Muslim's election to lead PACE important signal for Europe, FM says

STRASBOURG – Hürriyet Daily News | 1/31/2010 12:00:00 AM | FULYA ÖZERKAN

Turkey's FM Davutoğlu stops over in Strasbourg to visit new PACE chairman Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu at the Council of Europe and extends the Turkish government’s support and congratulations. 'The election of a Muslim is an important development for European culture,' Davutoğlu says

For the first time in the history of the Council of Europe, a Muslim has been elected president of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, or PACE. The vote is a positive development and meaningful signal for Europe amid rising racism and Islamophobia, according to Turkey’s foreign minister.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who is the chairman of the PACE Turkey delegation and a deputy of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, from the southern province of Antalya, has replaced Spanish parliamentarian Luis Maria de Puig as the president of the PACE for two years.

“Mr. Çavuşoğlu is the first parliamentarian elected not only from Turkey but from east of Vienna. All PACE chairmen have thus far been elected from west of Vienna. This is a source of pride for us but also for Eastern Europe and the Balkans,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told a joint press conference with Çavuşoğlu.

Davutoğlu made a stopover in Strasbourg late Friday, after attending an international conference in London, and visited Çavuşoğlu at the Council of Europe, extending the Turkish government’s support and congratulations for his new mission.

“The election of a Muslim is an important development for European culture,” said Davutoğlu in response to a question.

“This is nothing new for us. We, in fact, do not see any contradiction between our own identity and that of Europe, but today when we take a look at the latest developments in Europe, from the minaret ban to rising racism and Islamophobia, the vote should actually be interpreted as a significant development for Europe,” Davutoğlu said.

He said Islam was Europe’s second-largest religion. “Çavuşoğlu’s election as a Muslim is an important and meaningful signal for Europe. We carry our two identities as Muslim and European very easily without feeling any complex,” said Davutoğlu.

Çavuşoğlu has been a member of PACE for the past two terms and is known for his active contributions to various committees. Turkey will assume the term presidency of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers for six months as of November 2010. Davutoğlu, who will chair the committee, said this is a result of Turkey’s rising importance on the European continent.

Turkey’s growing role in the Middle East and outside is resulting with more Turkish representation at international platforms. Turkey is at present holding a non-permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and Turkey’s Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu is leading one of the world’s largest Muslim organization, the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Also, a Turkish diplomat, Ahmet Üzümcü, is chairing the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

For his part, Çavuşoğlu said he believes the Turkish government will carry on with reforms when a Turk is chairing PACE and stressed that Turkey is urgently in need of a new civilian constitution.



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