Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the atmosphere of brotherhood that he expects will pervade Turkey soon will be a good model for Europe and other countries, speaking at the 5th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in Vienna on Wednesday.
Erdoğan referred to the latest initiative by his government to hold talks with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) after 30 years of bloody conflict between PKK terrorists and Turkey. Erdoğan also said the European Union's support for Turkey in its fight against terrorism was significant in terms of the success of the UNAOC initiative Alliance of Civilizations, adding that Turkey's EU membership could also contribute to its success.
Speaking during a press conference after the UNAOC meeting, Erdoğan said he expected positive results from talks with Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK leader imprisoned on İmralı Island south of İstanbul, including PKK terrorists laying down arms and moving outside Turkey. However, Erdoğan said it was not possible to give an exact date for the ceasefire, in response to a question during a joint press conference with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, High Representative of UNAOC Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, former High Representative of UNAOC Jorge Sampaio and Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo.
“We are going through a process where we need the Alliance of Civilizations, dialogue, negotiation and tolerance more than ever,” said Erdoğan. Noting an increase in the racist attacks and the lack of understanding between different religions and sects in the latest years, Erdoğan said the two options were to either take action against the issue or remain indifferent. The Turkish prime minister added that the Alliance of Civilizations initiative was the product of those who chose to change the current situation in the positive way. Erdoğan added that the Alliance of Civilizations was among significant efforts aimed at overcoming prejudices and bridging gaps between different cultures.
“As part of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative we know the gravity of the threat we are faced with. We are faced with ignorance, intolerance and particularly with prejudices,” said Erdoğan. Stating that there are many examples in the world where people from different cultures live together in peace and tolerance, Erdoğan said countries that consider cultural, religious and ethnic differences as valuable have achieved great success throughout history.
“Islamophobia must be recognized as crime against humanity”
Erdoğan said Islamophobia should be recognized as a crime against humanity just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism. It is a widespread practice that “the other” is alienated and looked down upon although one should show an effort to know the culture, beliefs and feelings other people, Erdoğan added. Erdoğan noted that no religion would allow terrorism, particularly Islam, adding that Islam means “peace.”
“As a religion of peace, Islam cannot approve of or encourage terrorism,” Erdoğan said.
In relation to the world's reaction to the Syrian crisis, Erdoğan said the modern world “failed the test” of the Syrian conflict. Recalling that the death toll in Syria is approaching 70,000 people and more innocent children, women and civilians continue to be killed everyday, Erdoğan said the sense of justice was seriously damaged due to world's indifference to the conflict.
Erdoğan calls for urgent reform to UNSC
During his speech, Erdoğan questioned the structure of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), saying the permanent five members of the council did not actually represent the whole world.
Erdoğan also criticized the lack of alliance among permanent members of the UNSC, calling for changes to its structure. “When one of the members objects [to an issue], the issue is brought to a deadlock. Was not the UN established to protect world peace? If it was established to serve world peace, it needs urgent reform,” said Erdoğan.