Turkey used the EU-Balkans summit to rally support for a Turkish-led diplomatic initiative to sanction Israel for its violent assault on six ships in international waters that resulted in the loss of several lives and wounded dozens.
“I will make our case at this summit -- that there should be consequences for the Israeli state terror that claimed the lives of our citizens, as it may set an example for others if Israel is let go with impunity. Free travel in international waters is a fundamental right for every nation and everybody has a stake in this,” Bağış told Today’s Zaman.
Bağış delivered a stern warning to Israel in his speech, during which he said Israel should draw lessons from the fate of war criminals in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Those who tyrannize humanity should look at what happened to war criminals in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said, stressing that the world should respond to the outcry for Gaza by looking at the sorrow and hope still reverberating in the streets of Sarajevo.
Bağış warned that those who remain silent in the face of this gross Israeli violation of international law on the open seas risk facing the same silence when injustice comes their way. “Those who act like the three monkeys will be faced with the same in return one day,” he said, signaling that it is time to speak up against Israeli aggression.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was originally to participate in the summit, flew instead to New York and Washington, D.C., to hold emergency talks at the United Nations and with US officials. He was replaced at the Sarajevo summit by Bağış, who was meeting with Italian and Vatican officials in Rome. He said Turkey found receptive ears in the city on Tuesday and that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi received Bağış at his private residence.
According to diplomats present at the meeting, Berlusconi expressed his unwavering support for Turkey on its diplomatic salvo to punish Israel for the attack. “Please convey this message to my brother [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan. I will be ready to do whatever is necessary to help Turkey,” Berlusconi reportedly said during the meeting. The Italian prime minister stressed that he was baffled by Israel’s actions, saying, “The action is simply illogical and impossible to understand.”
Vatican officials also expressed their dismay over the incident, which has overshadowed the pope’s first visit to Cyprus, where the freedom flotilla congregated before sailing toward Gaza. “We are clearly disturbed by this,” said Dominique François Joseph Mamberti, the secretary for relations with states in the Roman Curia for the Holy See, during his meeting with Bağış.
Wednesday’s summit in Sarajevo was attended by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle and Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg represented the US at the summit to show the country’s political support for integration of the Balkans into Europe.
The summit discussed EU perspectives for Western Balkan states, who are working toward EU membership. Croatia leads the pack, having already started official membership talks with the bloc in 2004, while Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Serbia have also formally applied to be candidate states. Only Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo have not yet submitted an application but both Sarajevo and Pristina have repeatedly stated their aim to join the EU.
Because of the unresolved issue of the independence of Kosovo, which is not recognized by Serbia and several EU members, including summit organizer Spain, the ministers attending the summit will only be identified by name and not by function. Serbia refuses to attend any meeting where Kosovar officials are identified as representatives of the state of Kosovo, whose existence it is challenging legally before a UN court.