Gül winner of prestigious Chatham House award

Gül winner of prestigious Chatham House award

President Abdullah Gül

March 20, 2010, Saturday/ 17:00:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
Turkish President Abdullah Gül has won this year’s Chatham House Prize, awarded by the prestigious British think tank to the statesperson “deemed to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations.”

Voting by Chatham House members for the 2010 prize closed on Friday. Gül was awarded the prize after the results were tabulated. He competed with Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, and Stjepan Mesic, the president of Croatia.

Gül was nominated because he “has been a significant figure for reconciliation and moderation within Turkey and internationally and a driving force behind many of the positive steps that Turkey has taken in recent years,” according to the Chatham House Web site. It said that throughout 2009, Gül worked to deepen Turkey’s ties with the Middle East, mediate between rival Iraqi groups and bring together Afghan and Pakistani leaders. It praised Gül’s efforts to reunite Cyprus and said he played a leading role, along with Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan, “in accelerating the unprecedented search for reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, including through the so-called ‘football diplomacy’.”

Gül, who was elected as president in August 2007, became the first Turkish leader to visit Yerevan in September 2008 for the first leg of what was dubbed “soccer diplomacy.” The two countries signed a landmark peace accord in October 2009.

A few days after the two countries signed two protocols on normalizing their relations and opening their joint border in Zurich, the Turkish province of Bursa hosted the presidents of Turkey and Armenia, who watched a World Cup soccer match side-by-side in a show of unity meant to help defuse opposition to the agreement to reopen their border and restore relations.

“President Gül is an unwavering proponent of anchoring Turkey in the European Union. Under his leadership, Turkey has consolidated civilian democratic rule and pursued extensive political and legal reforms to bring the country closer to European standards of democracy and human rights,” according to Chatham House.

Gül brought Turkey’s relations with the EU to the top of the national agenda, becoming the first Turkish president to visit the European Council headquarters in Brussels and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

During the award ceremony, expected to take place in London in autumn, Gül will be presented with a crystal award and a scroll signed by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

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