Opening Address of H.E. Abdullah Gül, 11th President of the Republic of Türkiye to Third Forum for the Culture of Peace Organized by Abdulaziz Saud Al Babtain Cultural Foundation

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Dear Friends,

Distinguished Guests,

First of all, I would like to express my pleasure to be with you at the Third Forum for the Culture of Peace organized by Abdulaziz Saud Al Babtain Cultural   Foundation in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Culture under the auspices of President of Arab Republic of Egypt.

The Foundation has been playing an important role in spreading the “culture of peace” in our region and beyond. Therefore, I would like to remember with mercy Mr. Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain who recently passed away and congratulate their family, their sons, to carry on his legacy. May he rest in peace.

On this occasion, let me also express my contentment to be in Cairo after long time.

During the term of my presidency and in my all previous capacities, I worked for the strengthening of political and economic relations between Türkiye and Egypt.

Based on our shared history and culture, we marked on so many achievements during that period.

As it was announced during President Erdoğan’s recent visit to Cairo, after a period of stagnation, a new chapter of cooperation has opened for our countries.

I welcome this re-start with my whole heart.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Throughout the human history, the first prerequisite of living in tranquility and prosperity has always been having a peaceful and secure environment.

Meeting this difficult condition has been essential to talk about political and economic development as well as cultural and technological advancement.

It is a fact that today, we live in a world which is fragmented and fragile more than ever.  There are calamities on many fronts showing that we are getting away from the culture of peace.

Potential crises can flare up easily as we have already forgotten the high value of this culture. In so many conflicts, we do not negotiate the terms of peace, in contrast, we just get prepared how and when to fight.

To describe today’s global order, I would not say the world is multi-polar.  From West to East; from North to South it is multi-polarized. In this multi-polarized atmosphere, it is not easy to talk about internalization of peace culture.

Regrettably, we are surrounded with crises and wars contrary to our expectations.

The recent Russia-Ukraine war has showed us that these crises have severe regional and global effects.

The war in Ukraine has brought the West and the East neck to neck losing all their trust to each other.

When we turn our eyes to the Middle East, we face another heartbreaking picture.

Palestinians are subjected to the massacres and atrocities committed by Israel because its ideologically motivated cruel policies.

Trust to the rules-based international order has been collapsing in Gaza right before the eyes of whole world.

Generally speaking, when it comes to world issues, instead of trust and cooperation, we refer more often to distrust and conflict. Moreover, militarization around the world has reached its record rate.

The world history has full of examples where the security dominated approach failed.

Instead of a security obsessed mind, we need to prepare the conducive climate to provide the proper distribution of our resources.

We need to prevail peace, prosperity and cohabitation. This can be achievable with a strong system of justice.

Such a system can be built up by the establishment of the appropriate political framework.

Good governance is the sine quo non of any political framework.  Existence of political and judicial criteria and resilient institutions is essential to design and run any state properly.

Good governance is the only way out for peace, prosperity and development, no matter we are referring to which political regime it is.

It brings an important toolkit with itself such as supremacy of rule of law, respect to human rights, accountability, transparency, merit based approach, inclusiveness, justice in income distribution and equality of women and men.

Development and peace can be applicable in a sustainable way when good governance integrated approach is emerged.

Dear participants,

As is known, Middle East is one of the regions which needs peace and development the most today.

Although the Middle East has been known to be the cradle of cultural, intellectual and religious enlightenment of the humanity, unfortunately since the last century, it is remembered by chaos, conflicts and wars.

The invasion of Iraq and the war in Syria cracked the backbones of these countries and severely impeded their development. Their people were led to suffering and misery.

They also yielded serious negative outcomes for the entire Middle East.

While the wounds stemming from these crises could not be fully healed, the region is facing another unbearable pain.

What we are eye-witnessing with deep sadness today in Gaza, it is an unseen atrocity and brutality.

It does not fit into any conscience. It hurts not only the heart of Arabs and Muslims but also the whole humanity.

