Speech at the 25th Eurasian Economic Summit

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Address of  H.E. Abdullah Gül, 11th President of the Republic of Turkey to the Eurasian Economic Forum 2022


My Dear President Colleagues,

Dear participants,

Dear Dr. Akkan Süver, President of the Marmara Group Foundation and the chairman of this session,

Today, I am thrilled to be here together. After taking a break from the pandemic, we are all together again today. Successfully convening the Eurasian Economic Forum for 25 years is truly extraordinary. I once again congratulate Mr. Süver and his friends on this achievement.

Regretfully we could not come together physically even during the pandemic, but we did not neglect these meetings in the electronic sphere. The determination here is above all kinds of appreciation. Therefore, I congratulate you again.

We have always listened to the esteemed Presidents, I have very special memories with them, and together we have contributed significantly to developing relations between their respective countries and Turkey. Some of the Presidents know Russia much better because they were together in the former Soviet era. In that respect, I listened carefully to all of their speeches, and we all benefited from their valuable ideas.

Unfortunately, the time we pass through as the world today is not a period that will be written in golden letters in the future. Many problems occur at the same time. The Russian-Ukrainian war started three months ago. But while this war launched, significant global issues were continuing simultaneously. Let's review them: The Covid-19 pandemic caught us all off guard, and almost 6 million people died worldwide.

Severe climate change was already being felt. Various meetings were always held on this issue, but recently, fires, disasters and droughts have started to bring those who do not understand the seriousness of the business to a much more understanding point.

The increasing irregular migration reached its most profound level after the 2nd World War. Immigrants also continued to feel like second-class citizens. Serious social, cultural and security problems began to be experienced in the countries that receive immigration.

Problems in food supply and food security were the issues that the world had always feared, it eventually has become more serious. According to the statements made by the United Nations Secretary-General in the last weeks, the number of people who cannot get enough food and those who don’t know what they will eat tomorrow has increased to 1.5 billion. But much more dangerous is that 250 million people fall into the clutches of hunger. We saw these figures together in the official documents of the UN, in the secretary-general's statements a week ago, and we were horrified.

Again, while this war continues, there is an economic problem that all countries face. The fragilities in the economies are such that inflation has started to be experienced again as an economic reality that everyone feels and disturbs.

Of course, while all this is going on, everyone will be surprised and upset about the fact that so much money is being spent on armaments. On one hand, we have seen that the amount of money spent on defense and armament in the budgets is increasing, However it is clear that more money should be spent on education, sustainable development, and health.

With all these harmful incidents, the Russia-Ukraine war continues in front of everyone with all its violence and destruction. Nobody can say, "I didn't know, I didn't see." Could this war have been prevented?

Everyone knows that there is a large Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine. To prevent this war and establish an order that would enable that population to live happily as equal citizens in Ukraine, as you know, the Normandy 4, consisting of Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia, came together in Minsk with the leadership of the OSCE. They worked, struggled, and even ended up with an agreement in 2014 and 2015. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission was established to ensure the implementation of the decisions. The reports of the OSCE Monitoring Mission showed many problems in the performance. Neither side was very reconciled. The first to lead this observer group was my former undersecretary from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Ertuğrul Apakan. I always heard from him that there was an atmosphere as if the parties were "negotiating the terms of the war" rather than "to make peace and reach a conclusion." Our ambassador, a very experienced diplomat, was very worried and told me many times that the war was approaching, and nobody was trying to make peace and find a solution.

As a result, 6.5 million of the country, with a population of 45 million, mainly emigrated to Poland. Thousands of civilians lost their lives. Tens of thousands of soldiers died on both sides of the war. And 20 percent of Ukraine's territory is occupied. We see with our eyes that the most significant destruction after World War II is happening. We only saw these in old documentaries. Now we witness those scenes live on television, how cities are destroyed.

Of course, while all this was going on, troubles began to be added to the problems on the other side. In addition, as for the shortage of food, the grains produced by these two largest grain-producing countries, known as the "breadbasket" in the world, were almost sent to rot. There are significant efforts how to save them again. Turkey is making substantial efforts in this direction. Of course, this should always be appreciated.

My Dear President Colleagues,

Dear participants,

We all know that diplomacy is the most effective tool to prevent war. Starting a war is easy, but ending a war is very difficult. To avoid a fight, it is necessary to show extraordinary diplomatic effort, patience, determination, and sincerity for a great compromise.

It is undeniable that more painful, devastating, and long-term hopeless results will be encountered for all parties when we step out of the diplomatic line and embark on the path of war. This is what happened in the Russia-Ukraine war today. When talking about the Russia-Ukraine war and all these problems, it is as if the events in Syria, in the south of Turkey, the drama, migrations, hunger and misery are all out of the world's agenda. We see no lessons from these incidents in this current war. What we saw before in the Middle East, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria is now happening in Europe. The devastating scenes are currently in Europe. The sparks of war were predetermined much earlier. As I said, a solution could have been for the population in Ukraine. Under all these conditions, Ukraine's efforts to become a member of NATO and the Western and NATO member countries’ encouragement for the membership, in my opinion, these were not very suitable for realities of the region.

