The 8th Annual Ambassadors' Conference officially began on Monday with opening remarks from Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in which he underlined that EU-Turkish relations must not be evaluated on a day-to-day basis. He said that relations should not go according to short-term emergency plans, but rather must be based on strong, consistent and long-term visions.
The conference will be held in both Ankara and Gaziantep from Jan. 10 to Jan. 16 with the theme of "Crisis Management and Humanitarian Solutions." All Turkish ambassadors serving abroad are participating in the annual conference to discuss various topics related to Turkish foreign policy as well as the ongoing humanitarian crises throughout the region. On Monday, they visited Anıtkabir – the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – followed by a visit to the Foreign Ministry Cemetery where ministry officials are buried.
In his opening remarks, Çavuşoğlu said that this year's theme was mainly based on two key events Turkey will host this year: the U.N. World Humanitarian Summit from May 23 to 24 and the Leaders' Summit of Least Developed Countries from May 27 to May 29. He also stressed the significance of the current humanitarian crises, noting that U.N. statistics indicate that 60 million people have left their countries due to conflict and crisis. He said that Turkey is one of the major actors in the global humanitarian system and that the country will continue its diplomacy without discriminating against religion, language or origin.
Çavuşoğlu said: "We believe that three main elements will carry Turkey toward its 2023 foreign policy goals. The first element is making no compromise on humanitarian sensitivity, the second is being committed to the judiciary, justice and global values, and the third is taking responsibility for development and being realistic."
As Turkey's EU accession bid has gained momentum recently, Çavuşoğlu said: "The EU's need for Turkey [in the EU] is not only limited to the refugee crisis. The EU needed Turkey yesterday, it needs it today and will need it tomorrow as well. Thus, they must not perceive our relations on a day-to-day basis." He continued in saying that the number of Turkish members at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has increased from 12 to 18 and that Turkish had become the sixth working language there.
Turkey against Islamophobia in the US
Last month, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States in the most dramatic response yet to be given by a political candidate after the Dec. 2 shooting spree carried out by two Muslims who the FBI reports had been radicalized. In this regard, Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey is unsettled by "anti-Islamic" messages swirling in the U.S. presidential race: "Turkey does not want Islamophobia to spread in the US as it has in Europe." He urged European centrist parties and governments to get rid of Islamophobia, and said: "Europe must defend its values more and stronger than before against terror, racism and intolerance."
Iran-Saudi Arabia tensions may increase regional conflicts
Commenting on relations with Iran, Çavuşoğlu drew attention to Iran's significance for Turkey, and said: "We are devoting strong efforts to further enhance our relations with Iran." Regarding regional politics, Çavuşoğlu said: "Although Turkey and Iran do not perceive regional matters similarly, we are fully cooperating and openly discussing all matters with our friends." He also commented on the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and said that the current tensions have the potential to further deepen the regional crisis. He said that all diplomatic channels must be kept open and praised the superb bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
PYD and DAESH same as PKK terrorist organization
Amid clashes between the PKK and security forces in Turkey's southeastern provinces, Çavuşoğlu said that the country has a firsthand understanding of the suffering and damage that terror creates. "We are taking all necessary measures to prevent foreign terrorists from entering Syria and Iraq from Turkey. We are continuing our devoted efforts to combat terrorism. There is no such thing as good or bad terrorists in Turkey. The PYD [Democratic Union Party] and DAESH are the same as the PKK, the DHKP-C [Revolutionary People's Liberation Party Front], al-Qaida and the al-Nusra Front to Turkey."
Regarding the current situation with Iraq, Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey's military presence in Iraq's Bashiqa camp has been the most widely debated topic in the past month. Underlining that Turkey greatly respects Iraq's territorial integrity and sovereignty, he said: "Turkish forces have been deployed to the Bashiqa camp for training purposes and to protect our troops there. The situation regarding the Baghdad administration was due to sensationalist media reporting. We have taken constructive steps regarding the concerns as Iraq is one of our most important neighbors."
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