Speech Delivered by Ambassador Mustafa Sarnıç, Consul General of Turkey in Jerusalem, in "House of Wisdom, a think tank in Gaza

Mustafa Sarnıç 02.04.2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,

My dear Palestinian brothers and sisters,

It is a great pleasure for me to speak before such an auspicious audience which gives me an ample opportunity to share my views about the Turkish Foreign Policy in the wake of unprecedented transformation process in our region, with a special focus on our relations with Palestine. I feel it is a duty for me to present my sincere thanks to Mr. Ahmed Yusuf, Secretary General of House of Wisdom, one of the most prominent institutions in Gaza for his facilitation in bringing us together here.
In order to make a precise analyze about Turkey’s position towards the Arap Spring and Palestinian issue, I would like to start my speech with a general look to Turkish Foreign Policy. In this part, mainly I will focus on the strengths and principles of our foreign policy.

A look to Turkish General Foreign Policy

Dear Friends,
The world is undergoing tumultuous changes, presenting challenges to countries such as Turkey that are affected by this tectonic transformation. While the effects of the economic crisis of the year 2008 are still being felt by the international community at large, the regions surrounding Turkey are undergoing the equally significant process of political transition. Though challenging, we believe that these transformations are natural and inevitable processes. As it is unwise to confront these processes, the best course of action is to develop a sound understanding of the causes of this transformation and develop suitable strategies to cope with the waves of change. While conducting its foreign policy in the wake of such turbulent regional and international environments, Turkey possesses several advantages, which make it uniquely positioned to respond to the myriad of challenges related to political transition.

Strengths of Turkish foreign policy

Dear Guests,

I would like to focus on the strengths of Turkish foreign policy now.

Firstly, Turkish foreign policy is formulated with reference to a holistic understanding of historical trends and a sense of active agency. Rejecting a reactionary foreign policy approach, Turkey develops its position on regional and international issues with careful consideration of its own conditions. More than anything else, Turkey’s stance reflects its historical depth, geographical positioning and rich legacy in international affairs. We believe that those who fail to understand the flow of history and do not position themselves in the world accordingly will be overtaken by the rapid pace of events and will end up paying a heavy price for it. Therefore, we formulate our policies through a solid and rational judgment of the long-term historical trends and an understanding of where we are situated in the greater trajectory of world history. More importantly, we constantly question and self-reflect on our position and make revisions where necessary. By adopting such a deep-rooted stance on current affairs, we manage to tackle the challenges of the drastic transformations taking place in the global system.

Secondly, Turkey achieved progress in establishing a stable and peaceful domestic order on which it can build a proactive foreign policy. In recent years, Turkey has struck a healthy balance between freedoms and security at home. When we embarked on this transformation process, we were motivated by the belief that stability cannot be built on the basis of force alone. Only those countries that enjoy political legitimacy and respect freedoms can achieve peace and stability. While Turkey lagged behind the wave of democratization and failed to embrace universal human rights in the 1990s, in the last decade Turkey has undergone a major domestic restructuring process, fixing many of its shortcomings in terms of its human rights record. This fundamental transformation was made possible by the various democratization reforms implemented in a determined manner by strong political authority with a visionary leadership. Today, Turkey has consolidated its economy and liberalized its political system. No longer driven by fear of internal problems thanks to the expanded scope of basic freedoms, Turkey now is more self-confident about its international position, and is trusted by its neighbors and the international community. If Turkey had failed to establish the security-freedom balance, today it would be facing enormous difficulties in withstanding the pro-democratic transformative wave in the region, compromising its security.

Thirdly, Turkey’s reintegration with its neighbors will be yet another asset for its foreign policy in this turbulent era. While it goes through a domestic transformation and reform processes, Turkey also has embarked on the concurrent parallel undertaking of moving to consolidate ties to its region. One strength of our foreign policy, thus, is the ongoing process of reconnecting with the people in our region with whom we shared a common history and are poised to have a common destiny. This objective will continue to shape our foreign policy priorities, and we will not take steps that will alienate us from the hearts and minds of our region’s people for short-term political calculations. This objective also means that we will seek to reconcile our differences with neighboring countries by engaging in a soul-searching effort and moving beyond the disputes that have divided us. Through increasing ties with neighbors, Turkey will be better positioned to play its role as a responsible country at the global level.

Principles of Turkish foreign policy

Dear guests,

Allow me to continue with the Principles of Turkish foreign policy now.

Turkish foreign policy in recent years has been conducted in consideration of several underlying principles.

