Turkish Amb. Namik Tan:
The U.S. needs to rely more on alliances and soft power than it has until now.
Turkey is a country with many friends in its region and around the world and with a booming economy… The highest growth rate in the OECD. The only government that didn’t have to intervene in the financial sector during the recent crisis. Construction sector second only to China’s… Pipeline projects, etc.
The alliance between Turkey and the U.S. is extremely powerful. It acts at the economic and cultural levels and is very important for both parties, including in defusing the idea of a clash of civilizations.
… We have now been moving to strengthen and modernize our strategic relationship with the United States.
There has recently been a spate of op-eds suggesting a “shift of axis” by Turkey. Turkey’s western orientation is irreversible. Our application to the EU represents our commitment to freedom and democracy and has been very substantially completed. Our commitment to NATO is longstanding.
Our policy of Zero prblems with the Neighbors is inclusive and is not limited by religion or nationality. Our relations with Armenia have improved; with Azerbaijan… Greece, Syria, etc.
With Israel we had a trade volume of $5.5 billion in 2008. This is unprecedented. One of our very important trade partners, as well as its political importance to our country…
We are directly affected by conflicts in our region, whether Iraq, Lebanon, Bosnia, Arab-Israeli conflict, or Iranian nuclear developments. So we do what we can to mediate differences between for example Afghanistan and Pakistan, or between different groups on Iraq, or between Syria and Israel, and so on.
Our relations with the US and the EU complement our relations in Central Asia or with Russia. These are complementary, not competitive relations.
About the Middle East: We enjoy deep relations in the region. We are not outsiders. Our common bjective is to transform the region into one of peace and prosperity. Sadly the Islamic world has been a bystander to the development of world civilizations in recent decades but now it is starting to emerge. Turkey is proud of its role within the OIC [the Organization of the Islamic Conference], including our call for the creation of a human-rights body in the OIC…
We need a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East. It will help make the region into one of peace prosperity. We cannot ignore the yearning of the Palestinians for independence and freedom. The peace process has to move forward rapidly. Otherwise it will move backwards and lead to a new explosion.
We strongly believe the blockade on Gaza should be lifted, allowing the 1.5 million Palestinians living there to live a dignified life…
regarding our relations with Israel. Turkey has been the first Muslim country to recognize Israel– right after the United States. [He was previously ambassador to Israel.] It has continued for 63 years. This on the basis of a 500-year friendship between the Turks and the Jews. Now this relationship jeopardized by the Israeli attack on the civilian aid convoy that left nine Turkish citizens including one joint US-Turkish citizen dead. This the first time a state attacks Turkish civilians in peace time.
The Gaza convoy was not an initiative of the Turkish government. It was non-governmental; and it was not only Turkish. The Mavi Marmara had passengers from 33 countries. Among the 600 participants in the flotilla were many leading citizens from many countries including an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor. This happened in international waters.
Israel must apologize for those killings, and accept the international enquiry as called for by the secretary General.
Israel is now heading for greater isolation and risks losing its friendship with Turkey.
The ball is not in our court. It’s in Israel’s court: How does it see its relationship with Turkey? And how does it see its policy on the Palestinian issue? As Pres. Obama has said, the Palestinian issue enflames passions in many parts of the Muslim world including in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Now, on the Iranian nuclear issue. This is another hot topic.
We are against Iranian nuclearization. We are the only western country that’s capable of conveying the demands of the P5+1 to Tehran… We have fulfilled nearly all the conditions and concerns Obama laid out in the parallel letters he sent to Pres. Lula and he sent a similar letter to our prime minister.
We are against sanctions. We have suffered from sanctions in the past; and we will be the ones to suffer most from sanctions against Iran. We think that given our stake we should have a place at the table.
Also if we’d supported the sanctions, this new window of opportunity for negotiations would have been closed forever.
We don’t say that the Tehran Agreement solved all the problems, but it made substantial progress and opened the window for further engagement.
Turkey and the U.S. have many overlapping interests and a long and steady relationship… Our soldiers work together in Afghanistan and in the waters off Somalia… We need each other more than ever.
Later, in the Q&A:
Tan: I have served three very happy years as ambassador in Israel, and I could never have imagined such an incident between our civilian citizens and the Israeli armed forces. But it did happen. Now we have to deal with it. We have to look at how we can mend the relationship, and how e can put things together again.
We don’t want much. We want an apology.
Right now feelings in both countries are very high. We need a neutral third party. I’ve contacted many people here and there is understanding of the fact that if there is a falling out between these two countries then matters could become very much worse in the region– which would affect all of us: Israel, Turkey, and the United States. A zero-sum game approach would be very damaging for all of us.
I don’t think we should get depressed about the situation. We should work. We should try to explain to our Israeli friends that what they have done is wrong.
We cannot take the first step. It is ridiculous to expect Turkey to apologize. The Jewish diaspora here are very sophisticated people, but they are very emotional. They have tried to shift the blame onto Turkey. If they have any concrete accusations, let’s have the international inquiry commission to look at the facts.