Turkish president: World not doing enough for Syria

Turkish president: World not doing enough for Syria

Turkish president: World not doing enough for Syria

President Abdullah Gül (L) receives the key to the city from San Francisco Mayor Edwin Mah Lee on May 22. AA photo

The international community is not doing enough to help resolve the Syrian crisis, Turkish President Abdullah Gül said on May 22, as he urged an orderly transition to democracy.

“The international community as whole has so far performed poorly in providing an effective response to the crisis at hand,” Gül said in a public address following the NATO summit in Chicago, Agence France-Presse reported.

Gül said Turkey is doing “all it can to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people,” including hosting close to 25,000 Syrians who “fled from the regime’s campaign of violence.” He deplored the fact that “scores of people are dying in pursuit of their rights and dignity” in Syria and said it is the responsibility of the international community to support the Syrian people’s journey to democracy.

“The six-point Annan Plan might still be the last chance for an orderly transition in Syria if it is urgently implemented in all its aspects, including an effective ceasefire, free political activity and the exercise of democratic rights,” Gül told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “Once this is achieved, I believe a relatively peaceful political transition can be reached in Syria.”

Turkey is “highly concerned” about nuclear proliferation and continues to call for the establishment of a “weapons of mass destruction free zone,” which would include both Iran and Israel, Gül said.

Turkey supports Iran’s right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and the Iranians need to be “transparent” in assuring the international community that their program is only for non-military applications, Gül said. “There is no military solution to this problem. Any such move would not only further complicate the matter at hand, but would also create new layers of conflict in our region and beyond.” Gül said the solution is to “close the gap of confidence on both sides and pave the way for a meaningful process of dialogue.”

Gül also acknowledged that the “jury is still out” as to whether the Arab Spring will lead to the establishment of “functioning democracies,” and said it is likely that the region will see “certain ups and downs along the way.” Turkey will provide active leadership in the transition, just as it had during the revolutions, he said. “Given the high rate of sympathy we enjoy in these countries, we not only share our own experience but also provide tangible assistance to them in the form of economic cooperation and political capacity building.”

“In particular, we are sharing with them our approach to religious freedom and secularism, and the way we have turned those notions into an ultimate assurance of democratic pluralism and harmony between the state and society.” Libya in particular faces a “huge task” in the months and years ahead, he said.

“They have to set up a new order and this doesn’t happen without pain,” Gül said. “It takes a while to get things going and it’s not always a very easy process.” However, upcoming elections will be an important step and Gül said he hopes the new political leaders will “value their people.” 

During the Arab uprisings, Gül said Turkey took a strategic decision and sided with the people, the Anatolia news agency reported. Whenever the people’s legitimate demands are not met, Turkey united powers to make them reach those demands, he said. He also denied the claims that Turkey’s axis has shifted from West to East, saying that “we have shifted our accent and actions, not our axis.” He said Turkey’s axis is fixed to the values it shares with the free world, and that EU membership is still a strategic goal.

NATO missile shield ‘well-justified’

Speaking of the NATO’s missile defense shield, Gül said that the program is “well-justified” in the current circumstances of international security, adding that Turkey is determined to make any contributions it can make to the program. Gül said Turkey’s loyalty to NATO can never be questioned, recalling that the country recently agreed to host a long-range radar system as part of the missile shield. Gül said that the defense system meant no hostility or aggression against any specific country. “On the contrary, we consider this decision as a defense project designed to protect peoples of the members of the Alliance,” he said.