Turkish FM says unity of Syria, Iraq crucial for Turkey

Turkish FM says unity of Syria, Iraq crucial for Turkey

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (C) and ambassadors attending an annual conference visit Atatürk’s mausoleum before their meeting. (Photo:AA, Hakan Göktepe)

January 02, 2013, Wednesday/ 17:10:00/ SİNEM CENGİZ

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has stated that the unity of Syria and Iraq, whose relations with Ankara have been strained, is as important as the unity of Turkey.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Fifth Annual Ambassadors' Conference on Wednesday, Davutoğlu addressed Turkey's ambassadors serving abroad and at the Foreign Ministry in Ankara and briefed the participants regarding Turkey's foreign policy and objectives.

Touching upon the recent tension between Turkey and the Iraqi central government, Davutoğlu stated that he wished Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had followed more inclusive policies in Iraq without excluding some actors. “I wish he had followed a policy open to all parts of Iraq following the withdrawal of American forces,” said Davutoğlu.

Regarding the Syrian crisis, which has become a tough ordeal for Turkey, Davutoğlu stated that he wished embattled President Bashar al-Assad had paid attention to Turkey's calls. “I wish Assad had listened to the calls of his real friends,” said Davutoğlu.

Davutoğlu said Turkish foreign policy had stood by all religions and ethnic groups in the region over forces of the status quo, describing Turkey's foreign policy as non-sectarian.” We consider Armenians, Christians, and Alawites as equal,” said Davutoğlu, adding Turkey would continue to help find a solution to the Syrian crisis until it comes to an end.

The foreign minister said that Turkey was hosting Syrian people as part of humanitarian diplomacy, adding that closing the door to those who knock on the country's door is not a part of Turkish culture.

“As a part of our humanitarian diplomacy, we hosted our Syrian brothers and sisters in our country. We will do the same if needed again. We will open our doors to whoever needs it without looking at their religion, sect or ethnicity,” said Davutoğlu.

Davutoğlu stated that outside actors are warning of horrific scenarios in Syria just like they warned in Libya last year. “They [these actors] want Syria to continue under the same regime or for Syria to delve into such chaos that Turkey gets in trouble, too. There is a community that would be pleased if Turkey gets into trouble,” said Davutoğlu.

Davutoğlu compared the Arab Spring to “an earthquake in the Mediterranean basin” and Turkey would try to make use of diplomacy as much as possible to help make it a smooth and bloodless transition process.

The foreign minister also dismissed suggestions that Turkey and Egypt are in competition and have a rivalry over regional prominence, saying Turkey will always support Egypt in achieving the goals of its revolution. “Egypt's success is Turkey's success. A stable region depends on Egypt's success. We have never been in competition with Egypt,” said Davutoğlu, adding, “Nobody should use Cold War era terms such as a Shiite-Sunni bloc or Egypt-Turkey rivalry.”

Davutoğlu also added that Turkey's relations with global powers, including the US, Russia and China, have strengthened and deepened during 2012 and will continue to develop in the upcoming years. The foreign minister underlined that with the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Turkey in late December, the bilateral relations between the two countries flourished adding Turkey has also developed strategic cooperation with China.

“We don't consider these global powers as a choice of one or the other. These global powers are aware of it now that the history flows from Ankara. Whoever ignores Ankara will fail to understand the history. Whoever risks their relations with Ankara is taking responsibility for risks in regional politics. Hereupon, Turkey will be more effective on the international platform and we will continue to flourish, diversify and deepen our relations with global powers. We will be in arenas where we have never been before,” said Davutoğlu.The foreign minister stated that those who want to understand history should be in Turkey. “Because after all, Turkey will play a more active role in shaping the course of history”, said Davutoğlu.

Davutoğlu stated that 2012 was a fast-moving year making significant changes to the course of history, adding 2013 would be the same. “Turkey will contribute to the course of history and will be present in the development of history in a more effective manner from now on,” said Davutoğlu.

Davutoğlu stated that during the conference they would try to place 2012 somewhere in the historical process and then would try to set policies that shape not only 2013 but also the upcoming decades. It may sound assertive, however, we believe that we possess an accumulation of knowledge that can follow not years, not decades but centuries”, Davutoğlu said.

The ambassadors' conference is being held in Ankara and İzmir between Jan. 2-7 with the theme of “Humanitarian Diplomacy”.

Davutoğlu said that “humanitarian diplomacy” has three dimensions: a state easing its citizens' lives, a state's stance in crisis regions and the humanitarian stance within the UN system.

Regarding the first dimension, Davutoğlu said that Turkey was determined to pursue the most liberal visa policy with the belief that this same policy for Turkish citizens would be reciprocated in other countries. “Eventually, Turkish citizens will travel in the EU without visa because Turkey has been, is and will be a part of Europe,” said Davutoğlu.Regarding the stance in crisis regions, Davutoğlu gave Somalia as an example, and said that Turkey opened an embassy in Somalia.

“Turkey's Somalia policy has taken on a legendary quality. We achieved public diplomacy success which cannot be achieved by billions in investments,” said Davutoğlu. Turkey has taken the lead in sending humanitarian aid to famine-stricken Somalia and has bolstered its efforts in the reconstruction of the country.

Davutoğlu said that Turkey also opened an embassy in Myanmar in 2012, and the Turkish embassy became the most active one in the country especially after the incidents concerning Arakan Muslims started.

The foreign minister said that the third dimension was the humanitarian stance within the UN system, saying that there are problems in the functioning of UN system.

The conference, which was held at JW Marriott Hotel in Ankara, drew a large crowd, including former Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış, senior Turkish officials, media representatives and academics.

Prior to the opening ceremony, Davutoğlu and the ambassadors attending the conference visited the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the modern Republic of Turkey. Davutoğlu signed the memorial book there and wrote: “The Turkish Republic continues a peaceful, constructive and active foreign policy based on the principle “peace at home, peace in the world,” left as a heritage from you to us.”

This annual conference aims to outline strategies for the future and to provide coordination with other organizations and institutions that play a role in the implementation of foreign policy. During the conferences, ambassadors and officials assess last year's foreign policy performance and formulate future-oriented policies and strategies.

Members of the Turkish government, including cabinet ministers, will come together with the ambassadors during various sessions as part of the conference.

The gathering will also be attended by the foreign ministers of other countries, including those of Sweden, Brazil and Singapore. 

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