Joint Statement Issued At the Conclusion of the Inaugural Meeting of the Turkish-Arab Forum

1. The inaugural Meeting of the Turkish-Arab Forum was held in Istanbul, Turkey on October 11, 2008 between the Republic of Turkey and the League of Arab States. The Republic of Turkey was represented at the meeting by H.E. Ali Babacan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the League of Arab States was represented by H.E. Walid Al Muallem, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic (Presidency of the Arab League Summit), H.E. Prince Saud El Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Presidency of the Arab League Ministerial Council), H.E. Mahmoud Ali Youssef, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Djibuti, H.E. Abdelaziz Belkhadem, Minister of State and Special Representative of the President of Algeria and H.E. Amre Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States.

2. The Participants recalled that Turkey and the Arab countries are tied to each other by strong deep-rooted historical, geographical and cultural bonds and welcomed the launching of the Turkish-Arab Forum which they believed will further expand and deepen the relations in all fields between Turkey and the Arab countries by providing an institutional framework to promote cooperation and comprehensive consultations in all fields of mutual interest.

3. The Forum’s meeting was held in a spirit of mutual respect and openness, whereby developments in the Middle East, a number of regional and international issues of common concern, the need to establish a conference for consultation and cooperation as well as for issues regarding economic, cultural, educational and people to people relations between Turkey and the Member States of the Arab League were extensively discussed.

4. The Forum expressed its concern about the international financial crisis and decided to study its ramification on the economies of the member countries with a view to safeguarding their interests within the framework of the efforts deployed by the international community.

5. The Participants confirmed that Turkey and the Arab States share a common vision of achieving just peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East. A comprehensive and lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict on its three tracks (Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese) must be found on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions (242, 338, 1397, 1515), the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map.

6. The Forum stated its support for active and effective negotiations between Palestine and Israel as called for by the Annapolis peace process. The Forum expressed the urgent need to overcome difficulties through an agreed settlement of all issues, including Jerusalem, the refugees and withdrawal to the lines of 4 June 1967. In this context, the Forum declared its concern that unilateral actions, in particular the settlement policies and practices in the occupied territories jeopardize the peace process and should be stopped immediately. The Forum confirmed that the outcome of these negotiations should lead to the establishment of an independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

7. The Forum stated that the rift among the Palestinians is harmful to the Palestinian cause and the peace process. It expressed its support for the initiatives towards achieving unity among the Palestinians and highlighted, in that regard, its support for the Egyptian efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation.

8. The Forum stressed its support for the Palestinian state-building process and all related initiatives aiming at building the Palestinian economy and capacities in different fields, in line with the decisions taken at the Paris Donors’ Conference, the Bethlehem Investment Conference and the Berlin Conference, in support of the Security and Justice Sectors, as well as AHLC meetings.

9. The Forum also agreed on the importance of advancing on all the tracks in the Middle East Peace Process. In this connection, the Arab League expressed its appreciation and support for Turkey’s role in the Syrian-Israeli indirect peace talks.

10. The Forum welcomed the election of the President and the establishment of the National Unity Government in Lebanon within the context of the Arab League Initiative and the Doha Agreement and expressed its support for its full implementation and stressed the importance of continuing to encourage the Lebanese parties to maintain dialogue and reconciliation on the common denominators of Lebanese identity and national interests of Lebanon.

11. The Ministers welcomed that they shared similar objectives with regard to the future of Iraq, as best reflected by the outcomes of the Expanded Neighboring Countries of Iraq Ministerial Conferences. The Ministers reiterated their commitment to the territorial integrity and national unity, independence, and the Arab and Muslim identity of Iraq; the continuation of the process of national reconciliation and the prevention of all terrorist, violent or coercive activities.

12. The Ministers welcomed the efforts exerted by the Iraqi Government, Iraqi political groups, regional countries and other international actors to work for the establishment of a stable, independent, democratic Iraq. They reaffirmed their willingness to help the Iraqi Displaced Persons in their efforts to return to their homeland in a safe and dignified fashion.

13. The Ministers welcomed the adoption of the Provincial Electoral Law and the efforts to reach a fair and balanced power-sharing compromise among Kirkuk’s three main groups.

14. The Ministers reiterated their support for the UN Security Council Resolutions, the work of the UNAMI and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General.

15. The Forum welcomes the initiative led by the Arab League and the African Union to resolve the Darfur crisis. It expressed support for the Darfur Committee headed by Qatar in this respect. It also expressed appreciation for the regional and international support rendered to it. The Forum calls upon all the Sudanese factions to respond positively to the initiative to ensure its success.

The Forum called for an urgent solution to the Darfur crisis and stresses the priority of peace building. It also highlighted the importance of supporting the respect for human rights in Darfur.

16. The Forum welcomed the Djibouti agreement on Somalia between the TFG and the ARS and underlined the necessity to speed up the implementation of its provisions and expressed its deep concern about the piracy phenomenon which threatens undoubtedly peace and security in the whole region. A collective effort needs to be deployed to tackle this dangerously growing phenomenon.

17. The Forum called upon Eritrea and Djibouti to engage in a constructive dialogue in order to solve peacefully their differences and return to status quo ante.

18. The Forum stressed that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction continues to be a matter of serious concern and expressed its support for the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East.

Recognizing the right of all countries to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy within the framework of the NPT and under full scope safeguards of the IAEA, the Forum is closely following the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 and reiterates the need to reach a diplomatic solution on the nuclear issue.

19. The Forum confirmed that terrorism continues to pose a grave threat to international peace, security and stability and rejected any attempt to identify terrorism with any one religion, race, nationality or geography. It took note of the United Nation’s leading role in counter-terrorism. Within this framework, the Forum called for effective implementation of the UN Global Counter- Terrorism Strategy. It reaffirmed its determination to make every effort to reach an agreement on a comprehensive convention on terrorism and called for an international conference to define terrorism and condemn the establishment of any connection between terrorism and any race, religion or culture.

