Fostering a Culture of Harmony
No. 1 2010 January/March

The end of the Cold War promised to open a new
chapter of peace and stability in world history. By eliminating the
risk of a direct clash between two opposing blocs, it did remove
the existential threat to humanity. However, the disappearance of
the danger of a global nuclear holocaust did not bring in a new and
stable world order. Instead, we ended up with deep geopolitical
fault lines cracking open in many corners of the world, with some
of them spawning devastating wars and conflicts. With hindsight, it
now becomes more apparent that the post-Cold War era was – and is –
an interim period of transition to a more permanent international
system, although this system is still in its early phase and keeps

Having shed the old world order and having taken a
path towards a new one, our planet is once again going through the
pains of transformation and restructuring. As the distribution of
power in the international political system keeps changing, albeit
incrementally, towards a more level-playing field and a multipolar
world slowly emerges, demands for translating these trends into
formal structures are also getting more vocal. Calls for action –
from reforming the United Nations to making the global financial
governance more representative – can be heard in every domain of
international relations. There is no question that we should all be
better off with a more inclusive, effective and humane world order
capable of tackling entrenched problems ranging from poverty to
global warming. The question is how willing we are to act, how we
can mobilize and coordinate our efforts and how soon we can get


Turkey believes that it is possible to build an
equitable and sustainable order which will benefit every country,
every society and every individual. The road to that future, in our
view, should start with laying out local and regional building
blocs and go through to developing a sense of ownership of regional
problems, promoting dialogue and mutual confidence, and giving
everyone a stake in cooperating with each other. These are the key
elements of such a strategy. We can and must make a difference for
the better by overcoming any psychological inhibitions that may
hold us back, by opening up our hearts and minds to one another,
and by pooling our resources.

Guided by such a vision, Turkey has been actively
working to contribute to security, stability and prosperity in
regions that lie beyond its immediate neighborhood. The results
that we have obtained so far speak for themselves. To understand
these outcomes better, it might be useful to take a look at the
conceptual framework that underlies our efforts.

Six principles are currently shaping Turkish foreign

The first principle is to strike a
balance between freedom and security. If security is good for one
nation and for an individual, it is also good for others. We should
not maintain security to the detriment of freedoms and vice-versa;
therefore we need to find an appropriate balance between them.

The second principle envisions an
enhanced regional engagement. We pursue a policy of “zero problems”
in our neighborhood. We believe that this is an achievable goal, if
enough trust and confidence can be generated among the relevant

The third principle envisions an
effective diplomacy towards neighboring regions. Our goal is to
maximize cooperation and mutual benefits with all of our neighbors.
In order to achieve that goal, we build our relations with them on
the principles of “security for all,” “high-level political
dialogue,” “economic interdependence” and “cultural harmony and
mutual respect.”

As a member of the United Nations Security Council
for the period 2009-2010 and a responsible member of the
international community which has to deal with a wide range of
issues, Turkey seeks complementarity with global actors and this
constitutes the fourth principle of its foreign

Our fifth principle is the effective
use of international forums and new initiatives in order to
galvanize action on matters of common concern. Our growing profile
in international organizations such as the United Nations, the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization of the Islamic
Conference and the newly established relations with many other
organizations have to be evaluated from this perspective. It should
be mentioned that Turkey has also acquired an observer status in a
number of leading regional organizations such as the African Union,
the Arab League, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and the
Organization of the American States (OAS).

The sixth and final principle of our
foreign policy is to create a “new perception of Turkey” through an
increased focus on public diplomacy.

In essence, our approach aims to end disputes and
increase stability in the region by seeking innovative mechanisms
and channels to resolve conflicts, by encouraging positive change
and by building cross-cultural bridges of dialogue and

To sum up, Turkey’s foreign policy has three main
characteristics: it is vision-oriented, not crisis-oriented; it is
proactive, not reactive; and it is integrated and systemic,
operating across a 360 degree horizon.

Today, Turkey pursues a truly multidimensional and
omnipresent foreign policy and is engaged in diverse areas ranging
from Africa to South America and from East Asia and the
sub-continent to the Caribbean. Furthermore, Turkey is also keen to
promote peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, friendship, harmony
and cooperation between different cultures and faith systems. Five
years ago, Turkey and Spain jointly launched the “Alliance of
Civilizations” initiative under the auspices of the United Nations.
This project is on its way to becoming the flagship of global
efforts aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue and countering
extremism. With its rich cultural heritage and diversity, the
Russian Federation is also well-placed to make a substantive
contribution to this historic enterprise.