The reason why the events started is obvious.

Israel continued its occupation of Palestinian territories in an illegal and unjust way.

Then it applied a cruel settlement policy in the West Bank despite the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

The Israeli authorities forced Palestinians to leave their own land.

This is carried out in a very systematic way.

Throughout the years, they condemned Palestinians to live without dignity.

So under these conditions, it was inevitable to face such a sad and tragic outcome.

Therefore, as UN Secretary General António Guterres courageously mentioned, “it is important to recognize the 7th October attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum”.

What is Israel is doing right now is taking revenge on civilians, innocent women and children.

This is a collective punishment of Palestinian people violating all provisions of the international law.

Until now almost 30.000 Palestinians were killed. 75% of them are women and children. This is a record-breaking and shameful death toll.

Despite the order of the International Court of Justice calling Israel to prevent and punish actions that could lead to or incite genocide in Gaza, Israel does not stop its policy of destruction.

It still bombs the refugee camps and hospitals and plans to start a ground military operation to Rafah where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been trapped in a search for safety.

So, there is a high potential that the situation will worsen if Israel cannot be stopped right now.

Therefore, the countries who are blindly backing the policies of Israel should realize that this does not bring security to this country.

In contrast, it causes more polarization and spread of hate and antagonism around the world.

In a united and robust way, the international community needs to make understand the Israeli side this clear reality:  “if Israel does not change its arrogant obstinate stance, one day it may not escape from its nightmare.”

On this occasion, I would like to underline the unique role of Egypt that has played since the very beginning of the Palestinian issue.

From the very beginning, Egypt has been involved in the efforts for the comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Arab problems.

With its accumulated experience, it has spent an outstanding effort for finding a diplomatic solution between Palestinian and Israeli sides.

After the 7th October attacks, again Egyptian authorities showed a responsible and collaborative stance.

There is no doubt that the developments also directly affected its national security and its national economy.

Türkiye, also, has been using all its energy to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinians and to contribute to finding a long-term diplomatic solution to the ongoing war.

Together with the friends from the region, it plays a dynamic role in the quest for a peaceful and just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Ladies and gentlemen,

After so many pains, tears and huge sacrifices, at least one thing has come to the light.

Peaceful and just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict can “only be achieved” through two States “living side-by-side in peace and security”.

The whole world has recognized the indispensability of this two-state solution to ensure peace and security for Palestinians, Israelis and the entire Middle East.

So, this common recognition should be the compass of the international community to pressure Israel for accepting the terms of this solution.

We need a permanent and unconditional ceasefire for sure in Gaza right now.

There is no doubt for this.

However, a ceasefire will not be enough, if we do not start to work on designing the parameters of a two-state solution.

After so many sacrifices and immense losses, there is also the need of a fresh thinking from the Palestinian side.

All Palestinian fractions need to sit together, discuss and agree on a political exit strategy.

Therefore, achievement of the political unity among them is essential.

Such a credible, trustworthy and fresh leadership could lead the negotiations with a high level of representation capacity.

Only such a leadership can show its strength on the negotiation table and realize a historical mission, with the additional moral ground that has been gained.

As the friends of Palestinians, we need to help them to spend their time and energy in this direction.

Distinguished participants,

Under these circumstances, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which has been endorsed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and notably also embraced by Iran, still represents a viable path forward.

This Initiative does not only pave the way for the establishment of a Palestinian state with its boarders dating back to 1967 and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

It gives also a golden opportunity to Israel for the establishment of normal relations with the Arab countries in a context providing a huge cooperation potential with them.

If this dream comes true, this will also contribute to wiping out the root-causes of radical movements operating at different corners of the world.

The high price of war situation has been paid.

So, now it is time to come of darkness into light.

While concluding my remarks, I convey my gratitude once again to the Foundation and the Egyptian authorities for organizing such a timely Forum bolstering the importance of “culture of peace”, which is needed more than ever.

Thank you very much.

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