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Statement by Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey at the 24th Summit Meeting of the League of Arab States, 26 March 2013, Doha

Your Highnesses Sheikh Hamad bin Halife es-Sani,
Your Highnesses, Excellencies,
Mr. Secretary General,
Honorable Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is great pleasure for me to address this gathering in Doha on the occasion of the 24th Summit Meeting of the League of Arab States. First, I would like to convey to you the greetings of your brothers President Gül and Prime Minister Erdoğan.

I wish to start by expressing my deep appreciation to His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Halife es-Sani, the League of Arab States and H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar, for this kind invitation.

Turkey and the Arab League do not only share a long common history, a large geography and established traditions, but also a heavy agenda, laden with the most sensive issues of the globe. This picture dictates us to join our forces and increase our cooperation in the face of challenges which confronts all of us.

Actually, this is exactly what we have been doing for some time. The Turkish - Arab Forum has become an institution through which our cooperation and interaction get deeper each day. We always stood behind the decisions of the Arab League and will continue to do so.

Your Highnesses,

This Summit marks the beginning of a new chapter in the quest of a free, democratic and prosperous Syria.

It represents a historic milestone as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people today have rightfully taken the seat of their country in the Arab League.

May I take this opportunity to wish the mercy of Allah for our Syrian sisters and brothers, the martyrs fighting for their freedom. I salute their will, perseverance and devotion.

Thanks to the unwavering and concerted efforts of the Arab League, hereby we are able to elevate their status and take a very meaningful step in their support.

Just as the Arab League had come first to suspend the Regime’s unjust presence and led the international endeavors accordingly, it becomes once again the pioneer to award the Syrian National Coalition to the vacant but well-deserved seat allocated for Syria. The Arab League thus assured the people of Syria of its firm determination that it shall neither distrust nor abandon their fellow brothers and sisters.

Distinguished Highnesses,

The election of the head of Interim Government by the Coalition on 19th March in Istanbul constitutes an important step forward. We commend the strenuous efforts as well as the democratic maturity displayed by the members of the National Coalition.

We have full confidence that the leadership of the Coalition will lay a solid ground for the Interim Government conducive to addressing the basic needs of the Syrian people. We fully support Sheikh Moaz al-Khatip and his team in their relentless efforts.

To this effect, we welcome the Interim Prime Minister Hitto’s determination to touch the lives of the Syrians inside the country with a view to alleviating their suffering.

Today’s decision testifies to a well-placed and timely sense of regional ownership.

It will not only be a catalyst to articulate a joint response against the continuous bloodshed in Syria, but also constitutes a precedent for other relevant regional and international organizations to follow suit.

As such, the Arab League spearheads the efforts towards reversing the inaction of the international community. It is yet another significant wake up call for the international community that collective indifference to shelled, bombed and missiled Syrians by the Regime must come to an end. The risks and threats posed by the Syrian Regime must be addressed collectively, urgently and decisively.

Since the last Core Group of the Friends of the Syrian People that was held in Rome a month ago, almost 5 thousand Syrians have died.

I mentioned this saddening figure just to emphasize the importance of being able to produce rather tangible results, as we have no shortage of meetings on what’s happening in Syria. We hope that the following multilateral gatherings concerning Syria would be inspired by today’s meeting in terms of taking concrete steps forward. Because the average figures of the appalling humanitarian disaster tragically continue speaking for themselves.

It is unacceptable that the international community, UN Security Council in particular, stands idle as the Syrian Regime fired around 150 missiles so far which resulted in great loss of lives.

We are making an utmost effort to respond the ramifications. We are now hosting almost 200 thousand Syrians in 17 camps. Over 100 thousand Syrians live outside the camps in towns and cities. I will not go into details, but we are doing our best to care for our guests in all fields pertaining to daily life such as health, education and social needs.

On the other hand, Turkish Red Crescent is delivering humanitarian relief to Syria at the zero point of the border in conformity with international legitimacy and humanitarian principles.

Distinguished Highnesses, Leaders, Excellencies,

The Arab League decision is also important in making the Regime understand that the people of Syria cannot be defeated.

The step you have taken here today sends a strong and timely signal to those who support the Assad regime that it will not be as easy for them to speak up for a regime which is denounced by the Arab League.

At this critical moment, what further actions should we take?

First and foremost, we must help the Coalition Interim Government address the daily needs of the Syrian people in the liberated areas without further delay.

Secondly, we must announce right now that following the establishment of the Interim Government, the transition process has already been launched and invite all those concerned to step up required support to the Interim Government so as to mount the pressure on the Regime for a political solution.

