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Peace at home, peace in the world

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Statement by H.E. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, at the 36th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, May 23-25, 2009, Damascus

Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Secretary-General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to add my voice to those preceding me in wholeheartedly congratulating Syria on its Chairmanship of this year’s Council of Foreign Ministers.  You may count on Turkey’s full support during your Chairmanship and for a most fruitful outcome to our deliberations in this historical and beautiful city of Damascus.

I take this opportunity to also thank the outgoing Chairman H.E. Sam Kahamba Kutesa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, for his able leadership during the past year.

I would in particular, like to thank the Secretary General, Prof. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu and the dedicated staff of the Secretariat for their professionalism and hard work during the past year as well as in preparation for this meeting. We will continue our close cooperation with the Secretary-General on all issues dominating the agenda of our Organization.

Mr. Chairman,

We are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the OIC, which stands today as the second largest international organization after the UN. It embodies the institutionalization of Islamic solidarity in relation to the prejudicial behavior of the power centers of the international system. However, since its foundation the international context has changed and the Organization has come a very long way. Even though we have a lot more to do, the family of OIC is no longer a collection of states lacking in internal cooperation and coordination. The OIC has become a more visible, vocal, effective, respected and credible player on the international scene.

However, it is also a sad reality that for many decades, the Islamic world has been held back from realizing its true potential. It has been more of an idle bystander in the face of global developments, reacting to them rather than influencing their outcome. It is high time to change this, because peripherilization and marginalization are not and should not be our fate.

For all that we have accomplished, we as the Islamic world continue to also be susceptible as others to adverse international developments. We continue to face formidable challenges to peace, security, stability and prosperity. Nor are we immune in this globalized world to the effects of the economic and financial crises that have had far reaching repercussions for all.

In the face of all these challenges, we need more than ever before to unite our efforts to contribute to a sustainable environment for mutual understanding, dialogue, reconciliation, peace and stability as well as greater economic prosperity.

As a matter of fact, we observe gradually the restoration of a strong Islamic identity and self-perception; a new geostrategic, geopolitical and geo-economic culture is emerging in the Muslim world. The fundamental characteristic of which can be identified as “plurality within the unity”.

We must adopt a new vision that conforms to the values of our traditions and expectations of our times. We must not only put our own homes in order, but also do this within the multilateral framework provided by this Organization that is home to us all. We must also use our Organization to transmit our message of peace and tolerance to the rest of the world.
 
The OIC, having embarked on a daunting effort for reform and restructuring, has in fact in many ways started the process of revitalizing itself and becoming more equipped to meet the demands and challenges of the 21st Century.  As a member of the Eminent Persons Group, I personally contributed to the reform process. This structural reform process, spearheaded by the Secretary-General, was crowned with a success with the adoption of the 10 Year Action Plan and the new OIC Charter. This guiding document embraces shared values and principles that uphold peace, transparent, accountable and democratic good governance, the rule of law, the rights of women, respect for human rights and human dignity.   It is important that we all continue to support the reform process, so that our organization can assume greater responsibility and wield greater influence in international relations.

As stipulated in our Charter, safeguarding the rights, dignity and religious and cultural identity of Muslim minorities in non-member states is an objective of the highest order for the OIC and all Member States. I should like to stress that the  aim of the decisions we adopt at the OIC in this regard are not intended to target or meddle in the internal affairs of third countries, but to help improve the conditions of our brethren in non- member states.    

Let me also underline that we support the establishment of a new human rights body within the OIC. We hope to see a mechanism that will promote and protect universal standards in the field of human rights, emerge as a result of the deliberations to be held by the group of experts in the period ahead.    

Similarly, we appreciate and support the OIC’s active involvement in initiatives for promoting   dialogue between cultures with important implications for global peace and stability. 

The Alliance of Civilizations process, co-sponsored by Turkey, stands out as the main international initiative to promote greater understanding and harmony among cultures. Turkey hosted the Alliance’s Second Forum in Istanbul, on 6-7 April 2009. This event marks the beginning of the next phase where the Alliance will focus on actions aimed at transforming its vision into result-oriented projects. I call upon all OIC countries to continue supporting this important endeavor.

Mr. Chairman,

As a member of the UN Security Council since January this year, many of the issues that currently preoccupy the international community and that command our urgent attention are high on our agenda. I would like to take this opportunity to renew our thanks to the members of the OIC for their most valuable support and role in Turkey’s election to this seat. We will continue to reflect our experience in bringing about lasting peaceful solutions to the problems dominating the international agenda as well as serving as a voice for the concerns of the OIC countries during  our term on the Security Council.

Mr. Chairman,
 
As we are all well aware, the problems in the Middle East have become more complex and interrelated. We need a comprehensive approach to address them. In this context, we hope that negotiations on all tracks in the peace process may resume soon, on the basis of the “land for peace” principle of the Madrid Conference and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. I would also like to stress our belief that the Arab Peace Initiative provides a very sound basis for peace which should not be missed.

