Speech Delivered by H.E. Mr. Ali Babacan at the 45. Munich Security Conference, 7 February 2009

Moderator (H.E. Mr. Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister of Sweden): Foreign Minister Ali Babacan from Turkey. Turkey is of course a country that has long tradition in the Balkans and in the Caucasus and plays a significant role. Turkey is also a country where we are of course negotiating with for membership of the European Union. That is membership negotiation, accession negotiation of profound strategic importance; I mean that enlargement venture of the European Union towards the South East, all of the Balkans and Turkey. That is a question of 100 million people which would profoundly change the nature, and I would say the geo-political, I would say the global weight of this Union in the future, also increase our attractiveness towards important part of the world. It is going to take sometime. But, the importance of which should not be neglected. Turkey is also I would add, Ali, in particularly as Foreign Minister, very important strategic partner for the European Union today. Because of its active and constructive foreign policy in a number of areas, be that the Middle East, be that wider towards East, be that in the Balkans, and be that now in the Caucasus. So, with these words, Ali the floor is yours.

H.E. Mr. Ali Babacan, Foreign Minister of Turkey: Thank you Carl. Well, Turkey is going through an enormous reform process, a big transformation. It is an economic transformation, it is a social transformation and it is a political transformation as well. A country which is embracing more and more democratic values, a country which is also having better and better practices in terms of fundamental rights, freedoms, rule of law in the EU accession process as Carl has already indicated and also a member of NATO from almost very beginning.

We are not only ourselves going through a transformation process but also we are actually promoting the values which I just mentioned in a vast geography, not only Middle East but also in the Balkans in the Caucasus. And especially with these two important regions the Caucasus and the Balkans, we have historical ties, we have cultural ties and we have also strong economic ties.

Maybe I should start with the Caucasus and then touch also upon the Balkans a little bit during the short amount of time that we are going to have during this first round.

For Caucasus, we have many frozen conflicts and I think what happened last August between Georgia and Russia signaled us that if these frozen conflicts are not addressed properly and timely, how the situation can melt in a way and turn into hot conflicts. What happened between Russia and Georgia was a big source of concern for all of us and after the war the parameters in the region changed. There is now a Geneva Process which all of us support. We hope that concrete subjects, concrete results are actually maintained. We have also processes right now between Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as Armenia and Turkey. The Minsk Process has accelerated over the last one year, maybe more than a year, and now we are very happy that two presidents, President Aliyev and President Sarkissian, are meeting from time to time and we hope that that process produces a positive result at the end. Also there is a parallel process between Turkey and Armenia, a process which targets full normalization of the relations. After President Sarkissian’s invitation to the national football match between Turkey and Armenia which took place in last September, my President went there and it started a dialogue which is now at the political level. This process is moving on the right direction and moving on well, in our view. So, a relatively small region where relations between Russia and Georgia are quite tense, and relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia and relations between Turkey and Armenia are not really good. Now there are processes in all of these areas. I think these three processes do need the support of the international community to get concrete results at the end.

Right during the war between Russia and Georgia, actually we proposed an idea of coming up with a new platform in the Caucasus region. We call this “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform”, a platform which would initially include Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey and the Russian Federation. Not an exclusive platform, open to cooperation, collaboration with other international organizations, but a forum for dialogue. The idea was how to make these countries which have severe problems between themselves to sit around one table and provide a forum for dialogue for them actually. So far, we had already two deputy minister level meetings of these five countries within the platform idea. We are now trying to come up with an agreed set of principles, targets and mechanisms. The process is still continuing and receiving good support especially from the EU and also from the countries of our region. But I don’t want to pass a one important initiative of the European Union, which is the Eastern Partnership. A very important idea which was first mentioned by Sweden and Poland as far as I remember, including six countries and now progressing very well. Concrete cooperation projects between the European Union and the six countries involved, including the three countries of the Caucasus, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. For Caucasus, the most important principle is using dialogue to resolve the problems. That is the key for the Caucasus and that is what we have been supporting from the very beginning.

For the Balkans, an area which is again maybe when we look at the world map, not very big geographically, but very diverse; many different ethnicities, many religions, languages are there. So, what we need for the Balkans is a common set of values and ideals. In a way a large umbrella which will actually bring the people of the Balkans and the countries of the Balkans more together. The European Union and NATO, probably these two important umbrellas are essential for the Balkans that we see; to bring stability, prosperity and sustainable peace to the Balkan area. Different Balkan countries have different stages of EU relations I would say. We see candidate countries, countries which have SAA Agreements, countries which are still at the beginning of the relations. But for the EU, having an open-door policy, a strong message to the Balkan countries, is also going to be very crucial. EU has a big soft power, but this soft power works only if the open-door policy continues. So, the European Union should never give any wrong ideas to any countries in the Balkans.

