Turkey Pulse

Turkey's Gul Calls Syria Events 'Disgrace'

Article Summary
Turkish President Abdullah Gul asked UN members if they would have just continued to watch the Syrian disaster unfold had it not been for chemical weapons.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul attended and addressed the UN General Assembly. As things stand, Turkey has not achieved what it sought with its Syria policy. Bashar al-Assad is still in power. In a way, Turkey seems to have withdrawn from the Syria issue for the time being. According to academic and journalist Hasan Bulent Kahraman, who accompanied Gul to New York, Turkey can’t forecast how the Syrian issue will shape up while new groups emerge by the day.

Turkey actually lives the Syria case. It is enough to know that the largest Arab Alawite population is in Turkey. Then, of course, there is a massive Syrian refugee presence in Turkey.

Turkish journalists who traveled with the presidential delegation had a chance for a long discussion with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the way. Ever the academic, Davutoglu offered comprehensive and analytical opinions

This was a discussion primarily on Middle East issues, particularly on Syria. The roles of the United States and Russia in recent developments were also on the table. Davutoglu’s narrative showed that Turkish foreign policy and political finesse is significantly deeper than what is seen from outside. But, it is clear that there is a problem. Davutoglu passionately and persuasively defends the policy he follows, but it is not all that easy to say that his arguments dictate the course of developments on the ground, at least for now.

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In Gul’s speech to the General Assembly, he said what has happened in Syria was a "disgrace" and asked: "Wouldn't there be an intervention had it not been for the use of chemical weapons? Would humanity simply have kept watching while hundreds of thousands of people are killed?

Gul said the UN Security Council is inadequate in solving problems and Syria was a blemish or a black mark against the Security Council. He said, "We can’t abandon this country and its people to their fates." Gul was the third speaker after Brazil, which spoke first as the president of the Assembly, and the United States, as the host country. Gul said behind political problems there are always local and domestic issues and conflicts caused by incompetent leaders. These problems eventually become regional problems. A new international concept is needed to cope with domestic issues and Syria was an important test case. Turkey fully supports the US-Russia accord on chemical weapons.

Gul added that the Middle East needs a new approach based on good governance, transparency and accountability. Events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have passed the point of no return. The Palestine question has to be settled. There were no ethical, legal and political reasons to deny the Palestinians their own state. The current status serves no one, including Israel. Gul then referred to Cyprus, and said it was an irony to have a UN peacekeeping force on the island for 50 years. Initiatives for peace there were blocked with the rejection of the Annan plan. He added: “We are expecting resumption of negotiations, at the latest next month."

Moving on to the terrorism issue, Gul said there can be no discrimination of "he is my terrorist, this one is your terrorist." In recent times, Islamophobia has generated a new kind of racism that makes millions of peace-loving Muslims appear as imaginary enemies. Gul concluded that Turkey wants to become a Security Council member in 2015-16 and asked for support.

Gul later had a meeting with French President Francois Hollande. The two leaders discussed the Syria issue and Turkey’s EU membership. Gul then attended a luncheon given by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and chatted with US President Barack Obama, who was sharing the same table. Gul told Ban that concrete steps were essential to restore UN credibility.

Gul, after attending a working breakfast given in his honor by Merrill Lynch, spoke about Gezi events: "To be honest, I feel proud when this and similar events break out. Istanbul events started out just like similar protests in Washington, London and New York expressing environmental concerns.” As for the police reaction to events, he said Istanbul police did what New York police had done

There was not much to say about Syria, which was one of Gul’s major agenda items. According to journalist Kahraman, everything in Syria developed as Turkey had predicted, but it has all come to a standstill now. That is why Gul emphasized the need for new mechanisms to cope with such issues. That is why he asked if the world were just going to watch if it had not been for the use of chemical weapons.

Another key issue Gul raised was the dilemma of Muslim countries. Gul declared that these countries have leadership problems. These leaders had to change and there was no going back. He told journalists that people have overcome their fear and there may be new changes soon.

Gul did not neglect humanitarian and development issues, saying the world is burdened with a bad legacy and an inadequate system. There is no escape from coming up with a new language and structure to cope with the problems of humanity.

As did many other observers, I too found Gul’s interpretation of global and regional issues very perceptive. Although there may be style differences between Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, they are basically defending the same values and declaring that Turkey is standing not with the powerful, but the righteous. 

Rasim Ozan Kutahyali has been a columnist for Sabah since 2011, after writing for Taraf from 2008 to 2011. He is a popular political commentator on various TV programs, having started at CNN Turk and now appearing on Beyaz TV. Kutahyali is known for his anti-militarist and liberal political views. He can be reached at rasim.ozan@hotmail.com

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Found in: intervention in syria, un general assembly, turkish foreign policy, morality and syrian conflict, ban ki-moon, ahmet davutoglu, abdullah gul

Rasim Ozan Kutahyali has been a columnist for Sabah since 2011 after writing for Taraf from 2008 to 2011. He is a popular political commentator on various TV programs, having started at CNNTurk and now appearing on Beyaz TV. Kutahyali is known for his anti-militarist and liberal political views. He can be reached at rasim.ozan@hotmail.com

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