First, while paying utmost attention to defend our national interests, we will also pursue a value-based foreign policy. On other terms, Turkey can be defined neither as a soft nor hard power, but rather as a virtious power. We have already expressed our readiness to assume the responsibilities of a global actor, and set ourselves the objective to be reckoned as a wise country in the international community. Especially in times of crises, such as the economic crisis the world is going through or the political transformation in our region, the need for wise countries to deliver such essential functions as conflict prevention, mediation, conflict resolution or development assistance becomes particularly evident.

As a responsible member of the international community, we aspire to enhance our capability to shape the course of developments around us and make a valuable contribution to the resolution of regional and international issues. With this understanding and in addition to our endeavors to bring about internal reconciliation in Iraq, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan, we have launched two separate trilateral cooperation process with the participation of Serbia and Croatia so that lasting peace and stability can be ensured in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Besides we have implemented a trilateral cooperation mechanism with Pakistan which is the key to ensure peace and security in Afghanistan. Similarly, we have formed trilateral cooperation mechanisms with Iran and Azarbaijan in order to contribute to the regional cooperation and with Georgia and Azerbaijan with an aim to establish a comprehensive cooperation in the south Caucasus. Furthermore, we have adopted conciliatory attitude for the peaceful resolution of Iran’s nuclear program issue through dialogue. And even our contributions to launch a resolution process with broad participation between Somalia and Somaliland are all concrete examples of our endeavors.

In pursuit of our global objectives, we will endeavor to listen to the consciousness and common sense of humanity, and become a firm defender of universal values. While embracing these universal principles, we will crown them with local values; and advocate, in particular, human rights and such norms as democracy, good governance, transparency and rule of law. We will extend our assistance to the people who rise up to demand such values because by taking into account the principles of justice and equality, we are convinced that they also deserve to have the same rights and privileges enjoyed by our own people. As its region experiences democratization, Turkey will continue its quest to maintain a balance between promoting democratic values and defending national interests.

Second, as we position ourselves in this great historic transformation process, we will act with self-confidence in our ability to meet the aforementioned challenges. When we set ourselves the objective to become a wise country, we realize it comes with many expectations and require new instruments which might be missing in Turkey’s traditional foreign policy toolkit. We will rely on our ability as individuals, as a nation and a state to garner the resources necessary to achieve our foreign policy objectives. In areas where we lack specific instruments needed to fulfill the new demands of our objective of a wise country, we will work to develop these instruments with self-confidence.

We also have become actively involved in new areas suchş6 as international development assistance, peace-making and mediation. As a matter of fact, the “Mediation for Peace” initiative launched by Turkey with Finland in September 2010 in New York under the auspices of the UN also takes as a basis the principles of coordination and complementarity for the success of a mediation process. The Alliance of Civilizations was launched in 2005 by the Prime Ministers of Turkey and Spain aiming at a broad coalition to foster greater cross-cultural tolerance and understanding between the Islamic world and the West to be later adopted by the Secretary General of the United Nations to become a UN initiative. We hosted events such as UN Summit on Least Developed Countries and a UN Conference on mediation besides others. As we continue to prepare ourselves for this challenging global role, we will benefit greatly from the rich history, experience and resources of our nation which constitutes the basis of our foreign policy.

Third, our foreign policy will be conducted autonomously. We suffer from a perception that other powers design regional politics and we only perform the roles assigned to us. We need to do away with this psychological sense of inferiority which has permeated in many segments of our society and amongst political elites. Today, we determine our vision, set our objectives, and execute our foreign policy in line with our national priorities. We might succeed or fail in our initiatives, but the crucial point is that we implement our own policies. We do not receive instructions from any other powers, nor are we part of others’ grand schemes. In particular, our policies towards neighbors are devised with careful consideration of our own evaluation of the situation. As has been the case so far, we will continue to coordinate our policies with those of our Western partners as we see fit, but will never let such partnership negatively affect our relations with neighbors.

Fourth, we will pursue a vision-oriented foreign policy. The wise country role requires us to establish a healthy balance between crisis management and vision management. Today, the world is going through a major global economic crisis while our region is experiencing a troublesome political transformation. We have stepped in to play an active role in these transformation processes, putting at work our crisis management services and our multi-dimensional diplomacy. As we struggle to handle the conjectural challenges in the Middle East, Balkans, Caucasus and Europe however, we will never lose sight of the broader trends keeping in mind our holistic approach. Our long-term vision will inspire our crisis management efforts and help shape the course of developments in our regional and global neighborhoods. At the regional level, our vision is a regional order that is built on representative political systems reflecting the legitimate demands of the people where regional states are fully integrated to each other around the core values of democracy and true economic interdependence. At the global level, we will aspire to build in a participatory manner a new international order that is inclusive of the international community at large. In this respect, we are hosting of headquarters or regional centers of various multinational organizations like NATO, The Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC), COMCEC, D-8, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Turkey’s policy toward the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa

