Turkey has recognized Syria's newly formed opposition coalition as the country's legitimate representative, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu revealed on Thursday.
“In Doha last week, the Syrian opposition decided to join forces for their common objective,” Davutoğlu said, referring to an agreement reached after a week-long meeting of Syria's anti-regime groups to unite and create the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, held in Qatar's capital.
“Turkey, wholeheartedly welcoming this important achievement, once again reiterates its recognition of the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and calls upon all our brothers in the OIC to do so,” Davutoğlu said in an address at a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Djibouti. He suggested that Turkey had declared its recognition of the new coalition before, but did not say when the earlier statement was made. An official clarified the point, saying Davutoğlu's visit to Doha twice in one week to join the Syrian opposition was a manifestation of the Turkish policy.
It is not clear if the recognition of the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people will affect the status of the Syrian diplomatic representation in Turkey.
The Turkish move comes after France became the first European power to recognize Syria's new opposition coalition as the sole representative of its people on Tuesday. While announcing the decision, French President François Hollande also said that his country would look into arming opposition forces against President Bashar al-Assad once they form a government.
Arab League and EU foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Tuesday welcomed the formation of the coalition as an important step forward, although a communiqué they released after the meeing showed they had not reached a unanimous decision to recognize it as Syria's sole authority.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, also said more needed to be done to rally support inside Syria before London would recognize the coalition as the rightful government of Syria.
The US also recognized the leadership body announced in Qatar on Sunday as a legitimate representative, but stopped short of describing it as the sole representative of Syria, saying the group must first demonstrate its ability to represent Syrians inside the country.
The full text of Davutoğlu’s speech is as follows:
Brothers and Sisters,
Allow me to join the preceding speakers in congratulating Djibouti and wishing success to H.E. Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Djibouti for his assumption of the Chairmanship of 39th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers. Your Excellency brother, Turkey will extend its full support to your Chairmanship during the period ahead.
I would like to thank Chairman, H.E. Yerlan Idrisov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, for his able chairmanship during the previous period.
I would also like to commend the Secretary General, H.E. Prof. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu and his staff for their outstanding and dedicated work and for their relentless efforts to make the OIC an even better and more effective organization in the new international environment.
In a period of historic changes in the Muslim world, the OIC has become all the more relevant in fostering solidarity and cooperation among our nations.
Yet the very meaning of the “Muslim world” has altered in itself. Today, one third of the Muslims live in the West and in countries outside the OIC domain. Therefore, in an age of global transformation, the Islamic world refers to a domain of solidarity between Islamic communities from all around the world, beyond the conventional set of solidarity relations between the Islamic countries.
So, what kind of solidarity do we envisage? The answer lies in the fundamental tenets of Islam: conscience, compassion and human rights. We need to take these principles that inspired the Islamic civilization to our heart and implement them graciously throughout the entire world.
Today, the Islamic world is faced with three important challenges that are testing our solidarity, our conscience and compassion in different ways.
The first one is a solidarity test, which requires a unified and firm stance for all of us in support of the Palestinian cause.
The Israeli policies, particularly ever-expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem continue to block every effort towards permanent peace. They seriously endanger the vision of a two-state solution. What we witness in the last couple of days and yesterday is yet another brutal series of indiscriminate aerial bombings on Gaza, killing innocent people, including children and women. We call upon the international community and the UN to take principled action against this aggression and stop it immediately.
A comprehensive, lasting and just peace remains our ultimate goal of the OIC countries. But Israel is not committed to respect the existing parameters, particularly on the pre-1967 borders, which is a prerequisite for reaching a negotiated solution.
An internationally recognized State of Palestine at the United Nations General Assembly, voted as a “non-member observer state” can serve as a “game changer”.
The OIC will have a central role in realiazation of the aspiration of our Palestinian brothers and sisters. I am confident that the OIC will do its utmost in this regard.
Last week on 9 November, at a dinner organized in Ankara, together with my distinguished Palestinian and Egyptian counterparts, I have expressed Turkey’s full support to the Palestinian initiative. This was followed by a strong support by the Arab League as a joint initiative earlier this week.
Today, as the OIC, we must be firm in our solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters and let them know that the Islamic countries stand behind them in their bid at the UN until the Palestinian flag is hold at the UN General Assembly.
This is a test for the whole international community in ethical, political and strategic terms. From here today, our message should be clear to the outside world that the State of Palestine cannot wait for another 60 years.
Our second test is one of our conscience in the case of Syria. Syria is undergoing a tragedy. Over 39 thousand people have been killed and there is massive destruction by Syrian regime forces. Two and a half million people have been internally displaced. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have sought shelter in neighboring countries. Turkey alone is hosting over 120 thousand of them in camps, plus over 70 thousand outside the camps. It is our duty and responsibility to help our Syrian brothers and sisters in need. It is a challenging responsibility with great cost. But no matter how difficult the challenge is, we will continue with our open door policy and stand by our brothers.
