Türkiye Cumhuriyeti

Beyrut Büyükelçiliği

Konuşma Metinleri

Address at the Issam Fares Center For Lebanon, 04.10.2011

ADDRESS AT THE ISSAM FARES CENTER FOR LEBANON ON “CHALLENGES TO TURKEY’S ZERO CONFLICT POLICY”

Mr. Director General Ambassador Bouhabib, Excellencies, Dear Friends,

I would like to extend my thanks to Ambassador Abdallah Bouhabib for hosting this event and inviting me to speak here at this prestigious institution, on the challenges to Turkey’s Zero Problem policy.

I have the honor to address to such a distinguished audience today and hope that our discussions will shed light on the basic aspects of the Turkish foreign policy.

This afternoon I will briefly talk about what the zero problem policy is about and what are its underlying factors. Then our chairman can open a debate on various comments about this policy, especially with regard to recent regional developments.

After the end of the Cold War, our region found itself facing new realities and new challenges. Furthermore, the first decade of the twenty first century, in the post 9/11 period, presented the world with many menaces to both regional and global security, like international terrorism, a growing danger of clash of civilizations and global economic problems.

These challenges forced Turkey, which a country situated in a very volatile environment to adopt a pro-active approach in its region. Turkey’s geostrategic location has shifted. Turkey is no longer at the periphery of Asia or Europe, but at the epicenter of Eurasia.

Turkey is open to different winds and feels the direct impact of every development in its surrounding. Therefore, channeling the developments in our neighborhood towards a positive direction has become an important priority for Turkey.

In this regard, it was the changing conditions and the geography that necessitated Turkey to pursue a pro-active policy in order to strengthen relations with the regions with which we have common historical, social and cultural heritage.

I can say that our policy formulated as “zero problems with neighbours” is a contemporary reflection of the basic principle we have adopted since the foundation of the republic in 1923, “Peace at home, peace in the world”.

Zero problem is a principle or “a vision based on a principled approach” which will continue to define Turkish foreign policy. This vision also represents a change of mentality in our foreign policy, towards a more democratic, accountable and active approach.

Along the same line, we tried to contribute to the improvement of dialogue channels and building of confidence among countries in our region. We undertook roles as “facilitator” for helping solve hard issues, by proving a credible meeting point which enabled the parties gather under different formats and exchange views. This is not limited to the Middle East. But from the Balkans to Central Asia and Africa, we have been pursuing the same active policy.

Similarly, we established bilateral and multilateral High Level Cooperation Councils to further improve cooperation and consolidate mutual trust with our neighbours.

A spirit of cooperation and partnership had already taken root in our neighborhood thanks to our efforts. We still believe that this spirit and a growing level of interdependence contribute towards the establishment of lasting peace, security, economic development and stability in our region, which could not reach its real potential as it had to cope with many conflicts and disputes for so many years.

Of course, no one expects all problems to be solved overnight and circumstances constantly change. However, by working towards this ideal, we are laying down our strong will of advancing on this path step by step and in patience. By doing so, we aim at improving relations with neighbors and helping them find solutions to their problems.

I talked about regional and international developments which led to the formulation of the zero problem policy. Let me now say a few words about the backdrop of this policy.

Today Turkey is marked by two categories of change: One is a transforming political and social system, in other words a democracy evolving towards better rules and standards, and a new constitution coming very soon, and the second is a growing economy.

Thanks to this new transformation, Turkey has emerged as a new power center. It has a rapidly growing economy which is the 6th biggest in Europe, 16th in the world. It is also the fastest growing in the world. It is expected to become the second biggest in Europe by 2050.

Coming to our day, we all must admit that since the beginning of this year, we have been witnessing an extraordinary, unexpected and once unimaginable change in the Middle East and North Africa.

This historical moment, referred as Arab Spring or Arab Awakening places Turkey to a very unique position and created additional challenges to its foreign policy, most particularly to the zero problem policy.

Turkey shares deep-rooted historical and cultural ties with all of the countries in the region. It is not only a neighbor to the region but it is part of the region. At the same time Being a NATO member since 1952, Turkey is also part of Europe, member to almost all the European organizations, and it is determined to continue the accession negotiations with the EU.

These elements together with its democratic and secular structure and transforming social and economic life have made Turkey a source of inspiration for many other societies.

Our Arab brothers and sisters’ hospitality shown during Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent visit to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya constituted a clear example of this.

Mrt. Chairman, Dear Friends,

As we all know early this year, a flame of democracy started to change the political and social systems in the Arab world. Just like the time during the fall of the Berlin Wall, now a new generation in the region has risen up to demand freedom, dignity and human rights, among many other things like women’s rights, better political participation and better life conditions.

Turkey has responded favorably to this widespread call for genuine democratic and economic reform from its onset and even before. In fact, already in 2003, President Abdullah Gül when he was serving as Foreign Minister, called on all OIC member states to put their houses in order urgently.

In January of 2011 when the public demand for reform started to cascade from Tunis to Cairo and to the whole region each country responded to their citizens’ demands differently.

Some took steps in terms of reforming the existing political structures. Some already stepped aside. Some others chose to use old methods against the longing for democracy.

Turkey’s expectation is to see democracy taking root in these countries. We hope that every country will implement its own reforms and democratic processes to meet the demands of their people. We know that democracy cannot be installed in a few months, but bold steps can be taken towards this end. Democracy is not a terminal where we can stop and rest, but it is a never-ending process which requires relentless efforts and political sacrifices.

Now there is a historic opportunity for our region. We believe that wave of democracy which has built up for years cannot be stopped. Economic development, human rights and democracy will shape the future trajectory of the region.

The change has already started. The problem is to manage this change in a wise way. There is no reason and no excuse to turn a blind eye on call for democracy. We believe that democracy is the best guarantee for peace and stability everywhere in the world.

In this regard Turkey is trying to utilize all of its capabilities and influence to promote reform and share its experience in the region.

We encouraged reforms regarding political rights, rights of minorities and religious tolerance to prevent divides among various groups that might lead to conflicts

To conclude, let me emphasize that Turkey’s active and constructive engagement policy has gained additional meaning and importance as the Middle East stands in the middle of a historical transformation.

Turkey is not discouraged by the recent developments. We share a common geography and common challenges with the Arab countries. By increasing our cooperation and interdependence with our Arab partners, we can build a safe, democratic, stable and economically strong region.

Thank you.