Dear Brothers,

Turkey’s value-based approach and emphasis on democracy and popular legitimacy have underpinned its policy toward the uprisings in the Middle East. The Arab Spring was first set in motion in Tunisia by a street vendor called Mohammed Bouazizi whose outcry for freedom and dignity continues to resonate throughout the region and beyond. On this occasion, I would like to pay tribute to late Mohammed Bouazizi and all other courageous people who have sacrificed their lives for this noble cause. When Ebu Azizi burned himself in Tunisia we made an analysis. Our analysis was this: What is going on in Tunisia is a first indication of a change which has already been delayed. This change is not a change because of a clash between sects or ethnicities or religions. But this is a change of reacting to cold war structures. Cold war structure has ended in Balkans in the 1990s but continued to survive in Middle East 20 years more. These regimes were out of history, in the sense of following the new technologies, the new instruments, the new structures, the new logic. Our Foreign Minister Davutoglu told this in Egypt, immediately after the revolution, when he met with the revolutionaries of Tahrir youth. The basic search was dignity. Dignity for individual dignity, national dignity, national pride. And the question was the adaptability to the new international context. No Arab young revolutionary was looking for a sectarian or ethnic revival.

Dear Friends,

Since the revolution in Tunisia, we have pursued a dynamic foreign policy reflecting our basic principles:

First we decided to support the people who rise to demand such basic rights as freedom of expression and other political freedoms. Our chief concern was to sustain the deep and dear friendship we established with the people and to not trade these ties for temporary balance of power calculations.

Second, we emphasized that the transition towards stable and legitimate democratic political structures can only be achieved via a balance between security and freedom.

Third, we believed that there is no contradiction between our emphasis on democratic demands, which in some cases required us to confront repressive regimes, and our foreign policy principle of zero problems with neighbors.

Fourth, we expressed our opposition to foreign intervention because this region’s future has to be decided by its people.

Fifth, we considered all people of the region as our eternal brothers irrespective of their background and saw it our duty to dampen sectarian tensions.

With these principles in mind, we believed that the youth demonstrating in the streets represented the future of the region and their aspirations needed to be taken into account. The values demanded by the young Arab generation is the same as what our people enjoy and we believed that they had a right to claim them: free and fair elections, rule of law, transparency and accountability.

In fact, this was a delayed transformation and was long overdue. All these transitions to democracy should have been achieved in the Middle East in the 1990s as the Cold War’s downfall was instigating an international wave of democratization. But, unfortunately at the time, the preference of major powers was more for stability than democracy in this region, and the archaic regimes continued existence with their backing. As the region was undergoing such a political earthquake, we aspired to position ourselves on the right side of the history and decided to make our humble contribution to this epic democratic struggle. When the Turkish government debated what our foreign policy should be, we concluded that we should unconditionally support the demands of the Arab people wherever they are, and whatever the content of their demands are, because it was their right to demand the best for themselves. By positioning itself on the side of the people demonstrating in the streets, Turkish foreign policy took a courageous but risky decision. We thought it was a prudent and just action as it was in line with our vision for the region discussed earlier. This vision in fact had shaped our policy in the region even before the Arab Spring when we established good neighborly relations with the incumbent regimes. We developed ties with these regimes because at the time they were not at war with their own people. But when they preferred to suppress the demands of their citizens, we sided with the people and still remain committed to the same democratic vision for our region. Consistently, we stated that we will stand against any oppression in our region, irrespective of the identity of the oppressors, and will not tolerate regimes that see the country as their personal property and want to treat their people in complete disregard of universal values and fundamental human rights, most notably the right to life. We advised the leaders only one thing, to listen to the voice of their people and do only what they wanted. We advised the regimes to no longer ignore their people’s quest for democracy and asked them to establish the balance between freedom and security. We have faith in the power of democracy and argued that a government unable to communicate with its own people will not survive. Our policy was simply to urge the leaders to provide maximum freedom without risking security and maximum security without limiting freedoms. The instruments we used to conduct our foreign policy in this process reflected our principles. As our government contemplated how we could assist the Arab people’s quest for democracy, we firmly agreed that we will pursue an Ankara-based policy and act in line with our value based evaluation of the developments. We decided to exhaust all means of diplomacy in order to mediate between the regimes and the people. When the regimes chose to use brute force against their citizens, we still endeavored to find diplomatic solutions to end bloodshed because we wanted to avoid foreign military intervention in our region in consideration of its devastating effects. While standing against intervention as a matter of principle, we also expressed that we will not keep silent on oppression by autocratic leaders and will act in tandem with the international community to end it. Since we aspired to achieve limitless cooperation and economic integration in our region, we also were careful to ensure that this transition process will draw no new lines of division. We do not want to see Cold War like structures emerging in the region, especially in the sense of new tensions and polarizations erecting walls of separation among the people. In particular, it was incumbent upon us to work towards preventing divisions across sectarian lines, i.e. Shiite versus Sunni or political regimes, i.e. defenders of the old regimes, versus new democratic regimes.

