Statement by H.E. Ambassador Baki İlkin, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, at the 61st Session of the General Assembly on the Agenda Item 13, Entitled "The Situation in the Middle East"

Baki İlkin 30.11.2006
Mr. President,

Turkey has aligned itself with the statements delivered by the distinguished representative of Finland on behalf of the European Union under agenda items 14 and 13, entitled "The Question of Palestine" and "The Situation in the Middle East", respectively. Therefore, I shall try to be brief in my remarks.

Mr. President,

Much has transpired in the Middle East since the deliberations during the previous General Assembly under the same subject matter -- unfortunately to the detriment of the peoples in the region. At that time, we had hoped that the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank would facilitate the resumption of the peace process. In the following period, however, the region virtually collapsed into chaos. The Gaza Strip turned into a battleground and the Palestinians in Gaza were left traumatized. The Lebanon conflict resulted in immense human and material losses. Hostage taking, rocket attacks against innocent civilians and indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force became a vicious circle.

The recent events in Palestine and Lebanon have certainly displayed once again the high stakes in the Middle East. Given the degree of suffering of the peoples in the region, we must recognize that neither military measures, nor unilateral moves could provide a lasting remedy to matters awaiting a just and comprehensive settlement. In this context, we have stated time and again that unless we fully address the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, we will not be able to achieve the desired peace and security in the Middle East.

Mr. President,

This brings me to underscore the absolute necessity of a viable political vision for the entire region and its peoples. In this framework, we are of the view that the vision of two States, living side-by-side within secure and recognized borders, is not a mirage, but a realistic goal. For this, the parties must fulfill their respective obligations, as stipulated by the Quartet Road Map, as well as all the relevant agreements and the UN Security Council resolutions. To achieve this goal, the international community must encourage the parties and facilitate a change in dynamics on the ground so as to enable them to move from confrontation to cooperation and thus to a lasting peace.

Mr. President,

We welcome the recent agreement between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert on a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Their desire for dialogue and compromise is most timely. We hope both leaders exert their best efforts to sustain the long-needed calm and quiet in the Gaza Strip. Definitely, the extension of the ceasefire to the West Bank would further alleviate the tense situation on the ground. We also wish to see the leadership on both sides to build on their fresh and constructive approach and engage in a genuine dialogue that would revive the peace process.

With this understanding, Mr. President, I would like to reiterate Turkey's commitment to and support of all efforts to resolve the Middle East question. We maintain close contacts with all the parties and encourage dialogue and cooperation. On the other hand, we believe that the potential progress in the other tracks of the Middle East Peace Process should also be given due consideration, as we try to revive the dialogue between the Palestinians and Israelis. The Syrian and Lebanese tracks await attention and re-activation for the realization of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the entire region. For its part, Turkey stands ready to contribute to the international efforts to resume all aspects of the peace process. All peoples of the Middle East deserve a peaceful, secure and prosperous life in their region.

Thank you, Mr. President.