We must continue to do our utmost for a just and durable solution to the Palestinian problem, on the basis of a two state solution. As Prime Minister Erdogan has emphasized time and again the human tragedy in Gaza and the sufferings of our Palestinian brothers there are fresh in our minds and it is our duty to find a solution to this. Palestinian unity and the establishment of a strong Palestinian Administration with popular support is a must for the success of the Palestinian cause. I would like to state Turkey’s appreciation and support for Egypt’s efforts to this end.

On the other hand, Israel must renew its commitment to the two state solution and put an immediate end to actions and measures that hamper peace efforts. In this regard, of particular concern are Jewish settlement activities, restrictions to the movement of Palestinian people and goods, steps that could alter the character and status of Holy Jerusalem.

Turkey will continue to support all efforts so as to achieve our common goal of an independent State of Palestine with its East Jerusalem as capital that we all have waited for so long.

Mr. Chairman,

Another issue of major concern for regional peace and stability relates to the situation in Iraq. The preservation of Iraq's territorial integrity and national unity are the most important elements for peace, stability and prosperity in this country and in our region. Political reconciliation remains a crucial prerequisite for a stable and prosperous Iraq.

In 2009, major political milestones will be the elections to be held at the district level next month and the parliamentary elections in December. Power-sharing arrangements, the Revenue Sharing Law, the Hydrocarbon Law, constitutional amendments, settlement of internal boundaries and political reforms remain to be important issues. Unilateral ethnic and sectarian initiatives of the past have proven to be disruptive of the ongoing political process. Turkey supports Iraqi Government's efforts to reach sustainable outcomes in all these issues.

One major source of contention in our relations with Iraq is the continued presence of the PKK terrorist organization in northern Iraq. Our position in the face of terrorism is clear and we are working hard together with Government of Iraq to remove this issue from the agenda of our relations.

Mr. Chairman,

Developments in Afghanistan require our close attention as they too have a direct bearing on overall peace and stability in the wider context. Turkey has from the outset given full support to the reconstruction efforts in this country. We have launched the most comprehensive assistance program in our history for Afghanistan. Turkey’s contributions to security and stability in this country will continue as a long term commitment.

Pakistan has been directly affected most seriously by the deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan. Turkey believes that Pakistan should be supported strongly in its efforts to meet economic, social and political challenges as well as combat terrorism and extremism. The latest rise in terrorist attacks and temporary seizure of certain areas has necessitated security operations and caused local inhabitants to flee from conflict areas. As we speak, almost 2 million Pakistani brothers and sisters have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). This is a human tragedy that we cannot ignore. Pakistan is also experiencing a financial crisis. There were a number of pledges during the Pakistan Donors’ Conference held in Tokyo last month. However, more support is needed at this critical time. The resources of brotherly Pakistan are not sufficient especially at this time to overcome the plight of the IDPs.

I would like to make a strong call of assistance to the members of the OIC family to demonstrate our solidarity with our Pakistani brothers and sisters in the most concrete form. My delegation is submitting a draft resolution to this effect to be discussed at the Special Committee so that we can have a decision at the end of this meeting.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to express our gratitude to the OIC countries for their support for the rightful cause of the Turkish Cypriot people.

The two sides in Cyprus have initiated comprehensive settlement negotiations. In accordance with the established UN parameters and the leaders’ joint statements, the aim of these negotiations is a new partnership State that will have two Constituent States of equal status, on the basis of bi-zonality and the political equality of the two sides. Turkey continues to support this process. Should this new process also fail because of the intransigence of the Greek Cypriot side, it should be understood that the Turkish Cypriot people cannot keep living in a legal vacuum forever.

We call upon the OIC Member States to expand their relations with the Turkish Cypriot State in all fields, including the opening of Turkish Cypriot Offices in member countries.

In this regard, I would like to express our thanks to the Secretary General Prof. İhsanoğlu for his report on Cyprus which was a great source of inspiration and motivation for the Turkish Cypriot people. I also thank the OIC for organizing the seminar on “Tourism in the Islamic World” in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in April 2009.  Inspired by the success of this seminar, I would like to propose to convene another OIC seminar in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, this time, in the field of higher education.

Mr. Chairman,

The Turkish Muslim Minority in Western Thrace in Greece continues to encounter serious problems in terms of minority rights. In violation of international law, they cannot elect their religious leaders, they cannot run their foundations, express their ethnic identity or enjoy equal opportunities in education, employment or political participation. Quite a number of waqfs and private properties have been confiscated. Recently, the Greek Government has made attempts toward appointing imams and religious instructors by a committee composed of Orthodox members. Minority status of those living in Rhodes and Kos islands has not even been recognized.

The OIC plays an indispensable role in reminding Greece of its obligations concerning the Turkish Muslim Minority. The support shown through the OIC resolutions and contacts established with the legitimate representatives of the Turkish minority are greatly valued.