Bilateral Relations between Palestine and Turkey and Palestinian Issue

Dear Friends,

Turkey shares a centuries long joint history and has close cultural and social bonds with the Palestinian people.

Turkey established official relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1975 and was one of the first countries that recognized the Palestinian State established in exile on 15 November 1988.We strongly support Palestine to be recognized as a state in international forums. In this context, Turkey actively backed the efforts to upgrade Palestine’s status to a “non-member observer state” at the UN on 29 November 2012. It constituted a landmark in the recognition of Palestine as a state. However, we are still waiting for the international community to take its responsibility in paying its belated debt to the Palestinians. The debt is: To let Palestine have its own much deserved sovereign state within 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Turkey supports a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515, the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map that would ensure two states living side by side within secure and recognized borders.

We believe that the hope of sustainable peace, prosperity, security and development for the region would rise if a negotiated two-state solution was reached regarding the Palestinian issue.

Dear Friends,

Regarding the reconciliation issue, let me simply to remind you that I am an Ambassador of a country, whose Prime Minister emphasizes that “the happiest day in my life would be the day that my Palestinian brothers will reconcile.” We are deeply concerned with the ongoing division in Palestine since June 2007. We strongly encourage national reconciliation and also call on the international community for taking a constructive attitude that would focus on a national agreement rather than separation and isolation.

We are always ready to assist our Palestinian brothers in overcoming the differences and consolidate the Palestinian national unity.

I would also like to emphasize that the ceasefire agreement between Israel and HAMAS is upholding in a very fragile environment. If reconciliation is achieved during this period, international community will more likely support unity government and elections.

We believe, the unification of the Palestinian groups within a common national agenda under the PLO framework will certainly strengthen the Palestinian cause. In this regard, we will continue to urge the international community to develop a constructive approach towards the Palestinian efforts for reconciliation.

Dear Friends,

The volume of the recorded bilateral trade between our two countries is around 60 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. We are facilitating the Palestinian businessmen to obtain year long multiple entry visas. I hope that in few years all Palestinians may enter Turkey without visa. Furthermore, we have a very ambitious Project of Industrial Zone in Jenin to further encourage direct investments to Palestine.

TICA, the prominent Turkish agency providing development assistance has undertaken many successfull projects in various fields ranging from health and education to infrastructure and capacity building. Along with many other projects, TICA is constructing Turkey-Palestine Friendship Hospital in Gaza in this regard. The Turkish Red Crescent and other Turkish NGO’s together with the representatives of Turkish media like AA, I believe, make our Palestinian brothers feel that Turkish people always stands with them.

We believe the daily lives of the Palestinians have to be improved and a viable and sustainable socio-economic infrastructure of a future Palestinian state should be established. This is an ethical and humanitarian mission for the whole international community. Within this framework, Turkey, has pledged 150 million US dollars for Palestine in the Paris Conference at the end of 2007, and another 50 million US dollars in the Sharm Al Sheikh Conference on the Reconstruction of Gaza. As a nation always standing with and behind their Palestinian brothers, it’s both a duty of and honour for the Turks when it comes to meeting the needs of their Palestinian friends. Turkey’s support to her Palestinian brothers is unconditional.

Dear Brothers,

The needs and rights of Palestinians in Gaza must be protected. Turkey is always ready to offer any assistance to improve the difficult humanitarian conditions in Gaza. We will continue to contribute to the efforts of UN agencies working in the field to ease the living conditions of Gazans, besides our own direct assistance to the Palestinians in the Strip.

Turkish Government recently donated 850.000 US Dollars’ to alleviate the energy crisis for the most essential facilities in Gaza last November. At the same time, it has also allocated 700.000 US Dollars to provide the medicine that is urgently needed in Gaza.

Turkish donation of 10,000 tons of flour through UNRWA came at a critical moment for Palestine refugees in Gaza, where exports are at 2 percent of the pre-blockade level, access to fishing and farming areas severely limited and almost all tunnels between Egypt are closed at the end of 2013.

I would like to conclude with the remarks of Mr. Davutoglu in his last visit to Gaza with the Arab League delegation, during the Israeli operation, on 20 November 2012: “Your pain is our pain and your future is our future.”

Thank you for listening to me.