Australian FM: Turkish-Australian relationship is future oriented with a history we honor

ALI ÜNAL @ali_unal
Published 28.06.2015 21:30
Updated 28.06.2015 21:34
Australian MFA Julie Bishop (R) and Daily Sabah's Ali Ünal
Australian MFA Julie Bishop (R) and Daily Sabah's Ali Ünal

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bishop said the Turkish-Australian relationship has a significant history that Australia respects and is future-oriented. She also said the two countries will hopefully enhance ties to achieve common goals

The Battle of Gallipoli, which was recently commemorated for its 100th anniversary, remains an important milestone in the Turkish-Australian relationship. However, the dimensions of the two countries relations are much wider. Apart from sharing the same vision in NATO, both countries also have become pivotal members of MIKTA, which is a consultative informal forum that brings together the countries of Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia. On the sidelines of the MIKTA outreach event in Canberra, Australia last week, Daily Sabah spoke with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and discussed various issues on the future of MIKTA, Australia's fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Turkish-Australian bilateral relations.

Daily Sabah: From your point of view, how will MIKTA actualize itself in global politics?

Julie Bishop: MIKTA countries are serious economic powers that play a pivotal strategic role in our respective regions. We share a capacity to pursue our interests that is not available to smaller players by using our seats in global governance structures and by making use of our respective extensive regional networks.

While each nation has different although complementary priorities, it is evident that MIKTA brings greater weight together as a group than what could be achieved by acting alone. For example, the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of MIKTA countries is over $5.8 trillion, about 8 percent of the world's economy, and this share is expected to grow.

Our combined population is around 530 million, about 8 percent of the world's population. We are all members of the United Nations, G20, World Trade Organization and Global Partnership for Development Cooperation. We are like-minded on many global issues and we are all active contributors on the global stage.

Yet there is a diverse range of geographic, thematic and religious groupings in which three or more of the MIKTA countries are also prominent contributors, which we find to be one of the group's great strengths.

For Australia, MIKTA marks a significant addition to the type and composition of international partnerships we have traditionally prioritized.

The complexities of the modern world demand Australia develop new and innovative ways of pursuing our interests. Countries now have to give priority to solving issues that transcend borders and regions, we must work with others who share similar foreign policy priorities.

This is why Australia is part of MIKTA – a new partnership that has the potential to be a significant positive force for good.

D.S.: Do you consider MIKTA's diversity as a challenge?

Bishop: MIKTA's diversity is both the hallmark of the grouping and a major source of strength; it gives us an opportunity to build consensus across very different constituencies, and when we speak with a united voice, we are more likely to be heard. The small size and informality of the group means that MIKTA is a useful and nimble mechanism for members to consult.

MIKTA members are marked by our diversity, but we share characteristics that make us practical partners. We have a common interest in promoting an open, free, rules-based international order. We are all democracies. We believe in open trade and economic development.

Our economies are the 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th largest in the world and growing at a faster rate than many in the top 10. Goldman Sachs has predicted Mexico may well become the fifth largest economy by 2050, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) assesses that on current growth rates Indonesia will be the seventh largest economy by 2030, and fourth by 2050; Turkey is also likely to be in the top 10. Australia and Korea aspire to be so.

So MIKTA provides a forum to exchange views and canvass possible solutions to common challenges. It is a forum that hopes to shape international opinion in ways that benefit us all.

D.S.: This September Australia will be taking over MIKTA's hosting duties from South Korea. What will be your main priority in this term?

Bishop: I look forward to hosting my fellow MIKTA foreign ministers in Australia next year, Mexico and Seoul have set a very high standard, so I intend to take the opportunity to showcase to the delegates the best of Australia's world-leading achievements in innovation, science, technology, culture, education, fashion and sport.

Already, MIKTA members have come up with creative ways to build greater people-to-people links between our countries. We are exchanging diplomats, we are engaging in each other's graduate courses in our respective departments of foreign affairs and trade. We are exchanging academics, students and journalists so we can understand each other better and the challenges we face.

