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Thursday, November 27, 2014

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Israelis, Palestinians said key to wider peace

Tags: International
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Ahmet Davutoglu

Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is the most important regional issue in the Middle East, and all efforts should be made to resolve it, Turkey’s foreign minister declared last week.

Calling for a two-state solution on the basis of the pre-1967 lines, with eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, Ahmet Davutoglu warned there will be no peace in the Mideast unless the Palestinian conflict is settled.

“If there is no peace in Jerusalem, there is no peace in the Middle East, and if there is no peace in the Middle East, there is no peace in the world,” he said in a speech sponsored by the Atlantic Council of Canada, the Atlantic Treaty Association and the consulate general of Turkey in Toronto.

 Lamenting that the promises of the 1993 Olso accords have been dashed, Davutoglu noted that a Palestinian state has yet to be established. “Arabs and Muslims are asking, ‘Where is the Palestinian state?’”

Instead, he claimed without elaborating, Palestinians have received “bombs and insults.”

“It’s time to solve the issue,” he added, saying that all Turks agree on the necessity of a Palestinian state.

Davutoglu, who has held his post since 2009, said no Arab state will ever consider making peace with Israel unless a viable Palestinian state is created in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “Israel should come to the negotiating table without preconditions,” he said.

Turkey understands Israel’s “security needs,” he noted, but the “dignity” of the Palestinians should be addressed through statehood.

In other comments, Davutoglu urged Israel to “integrate itself into the region,” scolded Israel for its settlement policy in the territories and stated that Jerusalem should be an “open city for all religions.”

Turning to Turkey’s strained bilateral relations with Israel, he acknowledged that a good Turkish-Israeli relationship would be an “asset” for the Mideast.

But it is incumbent on Israel to repair the damage caused by the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, during which Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish vessel trying to break Israel’s sie Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is the most important regional issue in the Middle East, and all efforts should be made to resolve it, Turkey’s foreign minister declared last week.

Calling for a two-state solution on the basis of the pre-1967 lines, with eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, Ahmet Davutoglu warned there will be no peace in the Mideast unless the Palestinian conflict is settled.

“If there is no peace in Jerusalem, there is no peace in the Middle East, and if there is no peace in the Middle East, there is no peace in the world,” he said in a speech sponsored by the Atlantic Council of Canada, the Atlantic Treaty Association and the consulate general of Turkey in Toronto.

 Lamenting that the promises of the 1993 Olso accords have been dashed, Davutoglu noted that a Palestinian state has yet to be established. “Arabs and Muslims are asking, ‘Where is the Palestinian state?’”

Instead, he claimed without elaborating, Palestinians have received “bombs and insults.”

“It’s time to solve the issue,” he added, saying that all Turks agree on the necessity of a Palestinian state.

Davutoglu, who has held his post since 2009, said no Arab state will ever consider making peace with Israel unless a viable Palestinian state is created in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. “Israel should come to the negotiating table without preconditions,” he said.

Turkey understands Israel’s “security needs,” he noted, but the “dignity” of the Palestinians should be addressed through statehood.

In other comments, Davutoglu urged Israel to “integrate itself into the region,” scolded Israel for its settlement policy in the territories and stated that Jerusalem should be an “open city for all religions.”

Turning to Turkey’s strained bilateral relations with Israel, he acknowledged that a good Turkish-Israeli relationship would be an “asset” for the Mideast.

But it is incumbent on Israel to repair the damage caused by the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, during which Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish vessel trying to break Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip and killed eight Turks and one Turkish American citizen in the process.

Describing Israel’s raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara as “an attack on the Turkish nation,” he asserted, “No army can touch Turkish civilians.”

Claiming that the current rift between Turkey and Israel can be mended, Davutoglu said, “They (Israel) know what they’re supposed to do.”

Israel should issue a formal apology to Turkey, pay compensation to the victims and end its naval blockade of Gaza. Turkey is ready to restore normal relations with Israel if it takes these steps, he said.

Davutoglu recalled that Turkey served as a mediator several years ago in an attempt to forge peace between Israel and Syria. If the 2008-09 war in Gaza had not broken out, he said, Israel and Syria could have moved from indirect to direct talks to iron out their problems, he said.

Criticizing Israel for not having informed Turkey of its intention to invade Gaza, he said, “Israel thought it could do what it wanted.”

Davutoglu claimed that “a culture of antisemitism” has never existed in Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire. Nor were Jews in Turkey ever herded into ghettos or subjected to discrimination, he said.

And during the Holocaust, he observed, Turkish diplomats in Europe helped Jews. “For us, it was a human responsibility.”

Reviewing the broad principles of Turkey’s more assertive and activist foreign policy, Davutoglu said Turkey – the only Muslim member of NATO – is trying to strike a balance between security and freedom and attempting to resolve long-simmering disputes with neighbouring countries such as Armenia.