As a G20 member, Turkey joins the endeavors to reform
the structure of international and sustainable finance and to adopt
new global standards that would ensure a more stable economic
environment and sustainable growth. On the other hand, as an
emerging donor country, Turkey is also extending a helping hand to
developing nations and making its contribution to the achievement
of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. In these critical areas,
too, greater Turkish-Russian cooperation is possible and

Turkey’s current Chairmanship of the Southeast
European Cooperative Initiative (SEECP) and our upcoming
Presidencies of the Conference on Interaction and
Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the Committee of
Ministers of the Council of Europe later this year are important
opportunities for boosting regional cooperation. Turkey and the
Russian Federation can work together on all these fronts to promote
a sense of solidarity in addressing cross-cutting regional

One should not forget that Turkish foreign policy is
predicated on a unique historical experience and geography which
brings with it a sense of responsibility.

Such a historic responsibility motivates Turkey’s
interest in a neighborhood which spans the Caucasus, the Caspian
basin, the Black Sea, the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean, and
the Middle East from the Gulf to North Africa. In this context I
want to elaborate in more detail on Turkish-Russian relations and
on the South Caucasus.


Turkey has exemplary good neighborly relations with
Russia, and there are currently no bilateral problems between our
countries. Relations are developing on a mutually beneficial basis
and we are highly satisfied with the momentum achieved in all
fields of Turkish-Russian relations over the last nineteen years.
Turkey views Russia as an invaluable partner, an important global
power and a key player in terms of regional cooperation. I would
like to emphasize that further promoting our cooperation based on
mutual interest, confidence and transparency is among the
priorities of Turkish foreign policy. Turkish-Russian relations
constitute an integral component of Turkey’s multi-dimensional
foreign policy.

We think that Turkey and Russia are key actors
contributing to peace and stability in the region. Our concerns on
major international issues coincide to a large extent; we
understand each other and take into consideration each other’s
sensitivities. We would like to continue our sincere and genuine
dialogue with Russia about the developments in our region.

High-level visits in the last couple of years have
also significantly contributed to our relations. President G?l paid
a state visit to Russia in February 2009; Prime Minister Erdogan
visited Sochi last May, Prime Minister Putin paid a working visit
to Turkey in August 2009, Prime Minister Erdogan visited Moscow on
12-13 January this year and I accompanied him. I also visited
Moscow last July. These visits have surely given additional
momentum to our relations.

President G?l’s visit constituted the first-ever
state visit by a Turkish President to Russia. It had also an
additional positive feature, being the first visit of a Turkish
President to Tatarstan, an important region of the Russian
Federation with cultural and historic links to Turkey. The leaders
of the two countries signed a Joint Declaration during the visit.
This Declaration does not simply outline a framework for relations;
it is a political document defining a road map for the future of
our cooperation in almost all bilateral and regional issues. This
new Declaration has confirmed that the target set in the Joint
Declaration dated 2004 to carry our relationship to the level of
“multi-dimensional enhanced partnership” had been reached and it
also displays, at the highest level, the political will “to move
relations to a new stage and deepen them.”

In this context, Turkey and Russia have decided to
establish an intergovernmental mechanism (High-Level Cooperation
Council) at the highest political level. We believe this Council
will further develop our bilateral relations with Russia and
contribute to regional stability. The first meeting of this Council
is planned to be held in the first half of 2010.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, cooperation in
economic and energy fields constitutes the driving force behind
Turkish-Russian relations. Although we proudly pronounce that the
trade volume between our countries has reached impressive levels,
and in this vein Russia has become our first trading partner in
2008 (38 billion dollars), and the second biggest trading partner
in 2009 (approximately 22 billion dollars, including 3 billion
dollars for export and 19 billion dollars for import),
unfortunately Turkey has a significant trade deficit, mainly due to
our energy imports (in 2009, Turkey imported over half of its gas
and one forth of its oil from Russia). Therefore, we attach
importance to achieving a more balanced trade and aim at product
diversification in our trade relations with Russia. The decrease of
our trade is mainly due to the global financial crisis. But we are
confident that the negative effect of the global financial crisis
on our bilateral trade will be overcome in 2010. Furthermore, we
believe that as envisaged by our Prime Ministers at their meeting
on January 13 in Ankara, bilateral trade volume is expected to
reach 100 billion dollars by 2015.

Other economic areas are noteworthy for
Turkish-Russian relations, too. The total value of the projects
undertaken by Turkish contractors in Russia has reached 30 billion
dollars. Turkish direct investments in Russia surpassed 6 billion
dollars. Russian direct investments in Turkey have totaled 4
billion dollars. In 2008 and 2009, 2.8 and 2.6 million Russian
tourists have visited Turkey. Furthermore, we are pleased to see
the growing interest by Russian firms in energy infrastructure
projects and the tourism sector in Turkey. Cooperation in the
energy sector is also an important aspect of Turkish-Russian
relations. Russia is the major energy supplier of Turkey. The Blue
Stream Natural Gas Pipeline project has brought energy cooperation
to a new strategic level; and new energy projects with the
participation of Russia, like building a nuclear power plant in
Turkey, and the Russian involvement in the Samsun-Ceyhan oil
pipeline project are on the top of our bilateral agenda.

