Rise of diplomacy in the age of conflicts
In his magnificent book titled “The Mediterranean,” French historian Fernand Braudel successfully explains the Mediterranean World by combining economic, psychological, social, political and diplomatic approaches and sophisticatedly concludes how unity is born out of diversity in the greater basin.
In today’s world, the Mediterranean, one of the most beautiful corners of the world, is remembered more for troubles than for its beauty and for conflicts rather than peace. Most of the current conflicts in the world are taking place in and around the Mediterranean, such as Libya, Syria, Palestine and Cyprus, etc. The Mediterranean is also referred to as a sea where dozens of refugees die every day while trying to migrate to Europe for a better life.
It was therefore a very symbolic decision to hold Turkey’s first diplomatic forum in Antalya, located on the Mediterranean coast, where participants from all over the world discussed not only regional issues but also all global problems -- symmetrical and asymmetrical.
The three-day Antalya Diplomacy Forum, hosted by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in its first physical convention, brought 11 heads of state and governments, 45 foreign ministers, senior representatives from 60 international organizations as well as hundreds of diplomats, prominent academics and businessmen together under the title of “Innovative diplomacy: New era, new approaches.”
In his closure speech on the last day of the forum, Çavuşoğlu said, “I believe we have made a solid contribution to the intellectual infrastructure for the solution of global problems at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.”
Almost all panelists rightly emphasized the need for more diplomacy and more engagement in today’s world, where regional conflicts accompany terrorism and expanding criminal networks pose a major threat to the global order. The world has become more unpredictable with problems such as migration, climate change, economic injustice and increasing poverty, and it is irreversibly changing societies and politics.
Global problems require global responses, and human intellectual capacity is needed to resolve all problems caused by mankind. That requires mutual will and acceptance of the other, as agreed by almost all panelists.
It was therefore good to hear from Afghanistan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar about the ongoing efforts for a deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban on the conditions that the latter will stop its terror acts and violence. Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush’s optimism for the upcoming Berlin II Conference, where the international community will help Libya to move forward and hold elections later this year is a good indication as well. She hailed the progress made in the past year for the unification of the rival political sides over a joint narrative on the future of Libya.
It was also inspiring to listen to Qatari and Kuwaiti foreign ministers about the “innovative mediation” with an emphasis on the need for new methods in trying to end the regional or bilateral conflicts. The overall emphasis was paid on the necessity of the implementation of more efficient and coherent diplomacy.
But Maltese Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo drew attention to a more urgent issue as he spoke at a panel on the prospects of an international conference for the solution of the current maritime-related problems of the Mediterranean.
“I would say one of the biggest emergencies we have is a co-existential crisis. I think it has become a huge challenge to live together. If we do not understand each other, our cultures, our politics and our geography then we will repeat the past,” he told at the panel. “I think we have become strangers to ourselves let alone to others.”
On diplomacy, he was straightforward. “I am too old to think of diplomacy as a romantic soap opera that we will all hug each other and happily live together ever after. But is the alternative to tearing each other apart? […] We need a difficult act of civilization for enemies to become human beings. It’s very important. If we can learn something from great Nelson Mandela is that ‘If you have problems, you either go to war or - however difficult it is - you sit down with your enemies to become partners.”
As Bartolo underlined precisely, there is no alternative. Diplomacy, a legacy of the Mediterranean culture, is still the only way to make the world a livable place.