Turkey’s guiding philosophy is “peace at home and peace in the world,” he said, citing a now-famous remark by one of its founders, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Turkey respects all nations and does not consider any countries, including old enemies like Greece or Russia, hostile, he explained. As he put it, “We have friends and potential friends.”

Concurring with the commonly held assumption that Turkey has become a major player in the Middle East, he said that no significant regional decisions can be taken without its input. “We have that ability and that right,” he said.

In a reference to the revolts that have convulsed the Arab world since 2011, Davutoglu said that Turkey opposes autocratic regimes and supports “the legitimate rights of the Arab people.”

He added, “We’re on the side of the people. Turkey will always be on the right side of history in humanitarian and strategic terms.”

He said that Turkey will use all its diplomatic means to ensure that democracy prevails in such countries as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, where popular rebellions overthrew dictators.

Turning to Syria, where a civil war has erupted pitting the Baathist government against a diverse band of rebels, Davutoglu lambasted Syrian President Bashar Assad for not having introduced real and lasting reforms.

Decrying the failure of the United Nations to stop the bloodshed in Syria, he admitted that the presence of more than 100,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey has become a “humanitarian tragedy.”

Davutoglu, the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Canada since 1998, urged Ottawa to expand bilateral ties with Ankara. “Our relationship is not developing fast enough. We’re ready for deeper relations with Canada. We want to have the best relations with Canada.”

He said Turkey wants to join the European Union as a full member and is prepared to wait for the day when Europe no longer rebuffs Turkish overtures.

“The European Union should be culturally inclusive and outward looking,” he said, noting that Turkey, with the world’s 16th largest economy, would not be an economic burden on the EU. ge of the Gaza Strip and killed eight Turks and one Turkish American citizen in the process.

Describing Israel’s raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara as “an attack on the Turkish nation,” he asserted, “No army can touch Turkish civilians.”

Claiming that the current rift between Turkey and Israel can be mended, Davutoglu said, “They (Israel) know what they’re supposed to do.”

Israel should issue a formal apology to Turkey, pay compensation to the victims and end its naval blockade of Gaza. Turkey is ready to restore normal relations with Israel if it takes these steps, he said.

Davutoglu recalled that Turkey served as a mediator several years ago in an attempt to forge peace between Israel and Syria. If the 2008-09 war in Gaza had not broken out, he said, Israel and Syria could have moved from indirect to direct talks to iron out their problems, he said.

Criticizing Israel for not having informed Turkey of its intention to invade Gaza, he said, “Israel thought it could do what it wanted.”

Davutoglu claimed that “a culture of antisemitism” has never existed in Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire. Nor were Jews in Turkey ever herded into ghettos or subjected to discrimination, he said.

And during the Holocaust, he observed, Turkish diplomats in Europe helped Jews. “For us, it was a human responsibility.”

Reviewing the broad principles of Turkey’s more assertive and activist foreign policy, Davutoglu said Turkey – the only Muslim member of NATO – is trying to strike a balance between security and freedom and attempting to resolve long-simmering disputes with neighbouring countries such as Armenia.

Turkey’s guiding philosophy is “peace at home and peace in the world,” he said, citing a now-famous remark by one of its founders, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Turkey respects all nations and does not consider any countries, including old enemies like Greece or Russia, hostile, he explained. As he put it, “We have friends and potential friends.”

Concurring with the commonly held assumption that Turkey has become a major player in the Middle East, he said that no significant regional decisions can be taken without its input. “We have that ability and that right,” he said.

In a reference to the revolts that have convulsed the Arab world since 2011, Davutoglu said that Turkey opposes autocratic regimes and supports “the legitimate rights of the Arab people.”

He added, “We’re on the side of the people. Turkey will always be on the right side of history in humanitarian and strategic terms.”

He said that Turkey will use all its diplomatic means to ensure that democracy prevails in such countries as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, where popular rebellions overthrew dictators.

Turning to Syria, where a civil war has erupted pitting the Baathist government against a diverse band of rebels, Davutoglu lambasted Syrian President Bashar Assad for not having introduced real and lasting reforms.

Decrying the failure of the United Nations to stop the bloodshed in Syria, he admitted that the presence of more than 100,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey has become a “humanitarian tragedy.”

Davutoglu, the first Turkish foreign minister to visit Canada since 1998, urged Ottawa to expand bilateral ties with Ankara. “Our relationship is not developing fast enough. We’re ready for deeper relations with Canada. We want to have the best relations with Canada.”

He said Turkey wants to join the European Union as a full member and is prepared to wait for the day when Europe no longer rebuffs Turkish overtures.

“The European Union should be culturally inclusive and outward looking,” he said, noting that Turkey, with the world’s 16th largest economy, would not be an economic burden on the EU.

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