Thirdly, we must start working for the Interim Government to get its place at the United Nations. Since there is an institutional executive body functioning under the auspices of the National Coalition, we should call upon the international community for breaking its chains of idleness to prevent more death, more destruction and more suffering in Syria. We should explain to the world that, from now on, there will be no room for excuses or complacency.

Since March 2011 the people of Syria has been fighting for their freedom against an unprecedented tyranny. In this quest, there may be multitude of different views within the ranks of the opposition, as the virtues of democracy dictate. However, it is high time for displaying solidarity and integrity to reach the common objectives. The Coalition could achieve victory by enjoying unconditional support of the Syrian people only if it is united and acts with one voice.

We have no luxury to wait and see; that is to say, try to contain the conflict in Syria until the Regime exhausts itself. The threat stemming from Regime’s destructive policies will not get lighter by time; on the contrary, will be exponentially heavier.

We continue to believe that the best way to end this bloodshed is through a political solution and transition. However, we should also be result-oriented and realistic since there are immediate threats before us apart from the increasing humanitarian crisis, such as spillover to neighboring countries, increasing risk of extremism and radicalism and the risk of collapse of the state.

The situation in Syria remains to be a litmus test for the international community; whether it will fulfill its responsibility to protect human lives against a tyranny or not. We are delighted to see that the Arab League once again passed this test.

Turkey will continue to join its efforts with the Arab League and the international community at large as well as the Coalition and the Interim Government to chart out a solution leading to a democratic and free Syria encompassing all segments of the Syrian society on the basis of constitutional equality.

In this journey, our role as the international community is limited to extending our support to the Syrian peope in their right cause. The revolution in Syria is of the Syrians. Therefore, the decisions belong to the Syrians too. We can only build lasting peace and stability in Syria on the decisions taken by the free will of the people of Syria.

Your Highnesses,

On top of our common agenda, the issue of Palestine no doubt occupies a major place, close to our hearts.

There have been significant developments lately on this front. We welcome the statehood of Palestine and embrace the Palestinian State in every aspect. We will continue doing everything to empower our Palestinian brothers until they become full member to the UN as an independent state and East Jerusalem as its capital forever.

You are all well aware of the situation about the Turkish-Israeli relations after the Israeli attack against the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla that claimed lives of 9 Turkish citizen.

As you would also recall that we had put forth three conditions to normalize our relations with Israel: Israel must apologize, pay compensation to the families of the victims and lift the illegal embargo imposed upon Gazza.

President Obama together with Prime Minister Netanyahu called Prime Minister Erdogan on 22 March and PM Netanyahu expressed Israel's apology to the Turkish people for the loss of life or injury as a tragic result of Mavi Marmara incident. He told that he will instruct his government to take necessary steps in order to compensate the families of the victims. He also noted that Israel had substantially lifted the restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and that this would continue as long as calm prevailed.

He expressed his willingness to work together with Turkey to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.

On behalf of the Turkish people, Prime Minister Erdoğan accepted this apology by Israel.

We consider this development as a step in the right direction though it will not relieve our grief over our losses. Needless to say, we will closely follow whether the Israelis will fulfill their commitments or not, especially regarding lifting all restrictions and embargo.

As it is well known, Turkey always supported all international and regional efforts to find a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict on the basis of the two-state vision based on 1967 borders. In this respect we continue to fully support Arab Peace Plan, which is the only tangible plan on the table.

We will remain committed to this ultimate goal. In this context, it is more important than ever to restore the Palestinian peoples' rights and to ensure a life in dignity whereby they can enjoy all rights and freedoms. We are tirelessly working to this end.

We strongly believe that this development is a significant gain for the Palestinian brothers and sisters as well. In fact, PM Erdoğan contacted the Palestinian leaders before his conversation with Netanyahu with a view to having their opinion beforehand. They actually responded positively and we acted accordingly.

Whatever the course Turkish-Israeli relations can take, we will continue to defend the Palestinian cause, stand by the oppressed and criticize Israel when and if necessary. There is no doubt that Netanyahu took this clear message.

I wish to acknowledge and express my gratitude for the solidarity of our Arab brothers and the Arab League to such an outcome.

I once again reiterate that Turkey remains committed to the Palestinian cause and continue to work with the Arab League on this matter.

In conclusion, the transformation taking place in our region which is the cradle of human civilizations is observed by the rest of the world with admiration and appreciation.

Your wisdom and vision has been the driving force and I have no doubt whatsoever that the risks and the challenges of the way to your objectives will be overcome by your wisdom and determination.

I would like to salute you for your achievements and successes. Turkey will always continue to act with you in all your endeavors to achieve common objectives.

Before concluding, I renew my deep appreciation to His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Halife es-Sani and my dear brother HE Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar Sheikh for this excellent organization and again, express my sincere thanks for having me here today.

Thank you.