Alliance of Civilizations to support change in Arab world

Alliance of Civilizations to support change in Arab world

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Alliance of Civilizations to support change in Arab world

Upcoming Istanbul talks will focus on Arab Spring countries, said Gonzales-Aller. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Turkey and Spain are partnering up to direct the Alliance of Civilizations toward contributing to peaceful and democratic transitions in countries affected by the Arab Spring.

The pair, who initiated the United Nations-backed alliance, is currently mulling whether to form working groups that could help countries like Tunisia and Egypt in their transitions when the alliance meets in Istanbul on May 31 and June 1.

“At the Istanbul conference, the main objective is to raise funds but also [to explore] the possibility of seeing if we should establish new fields or new working groups in order to seek new ways of cooperation [on the] Arab Spring,” Cristobal Gonzales-Aller, Spain’s ambassador to Turkey, recently told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The ambassador said they were aiming for peaceful and democratic transformation in these countries, especially in regards to the youth, education, universities, society and the role of women.

The Turkish and Spanish foreign ministers have discussed what the alliance could add to the Arab Spring, the ambassador said, adding that the initiative should focus more on the prospects for the countries involved.

Gonzales-Aller said the alliance’s initial goal was “preventive diplomacy in order to try to get different civilizations to get to know each other and to find common ground in order to avoid conflicts.”

“Now, the idea is not only the objective to change views on how to prevent conflicts, but also, once conflicts are over, to try to see in which way the alliance could serve in those internal democratization processes,” he said.

The alliance will discuss what role it can play so that Arab Spring countries can develop “internal and social cohesion, economic well-being and a more democratic society in the end,” he said.

“It may be easier to do that in Tunisia and Egypt taking into account their internal situation [before moving onto] Libya. But for Syria, the internal situation is very difficult,” he said.

Spain to continue initiative with Turkey
The new Spanish foreign minister had initially questioned the effectiveness of the alliance following recent elections, but the government has now realized the real added value of the initiative and has decided to continue leading the process with Turkey, the ambassador said.

In March, responding to a question from a Spanish deputy, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said: “The Alliance of Civilizations seems not to have been planned in advance or in detail. I don’t know what to do with the Alliance of Civilizations.”

Gonzales-Aller said the new government had been critical of the alliance when it was in the opposition.
“What happens is that when the opposition comes to power, they become much more realistic,” he said, adding that his government then realized that it was a very well-established initiative.

“Since the very beginning, I can assure you that Turkey has been very open and frank in asking us if Spain was going to keep on working and leading this initiative with Turkey. The answer was ‘we have to study and analyze it. We will honor a compromise, but we want to know what this initiate is about and about the objectives accomplished by the initiative,’” he said.

Garcia-Margallo then sent a letter to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, saying: “Perhaps my words were too outspoken. We are looking forward to continuing working with Turkey,” the ambassador said.

The most important objective of the upcoming Istanbul conference is to see how many countries will support the initiative and with how much money, he said, but noted that Spain would probably promise less this year because of its depressed economic situation.

But countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and some European countries are increasing their financial contributions, he said.