I believe bilateral relations and cooperation with
Russia in the political, economic and energy fields, and also in
the cultural and educational spheres, will further intensify. Our
dialogue on regional and international issues will also continue.
Our overall relations with Russia are most promising and we will do
our utmost to further develop and deepen them, as was stated by our
Presidents in the Joint Declaration they signed in February


Turkey and Russia are the pillars of stability and a
source of economic dynamism. The corridor stretching from the north
in Russia to Turkey in the south includes in its center a region in
dire need of conflict resolution and economic development. This is
the Caucasus. We can easily compare this situation in West Asia to
the current impasse in the Korean Peninsula, a region between two
East Asian giants, China and Japan. Therefore, while looking at
Turkish-Russian relations, we also have to see its wider
implication and contribution to the Eurasian continent.

Being one of the crossroads between East and West, as
well as North and South for centuries, and a home to a multitude of
different peoples, ethnicities, languages and religions, the South
Caucasus is certainly one of the most challenging regions in the
political landscape.

An immediate neighbor to Turkey and Russia, the South
Caucasus has always been of particular importance for Turks and
Russians alike and has had a privileged place in the diplomatic
agenda of our countries.

Today, as a region of enhanced strategic importance,
where peace, stability and regional cooperation are most needed,
the South Caucasus occupies a specific place in Turkey’s quest for
peace, security and prosperity in its entire neighborhood. This is
so not only because Turkey enjoys significant historical and
cultural similarities and humanitarian bonds with the peoples of
the Caucasus, but also because this small region, regrettably,
continues to be destabilized and weakened by three major conflicts
of the greater OSCE area, all of which remain unresolved for almost
two decades now.

Turkey’s approach to the region has been
characterized by the desire to promote peace, stability and
prosperity. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the
independence of all the three young South Caucasian republics,
including Armenia. However, the occupation of Azeri lands by
Armenia which later led to the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh between
the two countries hindered the prospects of cooperation on the
regional level and on a more comprehensive scale.

Turkey’s relations with Azerbaijan have always been
unique due to special bonds between the two peoples, which stem
from common history, language and culture. Hence we enjoy
significant political relations with Azerbaijan, as shown by the
frequency of bilateral visits and the constant dialogue and
solidarity on issues of common interest for both countries.
Similarly, our economic relations display an upward trend with the
current trade volume amounting to around 2.5 billion dollars and
Turkey having the lead in foreign investments in Azerbaijan.

We are pleased to see Azerbaijan developing
democracy, economy, human capital and natural resources, and it
becoming a significant center of attraction in the Caucasus.
However, the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the
resulting occupation of 20 percent of its territory by Armenia
continue to impede Azerbaijan – and the region at large – from
exploiting the great potential for living in peace and

As a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, Turkey has
always actively supported peaceful settlement of this conflict
through negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We deeply
regret that this mechanism, almost as old as the conflict itself,
has failed to bring about any tangible results so far. The recent
momentum gained in the negotiation process between Presidents
Aliyev and Sargsyan emphasizes the need to achieve concrete results
through mutual and target-oriented dialogue at a time when history
presents a unique opportunity. Nevertheless, the Minsk Group
remains the sole international instrument which can encourage the
parties to take concrete steps towards ironing out their
differences and eventually building peace.

For well-known reasons, Turkey’s relations with
Armenia followed a different path and remained the missing part of
the picture that we would like to see emerging in the South
Caucasus. However, we have never lost the hope of eventually
mending ties with Armenia, and we accordingly employed unilateral
confidence-building measures to this end. A confidential diplomatic
track was established back in 2007 between the high-ranking
officials of the two countries in a bid to establish normal
bilateral relations.

These efforts bore fruit in 2009 when decision-makers
in both countries came to the conclusion that the momentum to start
a comprehensive Turkish-Armenian reconciliation was ripe. We
proceeded in a determined way against the backdrop of intense
criticisms at the domestic level, and our hard work and intensive
negotiations eventually culminated in two Protocols signed in
Zurich on October 10, 2009. The signing of the Protocols is an
unprecedented step towards eradicating legal and mental barriers
that have been dividing the two neighboring peoples.

