His Excellency Vecdi Gönül
Minister of Defense of Turkey
Every era, like every person, has its own characteristics. This is what the eminent German philosopher Hegel refers to as the “zeitgeist,” the “spirit of time.” The spirit of our time is characterized by globalization and thus a need for further cooperation.
As the 21st century ends its first decade, the world faces a dynamic and somewhat uncertain security environment. The threat of global war has receded and the core values of the western societies such as representative democracy and market economics are embraced in many parts of the world. Former adversaries now cooperate with the Western world across a range of security issues.
Nevertheless, the world faces a complex and fragile security environment. Conventional threats are now accompanied by new risks such as terrorism, fundamentalism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal immigration, climate change, water and energy scarcity.
Due to her geographical location straddling three continents, three seas and different cultures, Turkey has been closely affected by all these developments.
THE GLOBALIZATION OF PROBLEMS
One of the most important problems of our world is the globalization of terror and its transformation into a threat which has the potential to destroy our economic, political and social order.
Today terrorism constitutes one of the gravest challenges to all nations. It is obvious that the international community cannot defeat terrorism without unwavering determination and close international cooperation. While we take measures to protect our people, societies and states from these threats, respect for international law and human dimension commitments must continue to lie at the heart of our efforts.
In order to tackle terrorism, what needs to be done is to engage in more effective and rapid cooperation on matters such as closing down the frontal organizations of the terrorist organization, curtailing its financial resources and denying it the means of propaganda.
Increasing efforts on nuclear disarmament is the first and foremost step to be taken against the risk of nuclear terrorism. In this respect, the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency should be strengthened and the comprehensive ban on nuclear tests should be put into effect.
Turkey defends the right of all countries to benefit from the peaceful use of nuclear energy. On the other hand, bearing in mind the serious consequences of the proliferation of nuclear weapons for the whole world, we also call upon all countries to act responsibly. We believe that matters concerning nuclear programs still can be solved through dialogue, engagement, and diplomacy.
The process of integration and globalization has placed the migration issue high on our agenda. We need to develop more effective and multi-dimensional migration policies with the active participation of civil society and enhance our cooperation. We must not forget that when we deal with migration, we deal with human beings and with their inherent dignity.
Environmental problems, which may have global impacts, are complex and often interrelated with socio-economic factors. These problems, such as water and air pollution, the generation of solid and hazardous waste, soil degradation, and climate change do not recognize political borders and pose major threats to human safety, health and productivity.
Addressing the global environmental problems requires national efforts as well as international collaboration on both bilateral and multilateral levels. It also needs the active participation of all members of the international community.
Access to alternative sources of energy, diversification of energy supplies, routes and transportation, have become integral components in our efforts to consolidate the security and stability of our countries.
Turkey forms a natural energy bridge between the source countries and consumer markets and stands as a key country in ensuring energy security through diversification of resources and routes.
Major pipeline projects that are already completed and others under construction are enhancing Turkey’s role as a transit country on the Eurasia energy axis in the region. These projects will undoubtedly contribute to Europe’s energy supply security as well.
REGIONAL INSTABILITIES AS GLOBAL THREATS
Regional instabilities are among the main challenges threatening our globalized world. As a dynamic and responsible member of today’s world, Turkey is doing her best to reconcile the West with the East and the North with the South.
In the past, the Balkan Peninsula was identified with turmoil, ethnic unrest and a large-scale civil war. Today, the countries of the region seem to realize the importance of bilateral and multilateral cooperation for peace and stability. Prospects for EU and NATO memberships are the most important incentives for this change in the region.
Nevertheless, the complex political and social structures of the Balkan states lead to a fragile equilibrium in Southeast Europe. We have little choice but to help consolidate stability and prosperity in the region through efficiently functioning defense, law enforcement and governing structures.
In the immediate vicinity of Turkey, grave and persistent problems in the Caucasus and Middle East can erupt at any moment despite all the efforts that are made to attain lasting peace and stability.
