President Abdullah Gül addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on Thursday, speaking of Turkey’s willingness to be part of a multilateral framework of nations aimed at ensuring peace and economic stability in the Middle East and beyond.
In his speech, Gül, whose government negotiated a nuclear fuel exchange agreement with Iran last May, urged all nations in the Middle East to renounce the development of weapons of mass destruction. He added that no “credible global nonproliferation regime would be achievable” if it ignores the unrecognized nuclear weapons capability of countries “аt the heart of most delicate regions,” which, of course, means Israel.
Turkey, which has traditionally been a friend of the Jewish state, pretended to be outraged this summer when Israel attacked a fleet of blockade runners bound for Gaza. Its apparently newfound animosity toward the only other democracy in the Middle East was not without reason. When Iran eventually weaponizes its nuclear potential, Ankara may well, under the pretext of fearing Israel, announce to try to build an atomic bomb of its own.
Gül stressed the importance of multilateral negotiation in his address. “We should keep in mind that global problems cannot be solved unilaterally, bilaterally or in small circles of likeminded nations.” Turkey was obviously disappointed when the West did not accept the agreement that it brokered with Iran. Along with Brazil, it voted against renewed UN sanctions on Iran in the Security Council which, in turn, led the United States to threaten that it may withhold a weapons sale to Turkey last month.
The Turkish president nonetheless praised the efforts of his American counterpart at achieving Middle East peace. Obama, who spoke before the assembly earlier on Thursday, believes that an independent Palestine may join the UN next year if this time around, Israelis and Palestinians “will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way.” But Gül warned that “it would be very difficult to make progress toward permanent peace unless we put an end to the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza.”
Another longstanding dispute to be resolved in the year ahead may be Cyprus. Reaching a “just and lasting settlement” on divisions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots would have repercussions for the whole region, said Gül, transforming the eastern Mediterranean “into a pillar of peace, stability, cooperation and welfare within the European Union.”
Turkey has fared well in recent years despite the global downturn. Gül credited “comprehensive economic and financial measures” enacted by Turkey in the years before the recession hit which included bureaucratic reform and the signing of free-trade agreements with many neighbors. The president further praised the G20, of which Turkey is a member; specifically its efforts “at restoring global growth and streamlining financial practices.”