Middle East Peace Process

The establishment of a lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East as well as the evolution of this geography into a stable and prosperous region is the shared desire and goal of the international community. In fact, this is what is essentially and primarily needed for the security of all countries of the region. Turkey believes that dialogue and cooperation must be the major tools to this end. It is evident that other methods do not contribute to bringing desired peace, security and stability the region. On the contrary, they make the ongoing chaos and conflict even worse.

Within this context, Turkey, from the very beginning, has been a strong supporter of the Middle East peace process, viewing it as a golden opportunity. Accordingly, Turkey has not only tried to develop bilateral relations in the region, but also deployed efforts for the creation of an atmosphere conducive to regional cooperation. 

Turkey desires earnestly a just and lasting settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which lies beneath the problems in the Middle East, through mutual negotiations on the basis of a vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognized borders, and in the framework of the relevant Resolutions of the UN Security Council (242, 338, 1397, 1515), the principle of land for peace, the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative. Moreover, Turkey wishes the completion of the Middle East Peace Process through concurrent revitalization of peace talks in other tracks, such as Israel-Syria and Israel-Lebanon.

Our country, as a facilitator in the search for peace, remains at equal distance to both parties with regard to the conflict. This is mainly why Turkey enjoys the confidence of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Turkey is convinced that what lies beneath the current crisis between Palestine and Israel is the crisis of confidence. Turkey avails herself of her good relationships with both parties of the conflict and strives for building confidence between the sides. Turkey is not only among the first group of countries that recognized the Palestinian State established in exile in 1988, but she is also the first country with a Muslim poopulation that recognized the State of Israel in 1949 following its foundation.  

In the aftermath of the end of the Cold War, Turkey welcomed the first and the second Oslo arrangements of 1993 and 1995 that followed the 1991 Madrid Conference which opened a new page in the Middle East Peace Process. In this framework, Turkey has given her full support to the efforts for the success of the process since 1991, while, in accordance with her historical mission, she maintains her good relationships that are predicated on the principle of good will with not only Israel, but also Palestine and the other Arab countries. Turkey’s good ties with all sides represent a versatile tool for a future accomplishment of endeavours to establish an environment of confidence between the parties.

The negotiation process which was interrupted by the Second Intifada in Palestine in 2000 was re-launched by the conference that was gathered in Annapolis, USA, on 26-27 November 2007. The conference took place with the participation of 46 countries and a number of international organizations. Turkey was represented by Foreign Minister Mr. Ali Babacan at the conference, who paid a series of visits in October to Syria, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait respectively, in the run-up to the conference.

Turkey continues to make contributions in the political arena as well, to the endeavours for the establishment of peace. Within this framework, Turkey supported the convention of and the political process started by the Annapolis Conference. At Annapolis, a compromise between Israel and Palestine was reached on the “Common Understanding” document, the text of which was read by President Bush. In that agreement, it is aspired to start at once the bilateral negotiations with good will to ensure the conclusion of a peace agreement that would achieve the settlement without exception of any unresolved issue including all the fundamental matters in the context of advancing the target of two states living side by side in peace and security. 

Turkey supported this meeting as an opportunity for peace from the date it was offered. Turkey also announced that we were ready to make the necessary contribution to the post-conference process.

Turkey is convinced that completion of the steps taken in the political field is solely possible through the implementation of the context of the economic dimension of the Middle East Peace Process. Therefore, Turkey attaches utmost importance to the establishment of the economic and institutional infrastructure of the future Palestinian State.   

On 17 December 2007, International Donors’ Conference for the Palestinian State” was organized in Paris by the co-presidencies of the French and Norwegian Foreign Ministers, Representative of the Middle Eastern Quartet, Tony Blair and the European Commission. Turkey attended the conference by the delegation headed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Babacan and pledged US$ 150 million of financial aid in the context of the Palestine Reform and Development Plan that was presented by the Prime Minister of the Palestine National Authority (PNA), Mr. Selam Fayyad. In the conference, a donation of approximately US$ 7.7 billion was pledged for Palestine.

The most conspicious indicator of Turkey’s contributions to the endeavours for the restoration of peace in the economic field is the series of projects to aiming to establish industrial zones in Palestine through the Ankara Forum. Ankara Forum was founded with Turkey’s initiative in 2005 with the participation of the businessmen from Turkey (Union of Stock Markets and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey-TOBB), Israel (Israel Manufacturers’ Union) and Palestine (Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Trade). To date, the Forum has conducted seven meetings following the initial one in Ankara on 27 April 2005. The following meetings of the Forum were held in Jerusalem on 8 June 2005, in İstanbul on 20-21 September 2005, in Tel Aviv on 15 January 2007, in Washington DC on 30 March 2007, in Jerusalem on 4 September 2007 and in Ankara on 13 November 2007. In the final meeting of the Forum held in Ankara on 13 November 2007 under the co-presidencies of President Abdullah Gül, President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres and the President of the PNA Mahmoud Abbas, the decision for the establishment of an industrial zone in Tarqumia/West Bank was adopted by the signatory parties. The revitalization project of the Erez Industrial Zone had been suspended due to the conditions following the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas. The Tarqumia project was included by Quartet Representative Tony Blair among the four “Quick Impact Projects” that had to be primarily supported for development in Palestine.

Ankara Forum’s “Industry for peace” projects will help creation of jobs in Palestine and drawing investments to the region, hence, they will serve for the amelioration of the economic and social situation of the Palestinians and the development of the regional economy in the medium and long term. They will also serve as confidence-building measures that would facilitate the restoration of confidence between Israel and Palestine.

On the other hand, President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres and President of the PNA Mahmoud Abbas paid concurrent visits to our country on 11-13 November 2007 and 12-13 November 2007 respectively, as the official invitees of President Abdullah Gül, during the course of thier visits they addressed to the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 13 November 2007. These speeches had historical importance in terms of being the first speech ever delivered by an Israeli leader to the Parliament of a country with an overwhelmingly Muslim population, being an address made by a PNA President to the Turkish Parliament for the very first time, and being the very first speech that was delivered concurrently by the Israeli and the Palestinian Presidents in a foreign Parliament. The fact that these visits took place prior to the Annapolis Conference marked a distinctive meaning for the speeches.

Turkey is currently a member of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (Al Khalil), which was incepted in 1997 upon the consent and invitation by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Denmark, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are the other members of TIPH, which remains the sole international monitoring mechanism in the region.

Intense diplomatic efforts are conducted for the settlement of the question of Palestine, while our assistance activities for the Palestinian people are sustained in an increasing manner. For the regulation of these assistance activities, an Action Plan was adopted in December 2003 and in 2005 former Minister of State Vehbi Dinçerler was appointed as the Coordinator for Economic and Social Cooperation with Palestine. Moreover, an office of Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) was opened in Ramallah in May 2005. Small and medium-size projects were initiated to support the development of Palestine.