Today, the TRNC, has representative offices in more than 20 countries including Israel. The Turkish Cypriots, who work together with their Palestinian brothers in many international forums such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, are looking forward to have their Representative Office in Ramallah as soon as possible, as they do have in Tel Aviv for many years.

Turkey’s relations with her next door neighbour, Greece, are based on the conviction that they should be of close cooperation and that there are more binding Turks and Greeks than those separating them. In the past ten years, the people-to-people contacts increased and the cooperation among the respective governments on both sides developed. However, there are still many to be done, especially in solving the problems around the territorial waters, national airspace and continental shelf of both countries in the Aegean Sea and the ongoing problems of the Muslim Turkish Minority in Western Thrace, in the North of Greece.

Dear Friends,

Balkans have always been a melting pot of different ethnic, religious and cultural identities. With the dissolution of Federal Yugoslavia, it has climbed to the top of the international agenda. This region is Turkey’s gateway to Europe. There are very important historical and cultural ties between the Turkish and Balkan peoples. Turkey attaches importance to the creation of an atmosphere of understanding and peaceful co-habitation through closer ties among Balkan countries, which would lead to the preservation of peace and stability in the region. In this respect Turkey took an active role in international efforts for settling the Kosovo issue and was among the first countries to recognize the independence of Kosovo.
Dear Friends,

Middle East, a land of natural wealth and great promise, unfortunately experienced turmoil and conflict for decades. Given the deep historical and cultural ties with all countries and peoples of the region, Turkey feels a moral responsibility to actively contribute to the efforts to transform the region into one of lasting peace, security, prosperity and cooperation. Since January last year, the developments in some Arab countries which were ruled by dictators for decades, have proved that Arabs are not less capable than the peoples of Eastern Europe of 1989, to rule themselves and they do not deserve democracy less than the rest of the world. Therefore, I congratulate our brothers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Furthermore I congratulate our Palestinian brothers who proved the rest of the World that free, fair and democratic elections can be held in an Arab country even under the severe conditions of occupation. The problem is that those who claim that they are the only representatives of the democracies, have the difficulty in welcoming the results of democratic elections in Palestine.

Turkey believes that lasting peace, security and stability in the Middle East can only be achieved through a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute where Palestine and Israel will live side by side in peace and dignity within secure and internationally recognized borders.

Turkey actively contributes to efforts by the international community to achieve peace in the Middle East. However, Turkey believes that peace can not be achieved with unilateral action of internationally comdemned illegal constructions on the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. Turkey also supports by all means the Palestinian efforts for full membership in United Nations. Since the very first day that this idea came up, Turkey worked hand in hand with His Excellency Mr Mahmud Abbas, the President of Palestine and the Palestinian Government. We are also proud to be one of the first countries who recognized the Palestinian independence on the day of its declaration by late President Arafat, in 1988. While keeping on the track of membership to the UN, we all salute the Palestinian flag in front of the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, a symbol of full membership to the organization. We can not understand the stance of some countries in threatening an international organization dealing with culture and science, by cutting their financial contributions.

We also support the internal reconciliation process among the Palestinian political factions. We believe that, the sooner the Palestinians are united, the stronger they will be on the diplomatic front. Therefore, the recent rounds of reconciliation under the leadership of His Excellency the President of Palestine will be the only way to this end.

Turkey upholds every nation’s right to develop nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes and supports a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue while encouraging Iran to comply with the expectations of the international community. It is worth mentioning that Iran is Turkey’s only neighbour with whom the common borderline remains unchanged since the 17th century.

Like the international community the developments in Iraq preoccupy a priority for Turkey. Turkey wishes to see stability and security promptly restored in a territorially intact, democratic, pluralist and prosperous Iraq, free from sectarian violence, at peace with itself and its neighbours and fully integrated with the international community.

We are worried with the recent developments in Syria, our neighbour which we share our longest border, a border more than 900 kilometers. The loss of tens of lives every single day in this country hurts us. We hope that the efforts of the international community, especially the current initiative of the Arab League may produce concrete results and that the regime of this country will reach to terms of peace with its own people.

Russia has traditionally been an important neighbour for Turkey throughout history. Bilateral relations date back over 500 years. Although the Ottoman Empire and the Czarist Russia have fought 4 times in the 19th century, Soviet Union was the first major power to recognize Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Government during the War of Independence. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Russian Federation marked a new phase in our bilateral relations. Today, mutual trust, friendship and cooperation form the basis of good relations.

Dear Friends,

Turkey is geographically located in close proximity to %70 of the world’s proven energy reserves, in particular those in the Middle East and the Caspian basin. It thus, forms a natural energy bridge between the source countries and consumer markets and stands as a key country in ensuring energy security through diversification of supply sources and routes, considerations that have gained increased significance in the world today.

Major pipeline projects both realized and under construction are enhancing Turkey’s role as an important transit country on the Eurasia energy axis and a significant energy hub in the region. To this end, Turkey has concentrated its efforts for the transportation of Caspian oil and gas reserves to Western markets on the realization of the East-West Energy Corridor, often referred to as the Silk Road of the 21st century. The pipeline projects linking the Caucasus and Central Asia to Europe will be essential for the region’s integration with the West.

Other projects ahead include an oil pipeline project from Black Sea to Mediterranean, on the North-South Axis and the Arab Natural Gas Pipeline Project to carry Egyptian gas to Turkey via Jordan and Syria. Through the completion of these projects, it is anticipated that %7 of the world’s oil and gas supply will transit Turkey in few years’ time. These developments attest to the strategic role Turkey increasingly assumes as a major transit energy highway between the world’s economic centers and sources of energy.

