11. Cumhurbaşkanı Abdullah Gül’ün Lahey’de Uluslararası Adalet Divanı’nın Barış Sarayı’nda “Barış Kültürü” Konulu Toplantıda Yaptığı Konuşması

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Ladies & Gentlemen,

Distinguished Guests,

Dear Friends,

It is an honor for me to be here today with you. I see many friends, intellectuals and distinguished people here. I would like to express my best wishes to all of you.

Frankly, when I got the invitation to this forum, at first I felt a sense of sadness, sourness, because we were going to gather in this beautiful city, Den Haag, home of 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Legacy, to discuss the protection of cultural heritage of the Middle East.

Well of course we have to be realistic, since peace is very far away from these lands, unfortunately it is not possible, at least today, to gather all of us in Baghdad, or Sanaa.

Peace, security and prosperity are not words we would use for the region. In Iraq, not only hundreds of thousands of people were killed, millions of children were orphaned, and women widowed, but also some of the world’s richest libraries, museums, and historical sites were destroyed and the precious art collections and archeological objects were looted.

It is sad that the same sequence of destructive developments is taking place as we speak, in Syria and Yemen.

Dear Friends,

Since this morning, we have been listening to many valuable speeches, ideas and contributions from distinguished participants. I appreciate all of them.

Now I would like to share my views and experiences with you, accumulated throughout my political life.

The fundamental requirement for happiness and welfare in a city, country, or region, is to establish peace, security, and stability.

Human history is full of wars and struggles. As a result, much suffering, pain, and destruction was experienced throughout history. Those who got lessons from history found the way to live together in peace and welfare.

The shining example of this is Europe. Remember the political landscape of Europe between the first and second world wars, then how the War started and killed almost 50 million people and destroyed the most beautiful cities of the continent. After paying the huge cost, today’s Europe was created which was built on the values of rule of law, human rights, and free market economy.

Now, has the time not come for the Middle East to take the same course and end its dark age, after so many bloody wars, suffering, and pain?

It is time for the leaders of the region to acknowledge that the current situation in the region is consuming the human and natural resources of their countries. This vicious circle should be broken and courageous steps taken to reverse the fate of the region.

For this, we need to democratize our world views, cultures, values and discourses, before anyone else’s.

I recall my speech, delivered in 2003 at the Islamic Conference in Tehran, where I drew the attention of our fellow countries to the risks lying ahead if we did not put our own houses in order and respond to our peoples’ legitimate demands.

I stressed in that speech that as responsible leaders we should urgently initiate political reforms to enable people to live in their own countries together in peace. Otherwise, major conflicts and trouble would be inevitable.

It is very unfortunate that we continued to repeat the same mistakes and as a result, an unprecedented level of destruction and suffering has sweeped across Middle East and left it in ruins. Even worse, another much larger conflict is looming at our doorstep which has the potential to cause an even worse level of destruction.

It is therefore imperative to achieve peace at home and in the region.

Dear Friends,

Contrary to common wisdom, peace does not come by itself. It is not the original premise of human nature.

In order to live together in peace, in a small society or a region, we must learn to respect and show tolerance to each other’s differences, be it ethnic, religious, or cultural.

For this, we need empathy and then, dialogue. This means to talk, discuss, eventually to reach a compromise.

Compromise is the only way to live together in peace.

We must acknowledge that, in these modern times, regimes based on absolute consolidated power are not sustainable.

Specifically because of this, in advanced democracies, principles such as:

-     Separation of powers

-     Supremacy of law

-     Accountability

-     Transparency

-     Equality

are well established.

Sadly, the standards of our region are far away from these principles.

To bring peace, the primary responsibility lies with the leaders of the region. They first, should recognize and embrace these values, then adopt and uphold them in their countries. Without their commitment, mere goodwill of the peoples will not suffice to bring peace to the region.

The dire situation we face today should therefore remind us that democratic sophistication is the only way for us to develop ourselves with respect to human rights, dignity, equality and accountability.

As far as democracy is concerned, if the gulf countries in the region are not yet ready to adopt democratic mechanisms in their countries, they should at least spend utmost effort to apply the principles of “good governance”.

Let us not forget that leadership is not just about making decisions or running a country, but it is also about educating the masses through the leader’s statements and ideas.

Responsible leaders, will be proactive in establishing measures and precautions to avoid and prevent probable conflicts and crises.

This alone is not enough. We also need a vibrant and active civil society. Any efforts at peace without, will be short-lived.

An active civil society, along with education, is essential for individuals and young generations to learn and digest the idea that peace should be the default norm, and conflict the preventable exception.

Dear Friends,

Wars are destructive, they undo the gains of humanity. In the absence of peace, any efforts at cultural advancement or preservation will go in vain.

We were not able to establish a sustainable peace at our part of the world in our lifetimes. Let us not be late for our children to realize it.

Thank you for listening.

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