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Resolution of Conflicts and Mediation

Turkey is geographically located in 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 risks to global security in terms of both conventional disputes and asymmetrical threats, which are 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 globalization’s most positive aspects can be made to bear.

As one of the most important centers 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 endeavors to place cooperation and dialogue on solid footing in the Afro-Eurasian landscape. Turkey attaches special importance to preventive diplomacy, pioneers a great deal of mediation attempts in a wide geography and works actively for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Turkey’s approach on this issue is based not only from 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 directly contributes to Turkey’s development. In other words, strengthening the basis of peace and stability 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 through the timely detection of the core reasons of a conflict, the emerging crisis 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 worked in recent years for the resolution of many problems in her near abroad and beyond. Our endeavors 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; and our contributions to launch a broad-based resolution process between the Government of Somalia and conflicting parties are concrete examples of our efforts.

The most important experience we have gained in this process is that each problem has its own dynamics and conditions; and that mediation efforts should be carried out with a view to safeguard differences and in a manner which is flexible and free from uniformity. However, it should not be forgotten that preventive diplomacy has some golden rules and that there are some principles to be respected, no matter the nature of the dispute. 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 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 that, earning the trust of parties of a dispute and demonstrating cooperation based on mutual will 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 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 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 exist, 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 effect addtional 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 2010 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, with membership in the “Friends of Mediation Group” reaching 46 (38 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. The translation is available here .

Furthermore, following our success at the UN, Turkey along with Finland and the Swiss Presidency formed a “Friends of Mediation Group” in the OSCE 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.

Recognising the need for harnessing the growing interest on the peace making agenda in general and mediation in particular at home, Turkey hosts annual “Istanbul Conferences on Mediation” with wide international participation. 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. We intend to convene “Istanbul Conference on Mediation” regularly and turn it into an international platform that brings together experts and practitioners.

In line with our efforts in the field of mediation, Turkey’s profile in the peaceful resolution of conflicts is increasing. We are consulting closely with the relevant departments in the UN to establish a “Retreat Center” in Istanbul for use in the UN’s mediation activities. Under any circumstances, Turkey is committed to continuing its active efforts to enhance mediation and conflict resolution, both in concrete areas of dispute and in the international arena.

You can reach the Summary Reports of the First and Second Istanbul Conferences on Mediation through the following links.

I. Istanbul Conference on Mediation, “Enhancing Peace Through Mediation”, 24-25 February 2012

II. Istanbul Conference on Mediation, “Keys to Effective Mediation: Perspectives from Within”, 11-12 April 2013