However, throughout the entire process of dialogue
with Armenia, we were never mistaken to believe that
Turkish-Armenian reconciliation alone would not suffice to bring
the long-awaited peace and stability to this troubled region. Our
conviction was that progress in the Turkish-Armenian normalization
process should be complemented and reinforced with concrete
progress in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia
and Azerbaijan. Only a comprehensive normalization at the regional
level can sustain the atmosphere of reconciliation and remove the
remaining barriers to dialogue, cooperation and peace in the
region. This certainly requires political will and courage.

Upon signing, the two Protocols were without delay
submitted to the Turkish Parliament for ratification. The opinion
of the Constitutional Court of Armenia concerning the Protocols was
an unexpected hurdle that needs to be overcome. If all parties
concerned act with responsibility and do their utmost to contribute
to the implementation of comprehensive peace in the South Caucasus,
the Turkish Parliament would not have much difficulty in ratifying
the Protocols. What we need is not to erect impediments to
achieving a comprehensive peace and stability in the region under
the smokescreen of legal barriers that are untenable.

As for Georgia, the deep-rooted historical and
cultural ties of our peoples, a common border, large-scale
transport and energy infrastructures interconnecting our countries
and beyond, and the existence of citizens of Georgian and Abkhazian
origin in Turkey are major factors behind our intensive relations
and cooperation with Georgia.

Turkey supports the independence, sovereignty and
territorial integrity of all the countries of the South Caucasus.
Georgia is not an exception. This has been our principled position
since these countries got independence and we continue to support
this established policy. Given our excellent relations and
multi-dimensional partnership with Russia, it is not difficult to
imagine that Turkey was among the countries most disturbed by the
events of August 2008.

Today, Turkey and Russia, as well as Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Georgia have – as never before – a common interest
in making this region an area of comprehensive peace. We have a
common interest in resolving persisting conflicts, which, in turn,
will bolster regional ownership and responsibility; we have a
common interest in reinforcing humanitarian ties, which will mend
wounds; we have a common interest in consciously choosing to forget
past enmities and hostilities, which will pave the way for
projecting to the future the positive aspects of our common
history; and, most importantly, we have a common interest in
building together a prosperous future for the South Caucasus.

With the understanding that lasting peace and
stability in the region is impossible without finding sustainable
solutions to current conflicts in the South Caucasus, we have
proposed establishing a new regional forum, the Caucasus Stability
and Cooperation Platform (CSCP), for facilitating the resolution of
these conflicts. The idea is to bring the five states of the region
– Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey – around a table
to address regional problems with a view to building confidence
among them.

As we acknowledged when we first initiated the idea,
the CSCP is not an easy process as the presence of conflicts are
both the reason for and the obstacle to it. Moreover, it is not the
first proposal for the formation of some kind of a Caucasian body:
since the 1990s, there has been an array of proposals that failed
to materialize despite good intentions. Being also aware of these
past failures, we envisage the CSCP as a platform that would enable
dialogue, exchange of ideas and eventual confidence-building among
the major actors of the region, and regard it as a process, not as
a one-time activity. We believe that the Platform idea provides a
promising future alternative to resorting to violence as a means
for settling conflict situations in the region.

Whatever the outcome of our efforts for building
sustainable peace and stability in the South Caucasus, it is
certain that Turkey will remain actively engaged in resolving
issues facing this region and will continue to look for lasting,
constructive and cooperative partnership with Russia in its
policies concerning this region.

* * *

The Cold War ended twenty years ago, and the
globalization process is entering a new stage nowadays. Until the
1990s, conditions determining the world political order were much
clearer, although they were quite tense and sometimes frightening.
Today, we live in a different, globalized world. Democracy, human
rights and market economy have become the foundations of the
international system. The foes of the past have become partners in
today’s highly interdependent global economy. In this new
environment, Turkey’s relationship with Russia has become a
structural factor for the region and beyond.

Turkish-Russian relations started out as a modest
trade relationship but quickly evolved into new areas of
cooperation; now they constitute a genuinely integral component of
Turkey’s multidimensional foreign policy. I am deeply satisfied to
witness our relationship acquire a strategic dimension today.
Indeed, multifold challenges such as organized and transnational
crime, illegal migration, cross-cultural and religious intolerance,
extremism and terrorism require a growing cooperation between
Turkey and the Russian Federation.

This is also valid for regional issues. Both Turkey
and the Russian Federation have historical and moral responsibility
for standing united for peace, security, stability and prosperity
in the South Caucasus and we would be better placed to fulfill this
responsibility by cooperating with each other on the basis of a
common vision. I am confident that by cultivating compromise and
good-neighborly relations in the South Caucasus we will foster
reconciliation, a culture of harmony and understanding in the
world. This is what we should do to shape the present and the
future of our common region.