The conflict in Syria is having other negative effects on the region and beyond and in particular, on neighboring countries. Turkey’s border security has been jeopardized. Our towns on the border have been targeted by the Syrian army. As a result, five of our citizens have lost their lifes and others have been injured.
Turkey, in accordance with international law, has taken appropriate measures and has responded. We do not want escalation. But everyone should be well aware that Turkey has the capacity and determination to protect its citizens and borders.
The reason behind the ongoing tragedy is the Syrian regime that has refused to acknowledge the legitimate demands of the Syrians and has chosen to try to rule its people by brutal force. Let me remind everyone: no state can govern against the will of its people and by killing them. The Syrian regime has lost all its legitimacy. They are no longer governing but barely surviving by means of force and terror. I have no doubt that the days of this regime are numbered and the Syrian people will soon have a country with a democratic pluralistic system, where all citizens enjoy equal rights and privileges, regardless of their religious, sectarian or ethnic background.
In Doha last week, Syrian opposition decided to join forces for their common objective. Turkey, wholeheartedly welcoming this important achievement, once again reiterates its recognition of the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and calls upon all our brothers in the OIC to do so.
I take this opportunity also to call upon the international community to fulfill their promises and extend full support and assistance to the Coalition and the Syrian people. What the Syrian revolution and the Syrian people need now is not more speeches of sympathy and promise only, but effective and real support.
Our third test relates to the challenge of development and reconstruction. Nowhere on earth deserves a greater focus than the African continent in that respect.
Looking at this vast land of civilizations from where we stand in Djibouti at this conference hall, there is so much the OIC States can do when they stand together for economic justice, development and reconstruction. We call upon the OIC family to continue to do its utmost.
In this respect, Turkey as a strategic partner of the African continent will continue to contribute to the development efforts of the African countries. Turkish foreign policy towards Africa, beyond its political and economic dimensions, incorporates also a comprehensive approach which includes development of Africa through technical and project assistance in fields such as health, education and agriculture and regular flow of humanitarian aid when needed.
I visited Somalia yesterday before I arrived in Djibouti. The Council of Ministers was just appointed a day before my visit. I was extremely pleased with this important step and congratulated my Somali brothers and sisters for this achievement. In my address to the Somalian Parliament, I conveyed our unwawering support to the people of Somalia in this new promising period. Turkey is pleased to see that the eight year-long Transition Period has come to an end with the election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the President in September 2012, the provisional adoption of the Constitution, the election of the Speaker of the Parliament and the appointment of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers.
We praise the determination of the Somali people for starting a new period of state-building in Somalia and reaffirm our full solidarity with them.
We have initiated the establishment of “the Fund for the Restructuring and Rebuilding of the Somali Security Forces”. We are happy to hear from our brothers in Somalia that this Fund will be of critical help to the Somalian state-building process. We therefore invite all of you to support it.
Mali is another spot which calls for our close attention. Reestablishing democracy and maintaining the territorial integrity and stability in Mali is of significant importance for the peace and security of not only the Sahel region, but the entire West Africa. We look forward to the organization of free and fair elections next year.
I must note here that we are deeply saddened by the recent destruction of some mosques and monuments by some radical groups in Timbaktou. We urge immediate measures to be taken against such acts.
The Cyprus issue continues for half a century. Yet, the last UN negotiation process for a comprehensive settlement initiated in 2008 could not produce a result simply because of the unwillingness of the Greek Cypriot side.
Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots remain committed to the settlement aim. We believe that a negotiated and mutually agreed political settlement can be reached in Cyprus based on the inherent constitutive power of the two peoples, their political equality and co-ownership of the Island.
It is now the high time that all brotherly OIC Member States give a clear message to the international community that the restrictions imposed on the Turkish Cypriots cannot be sustained forever and that the Turkish Cypriots will not be let to suffer despite their constructive attitude.
For us, the well-being of the Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC member countries is of paramount importance. In this regard, it is essential to preserve the multicultural structure in the Balkans and ensure the peaceful coexistence. We wish to see these communities to live in peace and prosperity, enjoying all basic rights guaranteed by national legislation and international agreements. Although we witness and welcome certain efforts to improve the situation, unfortunately in some cases Muslims continue to be subjected to discrimination.
The Turkish Muslim Minority in Western Thrace in Greece continues to encounter serious problems in terms of minority rights. This is a violation of international agreements to which Greece is a party, as well as universally recognized norms. They cannot elect their religious leaders, run their foundations, express their identity or enjoy equal opportunities in education, employment or political participation. Muslim population of Turkish descent living in Dodecanese, does not only face similar difficulties but cannot even enjoy the basic minority status. I believe that such violations of human and minority rights have no space in the contemporary world. We continue to advise our Greek counterparts to review this policy.
