[OPINION] Turkey-Australia: More strategy, more depth

January 31, 2011, Monday/ 17:05:00

That Turkey and Australia are dealing with our strategic challenges in similar ways might be surprising at first glance. However, on closer investigation, it makes sense.

We both start from the premise that our national prosperity depends on regional and international stability. Australia and Turkey recognize that safeguarding this stability means building security between states -- developing trust, creating habits of cooperation and encouraging peaceful dispute resolution in our respective regions.

As creative middle powers with global interests, Turkey and Australia both seek a rules based order at both the regional and global levels.

Turkey has transformed its regional and global standing in recent years. Australia’s role has also taken on a new significance as the global centre of geo-strategic and geo-economic gravity shifts to the Asia-Pacific region.

Like Australia, Turkey is not afraid of doing the heavy lifting in pursuit of regional stability. As middle powers, we have the capability and responsibility to contribute -- and we do.

Some leaders saw this responsibility to contribute earlier than others. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk wrote in 1937, “People should think about peace and prosperity of all nations of the world as much as their own nation’s peace and prosperity.”

Australia, like Turkey, is very much committed to this goal. We both strive to make a genuine contribution to stability in our neighborhoods. Australia is a strong advocate of the East Asia Summit and Turkey is an important driving force in a host of regional organizations and meetings. We are both straight-talking, are committed to democracy and have a pragmatic, action-oriented foreign policy.

Turkey is the world’s 17th largest economy and Australia the 13th largest. Turkey is the seventh largest economy in Europe and Australia the fourth largest in Asia. We have both emerged in good shape from the global economic crisis. The OECD predicts Turkey will be the fastest growing OECD economy in the world between 2011-2017 and Goldman Sachs expects it could be among the top 10 world economies by 2050. It is increasingly becoming a vital regional energy hub.

Turkey has just completed a successful term on the UN Security Council, and is a founding member of the G20, the world’s premier forum for economic cooperation. It is also a key player in NATO, with the second-largest number of troops after the US.

In short, Turkey is on the move.

Australia is also active on the world stage. We are a founding member of the UN, the G20 and the East Asia Summit. Australia has the fastest growing overseas development budget of any OECD country, which is on track to double by 2015 to $8 billion. Turkey has also become a significant aid donor in its own right.

We have both suffered at the hands of terrorists and work actively in our regions, including in Afghanistan, to overcome this threat. Australia is the largest non-NATO troop contributor in Afghanistan.

Turkey and Australia recognize the value of promoting dialogue between faiths and cultures. Australia is proud to co-chair the South East Asia regional interfaith dialogue with Indonesia. Turkey is co-chair of the UN High Level Group of the Alliance of Civilizations and a Turk is head of the Organization of Islamic Conferences.

We share a commitment to non-proliferation. We welcome Turkey’s membership of Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative launched by Australia.

These strengthening links between us build on the special warmth of our ties, which are rooted in our shared history on the battlefields of Çanakkale (or Gallipoli). The sacrifices made in 1915 were of enduring and deep importance to the identity of both countries and are a unique feature of our partnership. Once enemies, the Gallipoli experience now helps to make us the firmest of friends.

These ties have been strengthened by a vibrant Turkish community in Australia, estimated to be over 100,000. In a country characterized by multiculturalism and dedicated to tolerance, Turkish Australians make a much valued contribution.

As an important and globally influential friend and partner, Australia looks forward to elevating our historic ties with Turkey into a close contemporary strategic relationship. It is a partnership from which we both stand to gain.

* The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP is the Australian minister for foreign affairs.

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