Statement By H.E.Ali Babacan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey at the 35th Session of the Oic Council of Foreign Ministers, Kampala, 18-20 June 2008
Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset I would like to congratulate our host, Uganda for having assumed the Chairmanship of this year’s Council of Foreign Ministers. I also wholeheartedly thank the Government and friendly people of Uganda for the warm hospitality extended to us all.

Your Excellency, Minister Ketusa, you may rest assured of the Turkish delegation’s full support. We wish this Conference every success under your guidance.

I would also like on this occasion to pay tribute to Pakistan for its skillful leadership of the 34th Ministerial Conference.

I believe this would be an opportune time to also warmly congratulate the Secretary-General Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu on his re-election for a second term. This is an expression of the confidence of the Member States. We look forward to our continued close collaboration with the Secretary-General in all fields.

Mr. Chairman,

Our meeting is taking place just months after the successful conclusion of the OIC Summit in Senegal. Structural reform has long been a major theme of our deliberations. Our tireless efforts to this effect, spearheaded by the Secretary-General and the valuable work carried out by his dedicated staff were crowned with success, with the adoption of a new Charter during the Summit in March.

Accordingly, the OIC now stands better equipped to meet the demands and challenges of our times. Values such as good governance, accountability, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, promotion of the rights of women, democracy, transparency and the rule of law are all enshrined in the new Charter.

Mr. Chairman,

One of the objectives of the OIC as set out in the new Charter is to project the true, peaceful, tolerant and compassionate image of Islam, to combat its defamation and promote dialogue between civilizations.

Better understanding between cultures has become an indispensable prerequisite for global harmony. The OIC must be more actively engaged in this dialogue.

The Alliance of Civilizations initiative, co-sponsored by Turkey has become the flagship of global efforts to promote inter-cultural dialogue and demands the strong support of the entire international community. We call on the OIC Member States to lend their full support to this meaningful endeavor.

I would like to also extend an open invitation to all, to attend the Second Annual Forum of the Alliance, which we will host in Istanbul next year in April.

Mr. Chairman,

As always, our political agenda reflects the major issues that currently preoccupy the Islamic world.

Before addressing some of these, I would like to first touch upon a matter of the highest priority for Turkey by placing on record our genuine appreciation for the valuable support extended by the Member States once again to the rightful cause of the Turkish Cypriot people.

I wish however to also renew our call to the Member States to expand relations with the Turkish Cypriot State in all fields. It is high time to end the unjust isolation it has been subjected to for all these years.

There is a renewed sense of optimism that 2008 offers a window of opportunity to achieve a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. The two leaders on the Island have agreed to negotiate a solution in Cyprus on the basis of the political equality of the two sides and the equal status of the two Constituent States that will bring about a new bi-zonal partnership State. The good-offices mission of the UN Secretary-General is of utmost importance.

Mr. Chairman,

The minority rights breaches encountered by the Turkish Muslim Minority in Western Thrace have long been on the agenda of the OIC and other international organizations. The support of the Member States, as reflected in the decisions adopted by the OIC on the subject, is deeply appreciated by both Turkey and our Muslim brothers and sisters that constitute the Turkish Minority.

The Turkish Muslim Minority in Western Thrace continues to be deprived of its basic human and minority rights. Greece’s failure to honor its commitments and obligations as stipulated in bilateral and multilateral legal instruments lies at the root of the ongoing suffering of the Turkish Muslim Minority. The OIC plays an indispensable role in reminding Greece of its legal obligations towards the Turkish Muslim Minority in Western Thrace. Turkey and the Turkish Muslim Minority counts on the Member States’ continued support in this vital issue.

Mr. Chairman,

As we see it, the question of Palestine, with wide repercussions both in and beyond the region, lies at the crux of all ills in the Middle East. We continue to be troubled by the plight of our Palestinian brothers and sisters as well as the political rift within Palestine itself, which is only detrimental to the Palestinian cause. All efforts towards overcoming this rift need to be supported.

A lasting political settlement on the basis of a two-state solution will have important implications for regional as well as global stability.

With the resumption of the peace talks, our hopes were rekindled for the prospects of peace and stability in the Middle East. However, developments on the ground in contradiction of the spirit of Annapolis have warranted our serious concern.

Meanwhile, we applaud the agreement reached by the parties in Lebanon with the contributions of Qatar to overcome the crisis that has politically paralyzed the country for the last 1.5 years. We have been in a constant effort to help achieve this target. In order to sustain stability and peace in Lebanon, which is essential for the region, Lebanese groups should maintain the spirit of reconciliation in the period ahead. It is also imperative that the international community remains committed to the revitalization of the smoothly functioning multi-ethnic and multi-confessional Lebanese social mosaic which once constituted a unique example of peaceful coexistence in the world.

Turkey remains fully committed to the cause of a comprehensive peace in this troubled region and stands ready to actively contribute to its attainment. Indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel is the most recent example of our efforts to this end. We hope that the ongoing negotiations between Syria and Israel will bear result and there will be success in all the channels of the Middle East Peace Process.

Mr. Chairman,

Preservation of Iraq’s territorial integrity and national unity is of paramount importance for peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East. Political reconciliation is the key for Iraq to emerge as a secure and stable country. Efforts of the Iraqi Government and people to stabilize Iraq through political dialogue must be supported.