I was glad to learn that recently an official Greek delegation visited the Secretary General of OIC. We noted this as a clear indication that the calls made by this august body do not go down the drain.
We wish to see the large Muslim community in Bulgaria to live in peace and prosperity, enjoying all basic rights.
The OIC States must continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina so that it can attain political stability, increase its citizens’ prosperity and well-being, by strenthening commercial and economic relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina.
It is important that we continue to support a democratically mature, economically sound and multicultural Kosovo that is governed by the rule of law.
Elsewhere, in Nagorno Karabagh, a human tragedy still unfolds, with hundreds of thousands of muslims forced to flee their homeland due to Armenian aggression and invasion.
The recent re-eruption of violence directed against the Rohingya Muslims in Arakan in October 2012 has confirmed our concerns about the severity of the situation in the region. I previously had the opportunity to present to you my personal testimony to the situation from my visit to Myanmar in August. We are currently continuing our efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the needy in the region through the Turkish Red Crescent and will continue to do so.
We believe that it is the duty of the OIC and its member countries to continue to urge the Government of Myanmar to be vigilant against provocations, to do its utmost to maintain peace in the Arakan region. We welcome the decisions of the OIC at various levels on this issue and pledge to support our collective efforts.
While we welcome the invitation of the Myanmar Government to the Secretary-General to visit Myanmar, we expect the Myanmar authorities to create the necessary conditions for the realization of the said visit as soon as possible.
Yet, as we look at Asia-Pacific rim, we observe encouraging developments as well. Among these, we welcome the Framework Agreement which has recently been signed and the ensuing peace process that Turkey contributed as facilitator, concerning the Muslims in southern Philippines, which may serve as a source of inspiration for other places. We also positively note the improvement in the conditions of the Muslims in southern Thailand.
In Afghanistan, as we all know, has begun the transition process to assume full responsibility for its future. Turkey actively supports the Afghan people in their efforts to successfully implement the transition process and will continue to stand by Afghanistan in the post-2014 period.
We welcome the announcement of the date for the presidential elections in 2014. We believe that the elections will be an important step for consolidating democracy and strengthening stability in Afghanistan.
As a member of the OIC Contact Gorup on Jammu-Kashmire, Turkey will continue to contribute its work.
As I will not be able to attend the brainstorming session scheduled for tomorrow, let me share very briefly my thoughts here with you on growing trends of intolerance, xenophobia and Islamophobia. The alarming increase in the number of such acts has serious implications for international peace and security.
The attacks against Islam and our Prophet (Peace be upon Him) are outright provocation. We condemn all sorts of incitement to hatred and religious discrimination against Muslims and people of other faiths. As I said in my address to the 67th UN General Assembly in September, the purpose of Islamophobia is clear: it aims to create an abstract, imaginary enemy from the millions of peace-loving Muslims. However, no agenda, no provocation, no attack, no incitement to hatred can darken the bright face of Islam.
We have to find a balance between protecting the rights of an individual or group to free expression and protecting the right of another individual or group not to become the target of hatred, emotional, incited or psychological violence. I would like to renew my call upon the members of the international community to set up all necessary instruments to strike that balance. The OIC will assume a crucial role in realization of this aim.
In that vein, I thank the Secretariat for the concept paper, which will pave the way for a common approach for the OIC in doing so. We certainly support this initiative, whereby important initiatives such as the “King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue” and the “Alliance of Civilizations” can go hand in hand in forging mutual understanding and fighting intolerance.
We also welcome and co-sponsor with Pakistan the draft resolution regarding condemnation of acts of defamation on Islam and our Prophet Muhammed (SAS).
As I stated at the outset of my speech, we are pleased to observe that the OIC has become a more visible, effective and credible player on the international scene. I believe that establishment of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission within the OIC constitutes another important pillar of the ongoing process of reform.
As you all know, Turkey has once again announced its candidature for non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council, this time for the term 2015-2016. We are relying on the full support of all our brothers around this table. What we accomplished and stood for during our Security Council membership in 2009-2010 is a testament of what we can contribute in 2015-2016. Let me assure you that Turkey will certainly provide a strong voice for the OIC member states within the Council.
I would also like to renew our call on the brotherly OIC Member States to support Turkey’s bid to host the 13th OIC Summit. Although a founding member, Turkey has never had the opportunity to host an Islamic Summit. Thus, we rely upon your support to our strong desire to host the 13th Summit.
I would also like inform that Turkey is ready to host the headquarters of “OIC Journalists Forum” which will be established upon the decision taken at the 9th Session of the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers.
Before concluding my remarks, I would like to extend our wishes of success and support to Egyptian brothers who are preparing to host the 12th OIC Summit in Al Gouna next year. We are confident that our Egyptian hosts will organize the Summit in an excellent manner.
Lastly, let me renew our gratitude to our Djiboutian brothers for their warm hospitality and an excellent organization, while wishing them a successful Chairmanship period.