I think Ukraine, like Finland, should become a member of the EU and feel comfortable under the European security umbrella instead of joining NATO. Because Russia, which suffered a significant trauma after the collapse of the Soviet Union, should not have been given a pretext. Frankly, Russia saw this as an opportunity. Let me be clear; there is no justification here; this is against international law. Because recognizing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the countries that are members of the UN is inevitable, especially by a country that is a member of the Security Council. But when we look at it from the point of view of realism, unfortunately, such an opportunity for Russia has emerged.

Another surprising thing while the war has been going on is the fact that the people of Ukraine are fighting so much. Many people thought there would be no resistance. This showed us that the Ukrainian people did not want to live in a regime like Belarus. They want to live in a regime similar to the one of the Czechs, Romanians, or Estonians and are eager to fight for it. In other words, they prefer democracy and do not desire to live in an authoritarian regime. We witnessed how selflessly the Ukrainians, who returned to fight after taking their wives and children to the border, defended their land. They will naturally determine the fate of their country. This resistance also has international legal legitimacy. When we look at the Helsinki Final Act, which was signed within the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe convened in 1975 during the Cold War period, the sovereignty, equality, and territorial integrity of countries had become a part of international law, in which each country had the right to choose the bloc for its security preference. Indeed, while all this is standing still, no one has the right to say that you will not use your choice like that and occupy a country.

After the war began, significant changes took place that no one expected. Europe took a very determined stance against Russia because it remembered the memories of the 2nd World War. We all know that until the Poland invasion, some major European countries tended to behave more naively and understandingly toward the invading forces that started the war. But when the invasion of Poland showed that things were going to other stages, they took a firm stand, even if they were late. This time, remembering these memories, everyone suddenly came to their senses and took a definite stand. Undoubtedly, the most important thing here is Germany's position. No one, mostly President Putin, predicted that Germany would take such a definite side and place. It is an excellent determination for a country that is so dependent on energy to build the Nord Stream 2 and then say they would not run it. Despite everyone's insistence, at NATO meetings, one of the issues we discussed the most was that some countries should increase their defense contributions. It was to expand it to over 2% of their national income. While no one else could convince Germany, this war did, and as a result, they decided to make substantial military investments.

All this, of course, led to many structural changes in Europe and the world.

Dear friends,

When we look at the point reached today, there is a loss for both sides as no lessons have been learned from history. Therefore, instead of a "win-win," there is "lose-lose" situation. When we look at the Ukrainian side, we see destructions and deaths. On the other hand, Ukraine should be able to protect Odessa, and of course, this should not be allowed to be occupied in any way because then Ukraine will not have a coast on the Black Sea. Even if that place is protected from such a danger, it turns out that they lost de facto Donetsk and Luhansk, as in the cases of Abkhazia and Ossetia. It is unfortunate, but this is the actual situation.

Let’s look at the Russian side. While Russia was concerned about Ukraine's NATO membership, countries such as Finland and Sweden, who carried out their foreign policies on neutrality in history, were so afraid that they also decided to become a member of NATO at any cost. This also had effects worldwide. Even Japan said that for the first time after World War II, they would establish a strong army, spare much money for military expenditures and the army, and arrange their budget accordingly. Therefore, we see the results of this war all over the world.

When we look at the financial costs, it is excruciating for humanity. An additional $40 billion aid package was passed in the US Senate recently. Again, according to the statements made by respective sources, the cost of supporting Ukraine since the beginning of the war has been 100 million dollars a day. For the first time, the EU decided to provide military support and provides 2 billion euros as military aid. Britain, one of the countries that provided most of the weapon aid, decided to offer long-range weapons. Russia declared that it spent 300 million dollars daily in the war. Now, when you add all these together, such massive amounts come out that currently, humanity allocates that amount of money for war. But we all know that when we come together to help countries in hunger and misery, the amounts that everyone commits are very minimal. The realization of this collaboration is sometimes a dream. But this money can be spent without thinking about the war.

When it comes to such a point, it inevitably becomes pessimistic. But again, diplomacy is always the solution in the end. Therefore, stopping this war will be an excellent service not only for the two countries and but also for the entire world. Everyone should contribute to the negotiations with great sincerity no matter what, and strive to end this war. And it is inconceivable that humanity, which has reached the highest level of consciousness, should turn a blind eye to open-ended destruction with its own hands.

Dear friends,

I want to end my words as follows: Of course, every war comes with its own burden. Of course, this burden deeply shakes the warring parties, their regions and the whole world and will continue to vibrate it. Humanity and everyone lose. It's a matter of mentality. Ultimately, it is about the mindset of statemen, administrators, politicians, and those who have to make all these critical decisions. Therefore, as long as this mentality does not change, unless a "peace mentality" is formed instead of fighting with a war-oriented approach, heroism, revenge or other motives, humanity will continue to suffer these pains. That's why our wish is to stop the war, not only here but also in other places; there are tough fights and battles that we ignore because this war deeply hurts people. Of course, it is necessary to support the negotiations, diplomacy, and sincere mediation to end all of this and to appreciate those who use these tools.

Once again, I would like to thank Mr. Akkan Süver and the Marmara Group for bringing us all together after two years and allowing us to share our ideas with the public and this audience.

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