Statement by H.E. Mr. Halit Çevik, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, at the Open Debate on War, Its lessons and the Search for a Permanent Peace

Halit Çevik 29.01.2014
Mr. President,

Turkey aligns itself with the statement delivered earlier by the European Union, but let me make some additional remarks in my national capacity.

First, I wish to express my appreciation to the Jordanian Presidency, for convening this open debate on an issue of great importance for the UN and the member states. The number of speakers today is a clear reflection of the interest in this issue. I would also like to thank Undersecretary-General Mr.Feltman for his briefing.

Indeed, avoiding war and historical tensions, maintaining peace and achieving reconciliation are fundamental objectives of the work of the United Nations. So, we welcome the opportunity to engage in a debate on this issue.

Mr. President,

Peacebuilding efforts today, pertain mostly to the development of a political, economic, security and institutional environment, conducive to the establishment of lasting peace. But ensuring a favorable social environment is also key, as often, psychological and social factors will directly affect efforts in other areas, from political to security.

Parties to a conflict may have divergent historical narratives, and even selective memory, polluting the social, political and security environment, becoming an obstacle to reconciliation and contribute to relapse into conflict. In this context, along with developments in other areas, striving to reach a common historical narrative, to provide local populations with a brighter, conflict-and-war-free future, has to be pursued.

The international community, the UN and regional and subregional organizations have a role to play in helping to forge conditions that enable reconciliation, through the various instruments at their disposal, including mechanisms such as history, truth, inquiry commissions, panels and tribunals. But in this process, the following factors must always be borne in mind.

First, there are no two conflicts that are alike. The requirements for reconciliation efforts will differ according to the conflicts, as well as the political, social, economic, cultural and historical factors. While in some cases truth commissions may facilitate reconciliation, in others tribunals could be successful.

Secondly, ownership of the reconciliation process by the parties is a determining factor. Reconciliation can not be forced and can only be sustainable with the consent of the parties.

Reconciliation is a process for which the local populations bear the primary responsibility. The international community and the UN must support local reconciliation efforts, but it should not attempt to act as a substitute. In this context, the United Nations is an important actor, possessing the legitimacy, capability and experience to assist providing technical support mechanisms and agreements that are required to be the basis of reconciliation processes.

The UN and the international community should provide the necessary political, financial and logistical support for the mechanisms that can help achieve reconciliation, in the pursuit of lasting peace.

Thirdly, parties should be enabled to meet on a common objective historical ground. The establishment of historical facts through scientific means, such as, impartial and objective historical commissions, that may be formed by the parties or even with the participation of third parties, can be very useful to lay an even common ground on which reconciliation can be built.

In this context, the proposals in the concept note of the Jordanian Presidency are noteworthy. The establishment of UN historical advisory teams to assist local authorities in securing documents and archives could be useful. Additionally, UN assistance in building local capacities for national archives or national historical commissions, where necessary, could also be beneficial. They would help secure the necessary scientific data that could be critical in later stages, in the path to establishing a common objective historical ground.

Also, often, third parties play an important role. They may hold key data in their archives. The UN could assist reconciliation processes, by urging third parties to unconditionally provide the relevant mechanisms with the necessary information for an unbiased, objective and scientific account of historical narrative.

Fourth, even though establishing historical facts may be important, reconciliation should focus on the future. It is essential to create an atmosphere that promotes understanding, tolerance and cooperation, in order to achieve true reconciliation. Reconciliation must not be narrowed down to revisiting the past and be used to revive old animosities. Establishment of a positive, forward-looking agenda will be more beneficial to create a peaceful future, where communities can make a fresh start.

Fifth, reconciliation does not mean impunity. In order to achieve true reconciliation, those responsible for the most serious crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes must be held accountable.

Sixth, it must always be remembered that reconciliation is mostly a long-term and complex process. We must not give up efforts at the first sight of obstacles.

On this note, let me pay our tribute once again to the memory of late President Nelson Mandela for his unrelenting efforts in pursuit of and success in achieving national reconciliation.

Mr. President,

As we discuss and attempt to strengthen our capacities to better deal with post-conflict factors, we should not stop to intensify efforts to prevent conflicts. We should equally strengthen the all instruments at our disposal for preventing and resolving conflicts, including mediation.

Thank you.