Resolution of Conflicts and Mediation

Turkey is geographically located at the centre of Afro-Eurasia where both opportunities and risks interact. Because of its economic, social and cultural wealth, Afro-Eurasia has an extremely positive potential, not only for the countries of the region but also for the entire world. However, this region also harbours serious security risks in terms of both conventional disputes and asymmetrical threats, which have been gradually increasing in the post-Cold War period. In this environment where both opportunities and threats emanate from a dynamism brought on by globalization, the entire international community should exert active and efficient efforts to resolve current conflicts and to prevent potential disputes so that opportunities can prevail over risks and the most positive aspects of globalization can be maintained.

As one of the most important centres of power of the region and as a nation directly affected by any development in this geography, Turkey strongly feels the need for conflict prevention and spares no effort to bring about lasting peace, stability and welfare in the region. In this vein, Turkey in recent years has pursued a more dynamic foreign policy, and endeavours to place cooperation and dialogue on solid footing in the Afro-Eurasian landscape. Attaching special importance to preventive diplomacy, Turkey has worked actively for the peaceful settlement of disputes and pioneered a great deal of mediation attempts in a wide geography.

Turkey’s approach on this issue is based not only on the fact that successful preventive diplomacy is the most effective and economic method of dispute settlement, but also on the reality that the reduction of potential disputes and conflicts in the region directly contributes to Turkey’s development. In other words, strengthening the basis of peace and stability in the region creates an environment of mutually beneficial cooperation that Turkey wants to see in her near abroad; this will help the region to develop as a whole together with Turkey. On the other hand, if potential conflicts cannot be averted timely through the detection of the core reasons of a conflict, the emerging crises can necessitate more costly and long-term measures for the region and for the whole international community. In this respect, one should keep in mind that each conflict can trigger additional tensions.

With this understanding, Turkey has actively worked in recent years for the resolution of many problems in her near abroad and beyond. These include our endeavours to bring about internal reconciliation in Iraq, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan; two separate trilateral cooperation processes we have launched with the participation of Serbia and Croatia to achieve lasting peace and stability in Bosnia-Herzegovina; similarly, a trilateral cooperation mechanism we have implemented with Afghanistan and Pakistan, a country which has an important role in ensuring peace and security in Afghanistan; the constructive attitude we adopted for the peaceful resolution of Iran’s nuclear program issue through dialogue, our role in the talks between Somalia and Somaliland and our support to the peace process in South Philippines.

The most important experience we have gained in these processes is that each problem has its own dynamics and conditions; and that mediation efforts should be carried out with a view to safeguard such differences and in a manner which is flexible and free from uniformity. However, it should not be forgotten that preventive diplomacy has certain golden rules and that there are some principles to be respected, no matter what the nature of the dispute is. For instance, in order to be a successful mediator, actors should demonstrate competency on all dynamics of the problem and should be able to show long-term commitment required for a lasting solution from the outset. Likewise, the mediator should propose flexible but values-based strategies from the beginning of the process and be able to present a common vision to the parties of a dispute.

Apart from this, earning the trust of parties of a dispute and demonstrating cooperation based on mutual will of all relevant actors in the process of finding solutions to a conflict are among the most important requirements of a successful mediation attempt. A mediator’s ability to communicate with all parties and to maintain an even-handed attitude - provided that the values he/she puts forward in the beginning are preserved - figure among the key elements of success. Communication with all parties to a dispute becomes even more important in situations where a perception of contradiction exists between peace and justice. In this regard, the main duties of a mediator are to strike a balance between these two indispensable values and to introduce a framework for resolution that will not require parties to sacrifice one value at the expense of the other.

It is also of crucial importance for a mediator to comply with the confidentiality of the process of delicate negotiations as well as to avoid actions or statements about the process that may compromise the parties. By all means, this requires the implementation of a mediation process with a certain degree of confidentiality. Such discretion becomes more essential in environments where more than one mediator exists, and it demonstrates the elements of coordination and leadership.

While mediation by a single actor or team is a more preferable method under normal conditions, such a tight-knit approach may not always be possible. Moreover, it can be possible for many different actors, including non-governmental organizations, to make beneficial contributions to a mediation process depending on the nature of the problem. However, in cases where more than one mediator exists, it is of key importance to ensure healthy coordination among the actors and to prevent the possible abuse of such a circumstance by the conflicting parties.

