Speech Delivered by H.E. Ali Babacan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, 27 November 2007 – Annapolis, USA

Madam Secretary,

President Abbas,

Prime Minister Olmert,

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to extend my thanks to President Bush and Secretary Rice for their relentless efforts in convening this Annapolis Conference on the Middle East. I would also like to commend Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas for their determination and courage in search of peace. The Joint Understanding read out by President Bush today was a very important step and a crucial turning point in efforts for peace. The re-start of the peace process is an historic achievement. We welcome the explicit committment made by the Parties that all core issues would be dealt with during the course of negotiations. We also welcome the timetable on the follow-up mechanism.

The Palestinian question is at the epicenter of all problems in the Middle East. The resulting climate of despair, hatred and pessimism continues to haunt the region and create a breeding ground for extremism. A solution should be found to this long-standing and complex problem. The negotiated settlement to this problem should be based on UNSCR’s 242, 338 and 1397, Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative. The aim is, of course,two democratic states living side by side, within recognized and secure borders.

Today we are witnessing the beginning of a new process. We are all hopeful. However, the period that follows the Annapolis Conference will be crucial and sensitive. There will be challenges and efforts to block the road towards peace. We must never give up and prove that peace can be achieved through political dialogue.

Therefore, it is vital that all sides must refrain from taking unilateral steps that can lead to renewed tensions. On the other hand, the Palestinians must overcome the challenge of divisiveness within their own community. The current situation in Palestine is harmful to the Palestinian cause and it may impede the implementation of any future decision that might be reached in the negotiations.

This Conference offers a window of opportunity and we must seize this moment. Today, the international community has clearly demonstrated its willingness and determination to support peace efforts. Hence, our responsibility should not end here. We should remain seized with the process and also the implementation stage of the agreements to emerge. I believe that it would be very useful to convene follow up meetings with certain intervals during the period ahead. In this way we would be able to re-state our support and involvement.

I would like to express once again Turkey’s readiness to continue to contributing actively to the peace process, including hosting future meetings.

Economic development and institutional reforms are among the important aspects of our efforts to achieve peace and stability. On 13 November, Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Presidents Peres and Abbas signed a Joint Declaration extending their support for establishing an industrial zone in the West Bank. Concrete projects like these are of utmost importance as they lay the ground for the economic dimension of a sustainable peace. Projects that aim to raise the living standards of the Palestinians must be made an integral part of the peace process. Another example that we are working on is a higher education institution with a medical center.

Madam Secretary, Dear Colleagues,

Peace could only be viable if it would be comprehensive. Therefore, we believe that it is imperative to revive also the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the peace process, including bringing a solution to the issue of Golan Heights. In this context, we consider the call of the Arab Peace Initiative for a comprehensive peace between Arabs and Israelis as vitally important.

As Turkey we have 4 principles for the Middle East policies:

1. Using political dialogue to resolve issues,

2. Providing security for all,

3. Developing economic cooperation and hence creating economic interdependence between countries and between communities, and

4. Preserving multi-cultural, multi-ethnic nature of the region with an emphasis on co-existence; on the principle of living and working together.

The Middle East offers vast potential in every sense. Now it is time to devote our precious resources to the benefit of all peoples. If peace is to triumph, the peoples of the region should live, work and prosper together.

This process must succeed. In case of failure, only extremists and peace opponents would gain.

Dear Colleagues,

Let us commit ourselves here and now to a renewed vision of peace. Let us renew our commitment here and now for a better and brighter future for the Middle East.

Thank you.