Unresolved conflicts in the Caucasus region continue to threaten the security and stability of our continent. The war in Georgia in 2008 was a reminder that the so-called frozen conflicts are not so frozen after all. Since these conflicts have different roots, different historical and political backgrounds, they need to be addressed within their own parameters. On the other hand, the relevant international norms and principles applicable to all of them must be consistent. Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity must constitute the bedrock of any settlement.
In the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia continues to disregard the U.N. Security Council resolutions by occupying twenty percent of Azerbaijan’s territory. Turkey supports direct and indirect bilateral talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia for a peaceful settlement of the conflict and stands ready to support any solution that would be acceptable to both countries.
We have sought not only to normalize relations with Armenia but also to move them to a new level as an indicator of good neighborly relations. We believe that peace and stability cannot be established in the Caucasus if all wheels do not turn at the same time. With this in mind, our aim is to lay the groundwork for improving relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. We hope that with progress in the Turkish-Armenian relations, Armenians will be relieved to see that Turkey does not have a secret agenda and this may encourage them to adopt a positive stance in the settlement of their issues with Azerbaijan.
The relations between Turkey and Russia, two important states in the Eurasian region and Black Sea basin, are rapidly advancing in all fields. Russia has become the biggest foreign trade partner of Turkey. In many areas, from energy to contracting services, we are in full collaboration with Russia.
The establishment of a lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East as well as the evolution of this geographic area into a stable and prosperous region is the shared desire and goal of the international community. Turkey believes that the major tools to this end must be dialogue and cooperation.
Since the Palestinian issue is at the center of all regional problems, we believe that the permanent establishment of peace and stability in the Middle East is not possible without resolving this issue first. Within this context, Turkey has been a strong supporter of the Middle East peace process from the very beginning, viewing it as a golden opportunity. The current level of relations with Syria, with whom we have the longest border in the Middle Eastern region, is one of the obvious examples of our policy. In the recent past, the two countries were on the verge of war. Today we have started to display a cooperation that will become a precedent for the region. First we abolished the visas between the two countries, and we signed 51 agreements in different sectors.We have also taken steps forward with Iraq by establishing a Strategic Cooperation Council in 2008 with the goal of bringing our bilateral relations to a higher level. We have signed 48 memoranda in several areas from security to energy and agriculture to trade in order to enhance the cooperation between the two countries.
We closely follow the discussions about the nuclear program of our neighbor, Iran. Last month, Turkey, Brazil and Iran signed an agreement over nuclear fuel swap. This development has increased our optimism that a peaceful solution to this problem can be found. If Iran is to alleviate concerns related to its nuclear program, it should demonstrate the necessary transparency at every stage. Turkey is ready to further contribute to resolve the problem through its diplomatic channels.
In the same way, we closely follow the situation in Afghanistan and the developments in Pakistan. We support the struggle against extremism of the peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with whom we enjoy historical and brotherly ties. We sustain our infrastructure investments in order to help the two countries achieve the prosperity they deserve.
Before concluding, let me tell you a short joke: A man goes to the doctor and says, “Doctor, wherever I touch, it hurts.” “What do you mean?” the doctor asks. The man answers, “When I touch my shoulder, it really hurts. If I touch my knee, it also hurts! When I touch my forehead, it really, really hurts.” The doctor replies, “I know what is wrong with you-you have broken your finger!”
So in order to tackle a problem or a conflict, you have to define it correctly first.
To sum up, the global problems of our age require global scale solutions. The problems our world faces today are extremely challenging. However, none is insurmountable.
Indeed, we can make the 21st century an era which is ruled by peace instead of wars; trust instead of fear; justice instead of injustice; and prosperity instead of hunger and poverty. It is our common responsibility and historic duty to participate in the construction of such a world, regardless of our language, religion and nationality differences. Our famous Turkish poet, Nazım Hikmet, expressed it in this way: “To live like a tree, alone and free and brotherly like the trees of a forest.”