Demirel emphasizes strong regional ties

Demirel emphasizes strong regional ties

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Demirel emphasizes strong regional ties

Süleyman Demirel served as Turkish president between 1993 and 2000.

Turkey’s relationship with Central Asian countries should be further reinforced, former President Süleyman Demirel has said, referring to these ties as a “bridge of hearts” between Anatolia and Central Asia.

“More significance should be attached to our relations with Central Asia. A very beautiful bridge of hearts has been built, and a score of good things has been accomplished in the last 20 years. So at a moment when we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of this relationship, we should further strengthen this bridge,” Demirel told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on April 10 on the occasion of the 15th Eurasian Economic Summit, which is being held in Istanbul.

Demirel helped Turkey reach out to the newly independent countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia. He is still involved with a number organizations tasked with developing ties between Turkey and these regions.

Could you describe the current political environment in the world?

2011 was a very difficult year. The economic crisis rocked so many countries around the world. Waves of terrorism hit, and of course poverty was another major concern. When reviewing the important incidents of 2011, we should emphasize that these took place between the peoples and their rulers. And we should also pay attention to the entire world’s approach to these incidents. Some foreign forces did intervene and topple the rulers of countries, despite the principle that sovereignty unconditionally belongs to a nation. It was not a good campaign. It began with Saddam Hussein, and then came others. Why? Foreign forces see themselves as authorized to correct things in other countries which they believe are not to their benefit. The United States has become the world’s gendarmerie, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks.

And in Turkey?

In Turkey, 2011 was full of bloody terrorist acts. Too much bloodshed… Unfortunately Turkey has not been able to find a peaceful solution to the problem for the last 25 years. I have no intention of being a demagogue here, but that is the reality: There is still blood. On such a vital issue, it’s normal that we should expect cooperation from our neighbors. They have sometimes supported us, sometimes not. It’s a very interesting thing to see how friendship is exercised. That’s why Turkey has expressed its intention to use its power for both regional and global peace through cooperation with stable countries in its region.

How has the global economic crisis affected the world?

Compared with the rest of the world, the crisis did not affect Turkey very much. But of course if there is a crisis elsewhere, it will in one way or another have an impact on us. On the global scene, the crisis has been blocked before it expanded to every corner of the world. The world came to a point when it could declare that the crisis was over. But there are concerns these days. Although it has been stopped, no measures have been taken or even considered to prevent the repetition of a similar crisis.

How would you describe the role of China in the global economy?

China has become the most important factor in the world’s economic, social and political development in the last decade. In the last 25 years, or since the Chinese Communist Party Congress of 1977, China has grown at an average of 8 to 10 percent annually and closed its poverty gap. It sets a very successful example for other countries. They deserve the world’s kudos on the “Chinese miracle.” One concern, though, is to what extent and until when China will remain loyal to the principles of the democratic republic system. Will it return to militarism or belligerency?

What about the role of the U.S. and other powers?

Among the world’s 192 countries, the United States has the highest gross national product, followed by the European Union and China. There are estimations that Brazil, India, and Russia will also soon be among the top economies. Turkey, as a member of the G-20, is also an important economic player. We first applied to join the EU in 1959, but have been refused. The EU is a very important global institution. It was founded to end an era of wars between different European countries which were causing the destruction of the continent every 20 years. First it had an economic basis, but then it became a political organization. Even the Cold War could not dissolve Europe thanks to this organization. The EU should continue and Turkey should become a member of it without delay.

Another crucial development, as you mentioned at the beginning, is the Arab Spring. How do you evaluate this process?

What is the Arab Spring? What do they want? I think we should ask instead “What do they not want?” They do not want their current leadership. Then let’s topple all of them. How do we replace them? Let’s hold elections and whoever wins will be the new ruler. In those [Arab Spring] countries where elections have been held, the Muslim Brotherhood has been successful. This has caused particular concern among the elite in those countries, because if your regime is not secular, then you can’t establish a democratic order. Revision is necessary to make Islamic democratic models compatible with democratic republican systems. This is only possible by the separation of religion and the state. Both should operate in their own areas and be respectful of the other. One wishes to see these countries conclude this process within their borders and without bloodshed.

How do you evaluate current state of Turkey’s ties with Israel?

Relations between Turkey and Israel should be normalized. A ruined relationship between these two countries is to neither side’s advantage. To the contrary, it’s detrimental to both sides.

What are the factors affecting world politics?

One of is the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The U.S. is very concerned that nuclear weapons might be obtained by some terrorist organization. I think not only the U.S. but all countries should be concerned about this possibility. The other factor I can name is oil. When I became prime minister in 1965, oil cost only $1.25 per barrel, and we enjoyed this until 1972. Then it climbed to $20, and fluctuated between $80-150. The world spent almost its entire savings on oil during these years. Now there is a need for alternative energy sources. I believe nuclear energy will serve this purpose.

Yet another factor is the future. A total of 128 countries receive funds from an institution called Official Development Assistance [ODA]. The sum of its funding is not more than $100 billion. This is not the proper way to fight poverty. I urge the world’s clever, rich intellectuals to take the job of development seriously. If the world cannot deal with it logically, then it will never stop fighting massive migration.

As for the future of Turkey? What are its assets?

A: One of the world’s greatest issues is whether women are treated in a civilized way or with violence. Turkey is considered a great civilized country for the rights it has pledged to women. In addition, Turkey is a pro-peace country, but not at any price, of course. Like any country, it will certainly defend its rights if they are endangered. Turkey is not a vengeful country either. The great [Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk’s maxim should not be forgotten: “War is murder if there is no vital obligation [to wage war].” We want peace, that’s all.