Dear Friends,

Terrorism poses a serious threat to international peace and security. It is a crime against humanity that violates human rights, particularly right to life, and can have no justification under any circumstances. It is an evil that strikes at the very core of democracy, civil society as well as economic and social development. Turkey, who has deeply felt the effects of terrorism condemns in the strongest terms all acts and forms of terror.

The first Turkish diplomats were assassinated in their office in Los Angeles by a terrorist of Armenian origin in 1973. That murderous act was followed by others claiming the lives of 38 Turkish diplomats serving abroad, including ambassadors, consuls general, attaches, their wives and children and citizens of the country.

The serious threat to Turkey’s security posed by the PKK terrorist organization harbored in the North of Iraq continues to create a major source of contention. Turkey expects the Government of Iraq to take all effective measures to eradicate the presence of these terrorists on its soil.

Turkey has made it amply clear to all concerned that the terrorist threat against Turkey originating from Iraq is an issue which needs urgent attention and effective action based on the principle of “zero tolerance” to terrorism. Accordingly, Turkey has repeatedly expressed its expectation that Iraq should take urgent action to outlaw and terminate the presence of this terrorist organization operating from its territories towards its neighbour. It is also an imperative asked by the international community in the UN Security Council Resolution 1546.

In order for the fight against terrorism to succeed, it has to be seen in the right perspective. Terrorism cannot be associated with any religion, culture, geography or ethnic group. In other words, you can not put an adjective in front of terrorism, such as muslim terrorism, christian terrorism, Turkish terrorism or Palestinian terrorism etc. The fight against terrorism should be a comprehensive effort. The relevant UN Security Council Resolutions provide a valuable basis for the broad efforts to counter terrorism. Turkey is party to all 12 UN Conventions and Protocols on combating terrorism.

Finally, Turkey aims to proactively pursue the goal of helping to create an environment of security, stability, prosperity, friendship and cooperation all around itself at the natural convergence point of Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Black Sea, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Central Asia. Turkey will benefit in the pursuit of this goal from its numerous assets, including its pluralistic democracy and secular political system, tradition of modernity, free enterprising economy, diversified industrial base and a highly capable army that is experienced in peace-keeping.

Turkey’s economic and human potential, strong defense capability, active participation in international conflict resolution and peace-keeping efforts as well as its unique ability in combining the best of different cultures and traditions are valuable assets that will enable Turkey to play a pivotal role in its region and beyond. Turkey will continue to work closely with friends and allies in building a better world for future generations.

Dear Friends,

I left my remarks on Turkey-Palestine relations to the final part of the presentation.

-Turks and Palestinians have deep rooted relations of friendship and fraternity. Turks have left Jerusalem in 1917 and returned back by opening one of the first diplomatic missions of the new Republic in Jerusalem, in 1925. The Consulate General of Turkey in Jerusalem has always beeen kept open, with a brief exception when Israel decided to move its capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Since 2005, Turkey has been represented in Palestine at the level of Ambassador through its mission in Jerusalem.

-The hearts of Turks start beating for Palestine at the age of school years.

-Palestine is perhaps the only foreign policy issue where all the Turkish political parties unite around with consensus.

-Last July, we organized and hosted the First Palestinian Ambassadors Conference in İstanbul. The Conference was inaugurated by both President Abbas and Prime Minister Erdoğan. Our Foreign Minister has offered to all participants that they can hold their following meetings in İstanbul until Jerusalem becomes the capital of Palestine.

-A sign of Palestinian reflection in the lives of Turks is the naming of one of the major streets in Ankara, our capital, as Avenue of Palestine.
-In his last visit to Turkey, last December, President Mahmud Abbas was furnished with the honorary citizenship of Konya, one of the biggest cities of the country. In addition to Ramallah, there are many Palestinian towns which established twinning relations with towns in Turkey.

Dear Friends,

Let me conclude my words with some substantiative information on recent developments in our bilateral relations.

-The volume of the recorded bilateral trade between our two countries is around 40 million US dollars. However, the real figures indicate that the volume is around 400 million dollars, where 90 percent is registered in Turkish-Israel trade.

-After so many years, the Turkey-Palestine Business Forum held its first meeting in Turkey in July 2010.

-In April, Turkey will host an International Conference on Investment in Palestine, which will attract foreign investors of European and Arab countries.

-In 2007 Paris Donors Conference, Turkey pledged 150 million dollars and in 2009 an additional 50 million dollars in Sharm El Sheikh for the reconstruction of Gaza. Our support is not limited with these figures. When necessary Turkish people always stands with their Palestinian brothers.

-The number of the scholarships allocated for Palestinian students in Turkish universities are about 150 last year. We are pushing our capacity to make this figure for more.

-We are about to conclude new regulations for facilitating the Palestinian businessmen to obtain year long multiple entry visas. I hope that in few years all Palestinians may enter Turkey without visa.

-In the field of security cooperation, our relations are excellent. The relevant institutions meet their counterparts in either country whenever they need without any obstacle.

-In order to further this cooperation, recently we have proposed a draft Agreement of Cooperation to the Palestinian Government.

-Even without an agreement, we have an established mechanism for the Palestinian police cadets to study in Turkish Police Academy in Ankara. Since 2003, 73 Palestinians have graduated the Academy and joined the ranks of Palestinian Police Force.

If I may summarise, Palestine and Turkey have examplary bilateral relations. We have inherited these relations from our grandfathers, and after adding our input we will leave them to our children.

Thank you for your patience, and please feel free to ask any questions or raise any of your comments which you want to share with me.