Ambassador Tan's Address To Atlantic Council Board Of Directors , 15.09.2012
Turkish Ambassador to the US Namik Tan
Address to Atlantic Council Board of Directors
Annual Board Dinner, September 13, 2012, Turkish Embassy Residence
Ladies and gentlemen,
What a wonderful Washington evening; welcome to the Turkish Embassy Residence. It is indeed an honor and pleasure to host such a great crowd, with many friends, old and new, in attendance. Let me thank Senator Hagel, Fred Kempe and Ambassador Wilson for approaching us to co-host this evening.
Since its founding half a century ago, the Atlantic Council has become a major pillar of transatlantic cooperation and international security. Today, the Council’s work is ever more important as we navigate dramatic shifts in the global political, security and economic landscape. Turkey attributes great importance to its valued relationship with the Atlantic Council and we look forward to further building on this in the years ahead.
Before I proceed, I want to pause a moment in remembrance of our fallen colleagues in Libya. We condemn in the strongest terms the terrorist attack that claimed the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens as well as three other colleagues. As a nation that has lost many diplomats in the line of duty, we stand in full solidarity with our American friends and colleagues during this tragic time.
Diplomats like Ambassador Stevens are unsung heroes; with no uniform or helmet or weapons, no historic battles won or enemies vanquished, they work day in day out to effect positive change in long and drawn out processes, in extremely hostile environments, for causes that are just and worthy. We honor his memory, his service and his legacy. May he rest in peace.
We made a very special effort to host you all, as board members of the Council, in this historic building. This mansion, other than being a D.C. landmark, is also one of the enduring symbols of our transatlantic alliance.
Indeed, Ambassador Münir Ertegün, the second Turkish Ambassador to the US, bought this building for the young Turkish Republic. After he passed away, the US Administration in 1946 sent his body to Turkey onboard the USS Missouri; the very same battleship that had witnessed the surrender of the Empire of Japan, thus ending the Second World War. This was a hugely significant political gesture from the US - maybe a historic turning point of sorts - as Turkey had the Soviet Union literally breathing down its neck.
Since then, Turkey has been a proud ally of the US and a strong and committed member of NATO. To us, the transatlantic alliance continues to be the cornerstone of our security and defense, and that of all Allies.
With the wars of the twentieth century over, some have argued that NATO and the transatlantic partnership have served their purpose. We strongly disagree. The transatlantic alliance was never just a military arrangement. It was a union of vision, of a common outlook anchored in shared values. A relationship built to last in the face of adversity.
Today, the international community in general and our transatlantic alliance in particular is confronted with major challenges. The historic transformation that we are witnessing in the Middle East and North Africa pose some profoundly important questions. It is all too clear that while a transition is taking place, the outcome of the unfolding events and the direction of these processes are far from being certain. And, there is no doubt that in this time of extreme strategic turbulence, we need a strong transatlantic alliance.
From Libya to Egypt and from Iraq to Yemen, every day, the developments in the Arab world are keeping us on our toes. But nowhere is the challenge more immediate, and the humanitarian imperative so dire, than in Syria.
The international community has failed the Syrian people. The situation is so bad, it can hardly get worse. But, if left to its own devices, it will. And this will possibly ignite decades-long regional strife that may pose a generational challenge. Hundreds of thousands of lives, the future of a whole nation and a volatile region is on the line. A ruthless, autocratic regime is obliterating its own people, driving a stake through its very heart. By dividing communities along ethnic, religious and sectarian fault lines, the seeds of a protracted civil war are being sown. Moreover, existing chemical weapon stockpiles, activities of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the PKK, and the plight of more than 2.5 million IDP’s add to the gravity of this unfolding tragedy.
Turkey is, once again, on the frontlines. We are hosting almost 80.000 guests from Syria. This very fact, as well as the situation on our borders is extremely destabilizing. The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, if left unchecked, will only grow, and most likely, it will grow exponentially. Meanwhile, it does appear like our open door policy towards Syrians is, in a sense, absorbing the potential international reaction towards the Esad regime, making everyone think this is Turkey’s problem. But Turkey, along with other neighboring countries cannot be left alone in shouldering this burden. The implosion of Syria is a regional conflagration that threatens international peace and security. What we expect from our partners is a serious engagement and meaningful contribution to the resolution of this conflict.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have seen this movie before, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and Lebanon. Letting history repeat itself cannot and must not be an option. Yes, the UN Security Council has failed, until now, to shoulder its responsibilities with regard to Syria. But we cannot let that be the only course available to us. Yes, there are those who would like to see this tragedy drag itself out for decades, if possible. But we cannot allow that to happen. We must show more resolve. There are many tools at our disposal. There are many avenues still unexplored.
We can and should think and start working on all possible scenarios, all possible contingencies and how to help the Syrian people meet their legitimate aspirations without further bloodshed. After all, we, as responsible members of the international community, do have a “Responsibility to Protect” civilians from mass slaughter and this applies as much to Syrians as it did to Libyans, Bosnians and Rwandans alike.
While the organic and homegrown nature of this struggle must be respected, if we do not provide the right sort of outside support, the Syrians will rightly ask why they were abandoned in their darkest hour.
In short, we must act, act now, and act decisively. When we together and collectively show the right sort of leadership and resolve, others will follow, and those who oppose will know that we will not falter.
As we have seen many times before, in particular during two gulf wars, regional instability and upheaval always produces negative side effects. While Syria is slipping towards civil war and Iraq is paralyzed by a domestic political crisis and increased violence, the terrorist organization PKK has reared its ugly head once again, in an effort to derive benefit from the general atmosphere of turmoil that abounds.
Over the past few weeks, we have lost numerous innocent lives in the terrorist attacks of the PKK. Given the volatility of the situation in the region, it is imperative that Turkey and the United States step up their joint efforts in the fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and this includes the PKK, which poses a common threat to the interests of Turkey, the US and also Iraq.
While we do sincerely appreciate the excellent cooperation we enjoy with the US in the fight against the PKK, there is much more that can be done. In that regard, we need increased support of the United States to combat this scourge more effectively. The sale or lease of armed UAVs, among other areas of cooperation, are crucial as the PKK and others try to take advantage of what is an already very complicated regional situation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Turkey and the US stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, in confronting the many complex risks and threats of the new century. Our bonds of friendship, partnership and alliance have never been stronger and our cooperation never more meaningful.
While that is the case, the situation in Syria, the increased activity by the PKK and also developments in Iraq are creating a perfect storm for Turkey and the region. And I did not even include the difficulties we have been facing within the context of finding solutions to the complexities associated with the Iranian nuclear program.
In this very challenging setting; robust, effective and results oriented cooperation between Turkey and the US becomes even more crucial. While we appreciate the level of cooperation right now, on Syria, the fight against PKK and on Iraq, we have to take it to the next level and produce results. The truth is that Turkey must not be left alone to shoulder all of these responsibilities.
Thank you very much.