Mr. Chairman,

Kosovo’s declaration of independence constituted a major step in ending yet another conflict situation in the Balkans. The OIC must demonstrate its clear solidarity with Kosovo. We welcome that the number of OIC countries that have recognized Kosovo is on the rise.

In spirit of solidarity, the OIC must assist Kosovo in its efforts of consolidating its state structures. The same goes for Bosnia and Herzegovina.  I would like to recall our commitment to support our Muslim brothers all over the world and that the countries cited are countries with overwhelming Muslim populations.

Mr. Chairman,

Having being declared a strategic partner of Africa at the 10th African Union Summit in January 2008, Turkey is working vigorously to further strengthen its relations with African countries as equal partners on the basis of cooperation and friendship. The Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit held in Istanbul last August was a major turning point in our relations with Africa as it marked the beginning of a steady and sustainable process of cooperation.

Mr. Chairman,

The Caucasus region which continues to remain highly fragile is in desperate need for the restoration of confidence and subsequent creation of a favorable climate conducive to cooperation at the multilateral level. As an immediate neighbor to the region, Turkey continues to bring its constructive contributions for the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts. With this understanding, we launched the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform to bring a new impetus to the resolution process of the frozen conflicts in the region.

In this context, I would like to stress that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains as an important obstacle on the road to peace, stability and cooperation in the South Caucasus. The long overdue peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, pending a solution for nearly two decades now, must be based on the withdrawal of Armenia from the occupied Azerbaijani soil and the preservation of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. We hope that the new momentum that recently emerged in the Minsk Process will lead to such a solution without further delay.

Mr. Chairman,

Turkey supports the constructive policies of the Government of Pakistan to resume the composite dialogue process with India. This process should continue in joint search for mutually acceptable options for a negotiated peaceful settlement of all issues between the two countries, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, in a sincere and purposeful manner.

On the other hand, Turkey, as a member of the OIC Peace Committee for the Southern Philippines, also continues to follow developments in this area closely and strongly supports the tripartite dialogue process between the concerned parties.

Mr. Chairman,

Weapons of mass destruction and terrorism continue to pose grave threats for all of us.

Turkey believes in the merit of the establishment of zones free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction wherever practically feasible. President Gül recently reiterated in his speech in the Parliament of Bahrain Turkey’s call for  the establishment of an effectively verifiable zone free of all such weapons and their means of delivery in the Middle East.  We encourage all efforts aimed at developing a common regional understanding on this project with the participation of all parties concerned.

On the other hand, terrorism which is a global phenomenon and a crime against humanity continues to constitute a common threat. We stand by our firm conviction that terrorism cannot be identified with any particular religion, race, nationality or region and that there can be no justification for any act of terrorism. International solidarity and cooperation in combating terrorism is imperative and all countries must assume their responsibilities in this regard. 

We are also determined to combat the rising tide of Islamophobia, xenophobia and discrimination against Muslims that often affiliates terrorism with our peace loving faith. It is incumbent on us to project the true image of Islam and protect it from defamation.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to note lastly that this year we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC).  President Gül, in his capacity as Chairman of COMCEC, will host a COMCEC Economic Summit on November 9, 2009 in Istanbul to commemorate this important anniversary. The Economic Summit will be organized in the format of an open-ended OIC Executive Committee meeting at the level of Heads of States. The Economic Summit will be preceded by the 25th COMCEC Ministerial Session. Attendance by the OIC heads of states will reflect the importance of this event and give the 25th Anniversary of COMCEC the attention it deserves.
 
I congratulate Tajikistan and Kazakhstan who will host the subsequent OIC Council of Foreign Ministers respectively in 2010 and 2011. In this context, I would like to take this opportunity to remind the brotherly OIC Member States of Turkey’s desire to host, for the first time ever, the Summit of the OIC to be held in 2014.

Distinguished colleagues,

We, the members of the OIC, are blessed with the richness of our cultural heritage as well as with vast human and natural resources that we possess. However, in spite of this richness and geopolitical/geo-strategic advantages that we have, the Islamic world, unfortunately, stands as a by-stander in the face of global developments; reacting to them, rather than shaping them or influencing their outcome. There is no such thing as “this doesn’t concern us,” or “let others do and we follow.” We must stand ready and available, leading and guiding every issue that concerns our world; be it security issues, environmental issues, human right issues, or any other issue that may concern humanity.

Distinguished colleagues,

- Let us hope that our organization will be an action oriented one.
- Let us make sure that from now on we will be proactive, rather than reactive in our common action.
- Let us join our forces together and come up with a comprehensive plan of action, capable of solving problems.
- Let us work together to make the OIC a leading force in all issues pertaining to humanity and our world.

This is our vision for the OIC. And, this is the path that Turkey will continue to pursue with full determination.

Thank you very much.