During Australia's guidance our priorities will be to find practical ways to enhance the partnership and address the common issues of the group, which have been prioritized in the joint communiques. One of my priorities will be development systems and aid areas, and I think this is something we can do and share with each other. As MIKTA continues to strengthen, I expect we will find many more opportunities to cooperate, many more opportunities to have our voice heard jointly on issues of concern. Speaking alone, our voices will rarely be as strong as when we speak together. Together, our diversity creates a unique voice that can and will be a powerful advocate for global peace and prosperity.

D.S.: Last week Australian officials confirmed the death of two Australian citizens who were ISIS militants. Could you give us more information about Australia's fight against ISIS?

Bishop: We believe that there are about 160 Australians fighting in Syria and Iraq on the side of ISIS. We believed that 30 have been killed and the Australian government has canceled around 120 Australian passports to prevent Australian citizens traveling to Syria and Iraq to become foreign terrorist fighters in that conflict.

No country is immune from the scourge of terrorism and the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters. Terrorism is now more global, more complex and more dangerous than ever. Fueled by hate, terrorist organizations such as ISIS are attracting thousands of citizens from across the globe to join these murderous causes.

D.S.: What is Australia's view and strategy in order to eradicate terrorism in the Middle East?

Bishop: Australia is determined to prevent inflow of foreign fighters and finance to this terrorist organization. We are working in very close cooperation with the countries and Turkey is definitely one of them.

We are concerned about domestic and regional terrorist threats and therefore are working domestically to stop Australians from being radicalised and from going to take part in the conflict. In order to eradicate terrorism in the Middle East, it is necessary to support the Iraqi government to build the capacity of their security forces so they can get back the territory that's been claimed and protect their citizens.

D.S.: What are Australia's expectations about the U.N. Security Council reforms that are also advocated by Turkey?

Bishop: Australia and Turkey share a strong interest in ensuring the United Nations Security Council effectively fulfills its mandate in the maintenance of peace and security. We want to ensure the council is able to act decisively in response to global threats, including terrorism. We are working constructively on proposals to ensure the council reflects contemporary geopolitical realities. This includes increased representation for Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Latin America. Increased transparency, consultation and implementation monitoring are also needed.

Beside this, in New York in September the nations of the world will seek to agree on the successors to the Millennium Development Goals. These are big issues for Australia and we, along with other MIKTA members, have been a vocal contributor to these discussions. Our participation in these meetings provides an opportunity to combine our voices and support the issues and international institutions that promote our interests and values.

D.S.: As a member of the G20, how do you evaluate Turkey's performance as the chair? In which fields can Turkey and Australia improve the operational framework of the G20?

Bishop: Australia valued its close cooperation with Turkey as a member of the troika during our presidency of the G20 in 2014, and we are pleased to continue this as Turkey holds the presidency this year. We welcome Turkey's focus on the three "I"s of inclusiveness, implementation and investment. We particularly welcome Turkey's focus this year on integrating low-income and developing countries into the world economy through concrete and growth-oriented actions.

D.S.: Australia and Turkey share a historical bond through the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli, which was recently commemorated. In your opinion, what is the prominence of this shared experience in shaping relations between Australia and Turkey?

Bishop: Australia greatly values its bilateral relationship with Turkey. The success of the Gallipoli commemorations on April 25 underlined the strength of our bilateral relationship. We are grateful for Turkey's continuing support for the visit of many Australians to Gallipoli each year. It is a relationship with an important history that we honor, but also a relationship that looks forward, that is focused on working together to achieve our common goals.

D.S.: In which fields can Turkey and Australia improve their bilateral relations and economic cooperation?

Bishop: Australia and Turkey are working closely together in a range of global forums, including the MIKTA group. Most recently I met with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and the foreign ministers from Mexico, Indonesia and Korea in Seoul in May. The meeting enhanced our cooperation on countering terrorism and foreign fighters, addressed cyber security threats and advanced our actions relating to the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals.

Australia's contemporary relationship with Turkey also has rich cultural and social dimensions. The Australian government is supporting the Australian International Cultural Council's Year of Australia in Turkey and Year of Turkey in Australia in 2015 – a series of bilateral exchanges to build on the Gallipoli centennial. The Australian government is also committed to strengthening bilateral trade and investment with Turkey.

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