Turkey continues its mediation activities within the framework of these general principles. Depending on the value added by mediation activities, Turkey acts in mutual trust with all parties to a dispute and on the basis of certain values. In this vein, provided that the confidentiality of the process is ensured, Turkey maintains its activities with transparency and pays strict attention to coordination and cooperation with all related actors.

In fact, the “Mediation for Peace” initiative launched by Turkey with Finland in September 2010 in New York under the auspices of the UN also takes as a basis the principles of coordination and complementarity for the success of a mediation process.

This initiative, which was launched with a view to enhance the prominence of mediation in preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution and, consequently, to affect additional resources for mediation efforts, also aims at enhancing the preventive diplomacy/mediation capacities of the UN, regional organizations and individual countries.

In this respect, the resolution adopted by consensus on 22 June 2011 in the UN General Assembly (A/65/283) in line with these principles and objectives of the initiative is of special importance, since it is the first resolution regarding mediation adopted in the UN.

At this point, the “Mediation for Peace” initiative has gathered significant interest and the number of the members in the “Friends of Mediation Group” has reached to 54 (46 countries and 8 major regional and international organizations including the UN). We have been able to maintain momentum with the UN’s “Guidance for Effective Mediation” prepared by the Secretary-General in June 2012 (A/66/811) and the follow-up resolution adopted by the General Assembly in September 2012 (A/66/291). Turkey took the lead in translating the “Guidance for Effective Mediation” into Turkish and disseminating it widely across the academic and civil society circles.

“Guidance for Effective Mediation” is available here (EK1-TR)

The Group initiated another resolution on the role and importance of regional and sub-regional organisations in mediation in July 2014 (A/68/303). A total of 86 countries co-sponsored the resolution that was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly. The growing support to the work of the group is a clear testimony of the raising awareness for the importance of mediation. In September 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution on “Strengthening the Role of Mediation in the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes, Conflict Prevention and Resolution” (A/70/304), co-sponsored by 69 countries.

The Group of Friends of Mediation also meets at the level of Foreign Ministers once a year. The Ministerial Meetings are hosted by Turkey and Finland by rotation on the margins of the Annual Sessions of UN General Assembly. The seventh Ministerial Meeting was held in New York on 22 September 2016 on the margins of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly. The meeting addressed the humanitarian dimensions of mediation with a focus on the role of mediation in preventing conflicts and ending human suffering.

Furthermore, following our success at the UN, Turkey along with Finland and the Swiss Presidency of the OSCE at that time formed a “Friends of Mediation Group” in that organization on 6 March 2014 in Vienna. In addition to serving as a platform for sharing experiences, the main objective of this Group is to raise awareness among the OSCE members on the importance of mediation as an effective tool for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Recognizing the need for harnessing the growing interest on the peace making agenda in general and mediation in particular at home and in line with its pioneering role in that field, Turkey also hosts “Istanbul Conferences on Mediation” with wide international participation, under the auspices of our Minister.

The first Conference was organized on 24-25 February 2012 with the theme of “Enhancing Peace through Mediation” and focused on conceptual and theoretical issues. In the second Conference held on 11-12 April 2013 with the theme of “Keys to Effective Mediation: Perspectives from Within”, specific conflict cases were discussed. The theme of the third Conference on 26-27 June 2014 was “The Increasing Role of Regional Organizations in Mediation” to echo and complement the ongoing discussions at that time leading to the adoption of the third UN General Assembly resolution on mediation. The fourth İstanbul Conference on Mediation will be held on 30 June 2017 with the theme “Surge in Diplomacy, Action in Mediation”.

(Concept Paper for the 4th Istanbul Conference on Mediation) (EK2-EN)

“Istanbul Conferences on Mediation” bring together experts and practitioners and embody a significant platform for the exchange of knowledge and practice in mediation.

(Summary Report of the 1st İstanbul Conference on Mediation is available here.) (EK3-EN)
(Summary Report of the 2nd İstanbul Conference on Mediation is available here.) (EK4-EN)
(Programme of the 3rd İstanbul Conference on Mediation is available here.) (EK5-EN)

In line with our efforts in the field of mediation, Turkey’s visibility in the peaceful resolution of conflicts has been increasing. Turkey is committed to continuing its active efforts to enhance the effective use of mediation at the UN and in the international arena.