We are diversifying our cooperation with the central Iraqi Government. The platform established for consultations among Iraq’s neighbors in its original and expanded format to include the P5 and G8, continues to constitute an important mechanism for garnering regional support for Iraq in addressing the challenges that lie ahead.

Turkey continues to be the main artery of supply lines to Iraq with over one million trucks transporting essential goods to Iraq via Turkey each year.

During the last year, we have happily observed that an improved security environment in Iraq has paved the way for positive political and legislative steps. The recent adoption of crucial pieces of legislation is a clear indication of this fact. Others such as the Hydrocarbon and Provincial Elections Laws should follow suit to complete the legal infrastructure. Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the US are also equally important to follow in this regard.

We wish to eliminate the pressing issue of the PKK terror organization from the agenda of Turkish-Iraqi relations. Our main objective is to enhance our bilateral relations with Iraq. With this understanding, in addition to our diplomatic representation in Baghdad and Mosul, we are now opening a Consulate General in Basra and increasing the number of technical and political high level visits between our two countries.

Mr. Chairman,

Developments in other regions also continue to command our urgent attention.

• Following the independence of Kosovo in February, it is now time to consolidate stability in the Balkans. The newly born country of this fragile region needs our support. We must as the OIC display our solidarity with Kosovo.

• The problems faced by our Afghan brothers continue to be a common concern for us all. Turkey’s commitment to security and stability in Afghanistan is a long-term one. We will continue to invest in the democratic, free and prosperous future of the friendly people of Afghanistan.

Moreover, the process of Tripartite Summits we have initiated with the participation of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the desire to enhance peace and stability is also helping to restore mutual confidence in the region.

At the Paris Conference last week, I announced our decision to allocate another 100 million US Dollars for the economic development and reconstruction of Afghanistan. This amount will be disbursed over the next three years.

• Africa requires our special attention. Chronic problems continue to pose impediment to development. It is our moral duty to assist the countries of the Continent to overcome the formidable challenges they face and to help them attain sustainable economic and social development. Turkey has increased its engagement in Africa. We are working to promote our relations with the African countries in all fields. Turkey also intends to significantly enhance its representation in Africa by opening up 15 new Embassies on the Continent.

With a view to further enhancing our ties with Africa, we will host the first Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit in Istanbul on 18-21 August 2008. We look forward to the high level attendance of our OIC friends from Africa at this important event. We also welcome the African Union’s decision adopted during its Summit held in Addis Ababa in January 2008 to declare Turkey a “Strategic Partner”.

• Frozen conflicts pending a resolution continue to jeopardize regional peace and stability in the South Caucasus. The long overdue peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict pending a solution for more than a decade now, must be based on the withdrawal of Armenia from the occupied Azerbaijani soil and the preservation of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.

To realize our vision of peace, stability and prosperity for the region, we not only seek the resolution of these frozen conflicts, but at the same time continue to invest in the infrastructure of regional cooperation through significant energy and transportation projects.

• The question of Kashmir is a constant source of contention and instability in the wider region. We continue to support a just and lasting solution based on international legitimacy, to be worked out between the concerned parties through the continuation of the process of dialogue.

Mr. Chairman,

Terrorism continues to affront humanity and threaten international peace and stability. It has no particular religion or nationality. It recognizes no geographic boundaries. Combating terrorism remains one of the most important challenges of our times. No cause whatsoever can justify acts of terrorism. Terrorism must be dealt with as a crime against humanity.

Mr. Chairman,

One of the major accomplishments of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC) presided over by the President of Turkey on a permanent basis, has been the trade negotiations realized under the Trade Preferential System among the Member States (TPS-OIC). They have thus far produced two essential documents, namely the Protocol on Preferential Tariff Scheme (PRETAS) and TPS-OIC Rules of Origin. I believe that the early implementation of these documents will certainly have a positive impact on intra-OIC trade figures. We should spare no effort to make these agreements viable by the target date of 1 January 2009.

Let me also mention that the 5th World Water Forum and Ministerial Conference will be held in cooperation with the World Water Council in Istanbul next year in March. The Forum will aim to increase awareness about this finite resource and triggering action to address water-related problems. I am confident that all the Member States will take an active interest in this event.

Turkey also supports the activities of the IRCICA and SESTRIC, the two subsidiary organs of the OIC that it hosts in Istanbul and Ankara, respectively. We are also pleased to be the host country for the affiliated Islamic Conference Youth Forum since 2006.

Mr. Chairman,

Before drawing my comments to a close, I would like to express our profound appreciation for the support of the Member States, reiterated once again, by way of Resolution 1/35 ORG for Turkey’s candidature to the UN Security Council. The elections for the Council for the term 2009-2010 will be held this year in October during the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly.

Given Turkey’s proven competence and capacity to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and stability, we believe that if accorded the opportunity to serve on the Council, we can make a substantial contribution for regional and global peace. It will be the first time in half a century that Turkey will be represented in this important organ of the UN.

Just as in our efforts to facilitate harmony between different cultures, Turkey, with your valuable support, will be able to assume a constructive role in reconciling different views within the Security Council and serving as an additional voice for the concerns of the OIC countries.

Lastly, Mr. Chairman, I wish to conclude by reiterating Turkey’s desire to host, for the first time ever, the Summit of the OIC to be held in 2014. We hope that the Member States will grant us this opportunity and honor.

I thank you for your kind attention.