“Criticizing Israel for its mistakes does not necessarily mean that Turkey has disengaged itself from the Western world. The Western countries are working on being effective in the Middle East and in the Caucasus. For example, France has had historical relations with Lebanon and Syria, and it has created strategies for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Taking all these steps into account, can we say France is turning its back on Europe?” İbrahim Kalın said while speaking to Today’s Zaman. But once Turkey began to forge relations with its close neighbors, such as Russia and Iran, a debate was surprisingly triggered and claimed Turkey had shifted its axes of foreign relations towards the East rather than the West, Kalın noted.
“News claiming that Turkey would turn its back on the West when it points out Israel’s faults do not reflect the reality and are not based on objective information but on ideological considerations,” Kalın said, giving an example: “When George Bush took a step to launch a period of reconciliation in US-Russian relations, this was regarded as a contribution to world peace or at least as an expected outcome of real politics. But, when Turkey tries to establish closer relations with Russia, Iran and Syria, all regional neighbors, the change in Turkish foreign policy is discussed,” the chief adviser added and emphasized that the countries cannot be ideologically categorized when they seek to pursue their national interests.
Kalın pointed to the absence of a stable system in international politics globally and regionally, saying that no one can claim a peaceful order has been established in the Balkans, the Middle East or the Caucasus. “We cannot neglect the problems in these regions. With our potential power and opportunities, we want to contribute to the establishment of a peaceful order in these regions,” he added.
Dwelling on the normalization processes with close neighbors, Kalın highlighted that one of the goals of recent rapprochement with Armenia is to establish a new long-lasting stability in the Caucasus.
We are ready to mediate in Israeli-Syrian peace talks again
Kalın underlined that Turkey is ready to once again mediate in peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, talks which were stopped after Israel’s bloody attacks on the Gaza Strip earlier this year. “If Turkey is able to play a positive role in the peace talks, we are ready to join the mediation again. But Israel should decide on this,” he noted.
Noting that the stance of the prime minister on the issue of Israel is clear, Kalın stressed that no one can argue that this government has a secret agenda based on an Islamic ideology and anti-Semitism. “If we had an anti-Semitic strategy, we would not have helped the Israeli-Syrian peace talks.”
Kalın considers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the biggest barrier to improved relations between the Muslim world and the Western world. “From the political perspective, it is impossible to reach peace in the Middle East without any political reconciliation between Palestine and Israel. The Palestine issue is the most significant issue poisoning relations between Islam and the West.” He argued that Palestinians have been treated unequally for more than 50 years and claimed that Israel will not be able to ensure its security unless the Palestinian problem comes to an end.
Peace without Hamas impossible
Referring to the policies pursued by nations around the world to isolate Hamas in 2006 after it won in elections, Kalın noted that the democratic process was interrupted and Palestinians dividend into more groups than ever before. “You may agree or disagree with the policies of Hamas, but a peace proposal which does not include Hamas will not be permanent. When you exclude Hamas, it means you exclude half of the Palestinian people as they voted for Hamas. This [fact] should be seen by Israel as well.” He also noted that the international community ought to make more effort to ensure the peace process progresses. Negotiations cannot last forever, he said.