STATEMENT BY TURKEY UN SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATE ON THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu 25.06.2018
Mr. President,

Thank you for organizing this timely debate on the Middle East and North Africa. The future of the Middle East should remain a major part of our discussions on the maintenance of peace and security globally. Events in this region have ramifications worldwide. And Turkey's own future is bound to this region not only by the forces of economics and security, as is the case for several member states, but also by geography, a long common history and culture.
Addressing root causes of the conflicts is an essential ingredient of achieving long-term stability and prosperity in the Middle East. Countries in the region consist of multi-cultural societies. We all have to denounce divisive politics along ethnic, religious and sectarian fault lines and embrace multiculturalism and inclusivity. We need to strengthen the culture of peaceful coexistence and democracy. We need to hear the legitimate aspirations of the young and dynamic populations in the region. This is our best chance for the long-term settlement of the existing conflicts, at the heart of which lie the issue of Palestine.

Mr. President,

The latest developments in Palestine remind us once again the urgency of revitalizing the peace process. We reiterate once again: The status quo is not sustainable. A two state solution remains the only way for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace. The establishment of an independent State of Palestine within 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital is long overdue. Respecting the established parameters is the only way that we can ensure security for both sides. Efforts in the opposite direction tarnishes the credibility of any peace plan or initiative.

The lack of a viable peace process continues to inflame tensions and gives way to new cycles of violence. The international community, in particular this Council cannot turn a blind eye to the blatant disregard of international law. It needs to take action and ensure the implementation of its own resolutions.

The situation in Gaza, which is on the brink of collapse after a decade of blockade continues to be deeply worrying. This tragedy is compounded by an acute gap of financial resources in the budget of UNRWA. It is our collective moral duty to support the Agency. Turkey announced an additional 10 million US Dollars for UNRWA’s Programme Budget and increased its in-kind donation. I hope that the Pledging Conference of this afternoon will provide an avenue to discuss concrete ways to address Agency's dramatic financial situation.

While our assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians will continue, we should spare no effort for a just and lasting solution to the conflict.

Mr. President,

We also continue our efforts to calm the situation on the ground in Syria and to advance the political process.

Turkey has been actively contributing to the counter-terrorism and stabilization efforts. Operations that we have carried out (namely Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch) cleared more than 4.000 square kilometers from terrorists. So far, more than 160.000 Syrians voluntarily returned to their homeland.

In the same spirit, we stepped up our humanitarian efforts, particularly in Afrin. We have been providing continuous humanitarian aid and fundamental health services to the region, in order to prevent civilian suffering.

In Syria, a viable and credible political solution based on UN parameters remains the only way to eventually build a democratic, pluralist and non-sectarian country, maintaining its political unity and territorial integrity. We will continue to do our utmost towards that end.

Mr. President,

Despite significant military gains in the field against DEASH, the socio-economic destruction across Syria and Iraq still needs to be addressed. This is crucial to eliminate the fertile ground for new generations of extremist activities.
The international community should increase its humanitarian assistance in response to the humanitarian crises in the region – at least until these countries get back on their feet again.
We must acknowledge that a strategy based solely on the narrow pursuit of national interests has not succeeded in the Middle East and it never will. A strategy that fails to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that "the foreign powers pursue their interests" at the expense of local populations.

The support of the international community for the reconstruction and development of the countries ridden with conflict remains an essential tool to avoid this perception and prevent a relapse into new conflicts.
Safe and sustainable return of refugees and IDPs, as well as reconstruction and rehabilitation of basic infrastructure in areas liberated from terrorist organizations such as DEASH and PKK/PYD-YPG are important priorities in this endeavour. The Turkish experience in this context is particularly instructive: Syrians have voluntarily started to return to their homes in areas that we liberated from DEASH. Lately, we are also seeing returns in thousands to Afrin, which we cleared from PKK/PYD/YPG through Operation Olive Branch. Turkey has been exerting every effort to restore normalcy in these territories by rebuilding essential infrastructure and providing basic utilities, food, medicine as well as security, while at the same time establishing local governance.

As I conclude, I would like to emphasize that Turkey will continue to deploy all efforts towards de-escalation on the ground, advancing the political processes for finding solutions to the protracted conflicts in the region and addressing the aspirations of the people of the Middle East for a better future.

Thank you.