Middle East will get democracy eventually: Senior Turkish diplomat
Cansu Çamlıbel - ISTANBULDemocracy will ultimately come to the Middle East in spite of the issues that the region is facing at present, Turkey’s former ministry undersecretary, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, has said after recently becoming Turkey’s permanent representative at the United Nations.
“We also see that this multicultural region needs a secular and democratic future on the basis of freedom of religion and belief,” Sinirlioğlu recently told daily Hürriyet.
“The Arab Spring, which started in 2011, also began with the same demand. People were demanding democracy. Democracy and secularism both remained on the agenda. At the beginning, this process created a mood of optimism … But right after, great pessimism appeared. Both optimism and pessimism were the wrong approach,” he said.
Suggestions that the region’s culture does not accord with democracy are wrong, if not racist, Sinirlioğlu said.
“The process of finding common ground with democracies in the southern and eastern Mediterranean, which began in 2011, and the northern Mediterranean will continue. But the Middle East will eventually get a secular democracy established as a reflection of the people’s consent and will. This process may take time. We should not forget that the democratization process in Eastern Europe took 10 years after the Cold War. We should be patient about some of our expectations and we should not lose sight of the target,” he added.
Sinirlioğlu also said it was Iraq that invited Turkey to the Bashiqa training camp in the country against militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The topic has recently become an issue of contention between Ankara and Baghdad.
“Iraq’s defense minister and Iraq prime minister demanded help from Turkey to train and arm local elements in the region against the ISIL threat, despite the claims by Iraq. This demand was also expressed to me. The Bashiqa camp was founded within this framework. Moreover, the salary of the people who were trained there was paid by the Iraqi Defense Ministry after the camp was founded. This process continued for three-four months. After that, an unnecessary reaction erupted for some reason. We maintained our cooperation and dialogue with the Iraqi government despite their reaction. We met twice with them to troubleshoot as part of our undersecretariat. A third meeting occurred at the beginning of last week in Baghdad,” he said.
Sinirlioğlu began his tenure on Oct. 21 after presenting his credentials to the U.N.’s outgoing secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.
In a meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, Ban greeted Sinirlioğlu with the Turkish greeting “Merhaba” and congratulated him on beginning his term.
Sinirlioğlu, who replaced Halit Çevik in June, is a career diplomat with vast experience in Turkish foreign policy.
Sinirlioğlu served as undersecretary at the Foreign Ministry for seven years. He also briefly assumed the role of foreign minister last year ahead of snap elections.