20. The League of Arab States strongly condemned the recent heinous terrorist attacks in Turkey perpetrated by the PKK terrorist organization.

The Forum recalled the responsibilities of all countries in fighting international terrorism which endangers peace, security and stability.

21. Underlining the need to encourage greater dialogue, understanding and respect between different cultures, the Forum reiterated its full support to the Alliance of Civilizations initiative co-sponsored by Spain and Turkey, which has become a fully fledged UN initiative. It also welcomes the Second Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations which will be held in Istanbul on April 2-3, 2009 and expressed the desire to actively contribute to it.

22. The Forum welcomed the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in enhancing dialogue among different religious affiliations, reflected in the “World Conference on Dialogue”, held in Madrid in July 2008, under the patronage of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and King Juan Carlos of Spain.

The Forum expressed its support to the outcome of this conference which resulted in recommendations to convene a “High Level Meeting” on November 12-13th ,2008, during the 63rd Session of the General Assembly to rally the support of the international community.

23. The Forum expressed its support for a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement in Cyprus under the auspices of the good-offices mission of the United Nations Secretary-General and on the basis of the well-established UN parameters with a view to establishing a bi-zonal and bi-communal partnership state on the basis of political equality.

24. The Forum expressed its concern over the recent developments in Georgia and emphasized their implications as a serious threat to the peace and stability in the South Caucasus and beyond. It called upon all the parties to exercise restraint and reach a negotiated solution to the conflict.

The Forum also took note of Turkey’s initiative on establishing a “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform” with a view to creating a favorable environment for peace, stability and cooperation in the Caucasus Region.

25. Recalling the continued interest of both Turkey and the Arab League regarding the Balkans, the Forum expressed its desire to achieve a just and fair political settlement for the question of Kosovo.

26. The Forum affirmed its commitment to preserve the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina within its internationally recognized borders.

27. The Arab League took note of the First Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit held in Istanbul on August 18-21, 2008, welcomed Turkey’s policy of opening to Africa and the increase in the cooperation between Turkey and African countries.

28. The Forum stated that it will support the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean (BP:UfM). It also expressed its conviction that the process should remain open to full participation of all willing and capable states as well as regional and international organizations.

29. The Arab League reiterated its support for the candidature of the Republic of Turkey for non-permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council for the term 2009-2010, at the elections to be held in New York in October 2008, during the 63rd UN General Assembly.

30. The Forum underlined the importance of and expressed its willingness to further enhance the cultural relations between the Arab League countries and Turkey emanating from their common history by concluding Cultural Cooperation Agreements and Cultural Exchange Programmes to promote convergence and better understanding among their peoples.

The Forum reaffirmed the objective of protection of cultural heritage, establishment of cultural centers, cooperation and enhancement of exchange programmes between their cultural and educational institutions, museums, archives and media.

31. The Forum noted the Arab League’s welcoming in principle of the initiative of H.E. Abdullah Gül, President of the Republic of Turkey regarding the conference on security and cooperation in the Middle East. The Forum agreed that Turkey and the Arab League will pursue their efforts and continue their consultations on this matter.

32. The Forum emphasized its keenness to further increase cooperation in the economic field, including investment, trade, finance, banking, tourism, energy, water, environment, food security, construction and information technology, statistics and database.

33. The Forum stressed the importance of inclusion of all countries in the World Trade Organization.

34. The Arab League Countries welcomed and encouraged the efforts to conclude a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council. They noted the positive effects of FTA’s in the trade volumes of those Arab League countries that have already concluded agreements with Turkey such as Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco and Palestine.

35. The Forum expressed its willingness to coordinate trade policies and facilitate the increase of trade volume within the framework of the international multilateral trade system.

The Ministers emphasized the need to work closely to take the necessary steps for the elimination of trade barriers in order to achieve substantial growth in trade volume between Turkey and the Arab countries.

36. With the objective of promoting investments between the two sides, the Forum calls for a speedy finalization of bilateral agreements between the Arab countries and Turkey in regard to the promotion and protection of investments as well as the avoidance of double taxation. Turkey and the Arab League countries shall support the efforts to create attractive investment conditions for businessmen from both sides to mitigate obstacles in this regard.

37. The importance of improving tourism relations between Turkey and the Arab League countries were strongly reaffirmed. In this regard, the parties declared their determination to increase ties between relevant tourism bodies and institutions.

38. The Forum stated its intention to promote cooperation in the fields of land, air and maritime transportation to further increase trade flows between Turkey and the Arab League countries.

39. The two sides agreed to identify areas of common interest where they can promote cooperation in the field of environment and sustainable development areas such as climate change, food security, poverty alleviation, pollution control, waste management and disaster management, so as to be able to contribute actively and effectively to worldwide efforts on these issues which have very serious implications for the entire world.

40. The Forum emphasized that the private sector has a vital role to play in strengthening economic ties and stressed the importance of exploring ways and means in bringing together business communities and investors of Turkey and the Arab League countries in joint ventures and other feasible areas of cooperation.

41. The Forum welcomed the decision of the Arab League to open a mission in Ankara and the signing of the Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the League of Arab States on establishing the Mission.

42. The Ministers decided to launch a task force open to all members of the Arab League to study a strategy and an action plan to be submitted to the next Ministerial Meeting. The task force will be established before the end of November 2008.

43. The Ministers agreed to hold the subsequent Ministerial Meeting within the next six months at the Headquarters of the League of Arab States or in one of its member states. The preparations for this meeting will be undertaken within the framework of the mechanisms of the Framework Agreement establishing the Forum.