NATO is also extremely important. And for countries like Macedonia, for example, we think that it is a big mistake to still keep waiting. It doesn’t serve peace; it doesn’t serve the stability of the region. So, a country fulfilling all the conditionalities but still waiting at the door, I think this is not in line with the NATO mentality and NATO philosophy as well. So this year, year of 2009 is going to be very important to watch the developments in Kosovo, to watch developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Two countries probably are to be followed very closely all throughout this year.

So, we as Turkey, we are heavily engaged with both of the regions, both with the Caucasus and with the Balkans. We are trying to promote democracy, stability, peace in both of these regions and also we are dealing with many detailed issues actually. And finally, Serbia is a very important country which has a big role and also responsibility for the stability of the Balkans. Therefore, we also support the EU process of Serbia and maybe at one point NATO process as well.

Comment by Moderator, H.E. Mr. Carl Bildt: Thanks Ali. Let me make one remark that we all speak, I think every speaker during this conference have been talking about how important the year 2009 is and then number of examples. I would argue that one of the most important things during 2009 has yet to be mentioned. And that is the Cyprus peace talks. I mean Cyprus is really the first, if you read the book in Kissinger’s Diplomacy which is one of the best books written about this topic; I mean he described the Cyprus conflict as the first of the new type of conflicts that we had to be confronted with. That was the same type of conflicts that we’ve then been dealing with in the Balkans, dealing in the Caucasus and we haven’t as of yet manage to sort out Cyprus. Those talks are now ongoing and this is an historical opportunity to solve the Cyprus conflict. If we do that it will have major positive effects for the entire Eastern Mediterranean region, for the Balkans, I would even argue for Caucasus. So, I know the support of you, Ali, for those talks and Bakoyannis, isn’t here, but others as well is profoundly important. That was a side remark that should not be forgotten at this Conference.

H.E. Mr. Ali Babacan, Foreign Minister of Turkey: Maybe a few words about Cyprus first since you mentioned. Now, the problem goes back to 1960’s actually. There has been many times where people tried to solve this issue. The last time was in 2004, when there was an agreed plan moderated by the United Nations. But it was offered to referendums in North and South. Turkish Cypriots accepted the Plan, Greek Cypriots said “No” to the Plan and that Plan was unfortunately scrapped. During the last one year period there is now a new sense of optimism. The new leader of Greek Cypriots, Mr. Hristofias said that he wants a solution; he said that he wants to start talks. And between March and September last year, there were preliminary talks between the two leaders. After each meeting there were joint statements made and those joint statements in a way prepared the ground for a possible solution. And since September 3rd of last year, the two leaders met for 18 times already. There are major topics of discussion like power-sharing, governance, properties and other issues and now the process is going on, going on maybe slower than we were expecting, we were expecting a faster process. So it is going probably little slower, but on the other hand I think there is a hope right now for a comprehensive solution. That is the target for the Cyprus issue and that is what we are supporting also hundred percent. We are supporting the process, we are supporting President Talat. We have full confidence with him and United Nations’ involvement is also very important. The EU, in the case of Cyprus is in quite an awkward position, because it is very difficult for the European Union to be at equal distance to the sides of the issue. Because Greek Cypriots are part of the EU, they are in the EU. So when we talk about the EU, part of it is Greek Cypriots. So, that is why we always say UN is the right address to resolve this issue and we think that the EU is important probably to provide some technical support to the process. But the main solution should come with the moderation of the United Nations which is the case right now anyway. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon already appointed a Special Representative for this process, former Foreign Minister of Australia, Mr. Downer; probably most of you know him already. And we think that there should be a calendar for this process. We think that there should be a meaningful time frame for the talks. These talks should not be just open-ended talks, but there should be a meaningful calendar. So we have hopes. Of course nothing is guaranteed and as long as there is some hope I think it is important to push the process; push the process as Turkey, push the process as the European Union and all other involved countries.

For the question about the process continuing between Turkey and Armenia, here the target of this process is full normalization. And we really wish to see also that Armenia and Azerbaijan targeting full normalization in their talks. Because just thinking of a situation in the Caucasus where the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan is normalized, the relations between Turkey and Armenia is normalized, it will be a totally new geopolitical situation in the Caucasus. In a way the whole area in terms of stability, in terms of prosperity will change tremendously. Sometimes during the negotiations one of the sides could feel as if they have given too much, or they have actually lost something just to agree. But then, it is very important that the solution which is agreed by both sides is going to be a win-win situation at the end because the solution itself will provide big benefits for all the sides of the issues. So I think rather than looking at maybe small details here and there, seeing the big picture and thinking about the big benefits for all the countries in the region for having a solution and keeping that in mind in the whole process is going to be important. And also I think it is going to be very important to negotiate, to have the negotiations behind the closed doors and say what we have to say behind closed doors.