17 April 2014, Thursday
Today's Zaman

Davutoğlu warns of global clash after Switzerland’s minaret ban

4 December 2009, Friday /SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI
A weekend referendum in Switzerland to ban the construction of minarets is reminiscent of Europe's religious intolerance and sectarian wars of the Middle Ages, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said, warning that it could spark clashes on a global scale if sufficient measures are not taken.

“The issue is too serious to be dealt with by mere statements,” Davutoğlu told reporters on his way from Athens, where he attended an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting, to Brussels late on Wednesday. “I am very concerned. We must take this issue very seriously. It is not something to be underestimated as an individual case.”

Swiss voters adopted the ban in a referendum on Sunday, defying the government and parliament, which had rejected the right-wing initiative as violating the Swiss constitution, freedom of religion and a cherished tradition of tolerance. The result of the vote drew protests from Turkey, which said it had violated the freedom of religion. Davutoğlu, who discussed the matter with his Swiss counterpart, Micheline Calmy-Rey, this week in Athens, said the fact that such a result came from one of Europe's best educated and elite societies is a signal that the result cannot be underestimated. “This is a symptom and it should be taken very seriously,” he said, calling the ban on minarets a threat to European culture as well.

The Swiss referendum result, criticized by the UN and the Council of Europe, proved to be a divisive issue across Europe. A majority seemed to criticize the result, while far-right parties as well as French leader Nicolas Sarkozy have spoken in favor. In Italy, junior coalition partner the Northern League called for legislative changes to allow referenda in more areas than currently allowed. “Who can say for sure that mosques in Europe are safe now? Fifteen years ago, hundreds of mosques were burned down in Bosnia,” Davutoğlu said.

“Millions of Muslims are expecting the European leaders to show a clear stance and they have the right to do so.” Calmy-Rey has said her government is “very concerned” over the referendum result, underlining that limitations on the coexistence of different cultures and religions “also endangers our security.” She said provocations risk inflaming extremism.

Davutoğlu also announced that Turkey and Greece agreed to deepen cooperation in several areas and described a meeting on Wednesday with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in Athens as a “very good start” for better ties.

According to Davutoğlu, he and Papandreou, who is also the foreign minister, agreed to step up dialogue by introducing regular high-level political talks between the two countries to boost economic and cultural ties and resolve problems regarding Cyprus, Aegean disputes and the situation of minorities. They also agreed to increase Turkish-Greek cooperation in Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East, the Black Sea area and the Mediterranean region. Ankara and Athens will also explore possibilities for cooperation in global issues, such as global warming. “There was a complete meeting of minds. They [the Greek side] said the same things as us, as if they had listened to us before,” he said.

Afghanistan, neo-Ottomanism

Davutoğlu, who was attending a NATO meeting in Brussels on Thursday, also signaled that Turkey would not send more troops to Afghanistan for combat missions, despite a US request to that effect. “We don’t see the problem in Afghanistan as purely a military matter,” he said, calling for a “comprehensive perspective” to deal with the difficulties there.

The foreign minister also criticized media comments describing his political vision as “neo-Ottoman.” “I have never used that phrase. It is not something that we embrace,” he said of the term, which is certain to raise suspicions towards Turkey’s new foreign policy in countries in the Balkans and in the Middle East, which were a part of the Ottoman Empire until the 20th century. “Those who use this term either do not understand what it means, or they have bad intentions,” he said.

DIPLOMACY  Other Titles
KKTC pushing for Cyprus deal before end of this year
MEPs question EU Commission over EU funds to Turkey
Greece rejects extradition of leading DHKP/C member
Pro-gov't dailies report conflicting news on leaked audio on Syria
US warns against damage to ties over recurring media claims
KRG's Barzani visits Ankara for talks with Erdoğan
Villagers file suit against ministry over stray bullets from Syria
Chief ombudsman laments low implementation of KDK recommendations
Turkey says deeply concerned over events in Ukraine
Chinese deputy foreign minister in Ankara for inter-delegation meeting
‘Turkey will not remain silent over 'genocide resolution' if adopted’
Russia welcomes Turkey's assurances on observance of Montreux terms
Poland: NATO should send troops to east Europe, ignore Russia's objections
US looks to Turkey to uphold checks and balances
Dubai may be a hub for Turkey and Iran's illicit transactions
US House Speaker meets senior Turkish officials in Ankara
EU Minister Çavuşoğlu says Füle's comments on Turkey ‘balanced'
US Ambassador Ricciardone has talks with AK Party officials
Turkey's honorary consuls meet to discuss foreign policy
Iran to build cultural center in the heart of İstanbul
Loğoğlu: No Turkish institution in US works against Turkey
Erdoğan will further polarize Turkey as presidential election approaches
European Union concerned about rule of law in Turkey
Turkey seeks to restore dialogue with Serbia with FM's visit
Turkish Rights groups slam Egypt over execution ruling