One of the foremost preconditions for lasting peace and long-term stability in the Middle East is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said.
Davutoğlu’s remarks came on Saturday during the fifth meeting of the Turkish-Arab Cooperation Forum held at the Four Seasons Hotel in İstanbul to improve cooperation between the parties in the fields of economy, culture and social affairs.
Stating that the recognition of Palestine as a UN observer state is a positive development, Davutoğlu said it is high time to establish permanent peace in the region.
“The precondition for a lasting peace in the region is the establishment of a free Palestinian state that Palestinians have been yearning for,” the Turkish foreign minister remarked.
“It is high time to take a firm stance against Israel’s activities that destroy the peace process in the Middle East,” Davutoğlu further stated, adding that Israel recognizes no laws and acts irresponsibly.
Israel and the Hamas militant group reached a cease-fire agreement last week to end the fiercest round of fighting in nearly four years, promising to halt attacks on each other and ease an Israeli blockade constricting the Gaza Strip.
Medical officials in Gaza said 146 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, including 36 children, have been killed in Israel's offensive. The Israeli military on the other hand said nearly 1,400 rockets have been fired into Israel, killing four civilians and a soldier.
Saturday’s meeting was also attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Alaraby, Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour and some other 15 Arab foreign ministers, who expressed support to the Palestinians after the UN endorsed an independent state for them. The ministers are also expressing opposition to the Syrian government.
Davutoğlu and other delegates at the one-day meeting said the Syrian regime is a threat not only to its people but also to peace and security in the region.
“The Syrian regime has degenerated into an armed militia that resorts to brutality in an attempt to stay in power,” Davutoğlu said, commenting on the crisis in Syria.
The Syrian civil war has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians to flee the country, and many more are internally displaced. Activists say more than 40,000 people have died. Fighting has spilled into Turkey and other neighboring countries.
Turkey has asked NATO to deploy Patriot missiles on its territory as a defense against any attacks by the Syrian regime, and there are fears that the conflict is deepening sectarian divisions in the region.
Mansour agreed that the Syrian war has "negative ramifications" for the region. But he advocated dialogue as the only solution to the crisis, contrasting with Turkey's calls at the United Nations for an internationally protected "buffer zone" inside Syria that would protect civilians. Such a zone would likely require military action to secure it, including a no-fly zone.
"There should not be any external military or any other kind of intervention," said Mansour, current chairman of the Arab League.
He said the meeting of a dozen foreign ministers as well as other delegates was a positive sign for a region traditionally plagued by a lack of political unity. Turkey launched the annual meeting in 2007.
Speaking at the meeting on Saturday, Erdoğan also hailed the upgrade, by the UN General Assembly, of the Palestinians to "non-member observer state" from "entity” and vowed full support for Palestinians.
This is achieved thanks to efforts by the alliance, solidarity and consultations of regional countries, Erdoğan stated.
After his speech, Erdoğan cut a cake to celebrate Palestine’s new status at the UN.