The new presidential governmental system has proven to be very advantageous for Turkey. The work of Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, a successful entrepreneur and prominent figure in the sector, was only possible as a result of this system. Ersoy's years of experience and his vision for the culture and tourism sector within the framework of the new system have laid the foundation for projects that contribute to regional prosperity and therefore stability and peace. By using tourism and culture as a tool for cooperation, he has accelerated steps toward regional peace.
Jerusalem is a sensitive and sacred issue for both the leadership and for Turkey, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan listing it as a priority. We as a country wish to improve our relations with Jordan, which is home to the Hashemite guardianship of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and are ready to provide all possible assistance. Although we have a tense relationship with Israel, we believe that the two nations in the region having good relations will only serve as an advantage in order to better serve Al-Aqsa Mosque and support the Palestinian people and state. Turkey is the first Muslim country to have diplomatic relations with Israel, which began in 1949.
It is of the utmost importance for Jordan to manage Al-Aqsa's affairs, and we are ready to cooperate and provide the required assistance for reconstruction or any other support in order to contribute to the strength of the Al Quds Islamic Waqf. To this end, Turkey is ready to do what is necessary in cooperation with the competent Jordanian authorities, and we will visit Jordan or invite Jordanian ministers to Turkey to exchange ideas about cooperation and strengthening and deepening relations.
When I was president of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), I made several visits to the Jordanian capital, Amman, on the last of which I was a member of our president’s delegation. As it was emphasized in all those visits, the need for cooperation between Turkish and Jordanian institutions is vital and we should work on signing legal documents which in turn will benefit Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian people.
An example of one of the ways in which we could cooperate would be to sign a protocol for the modernization of the Islamic Museum in the Al-Aqsa complex. By requiring legal documents, it would avert misinterpretations and speculation of reasons behind the move which is solely an act of cooperation between the two brotherly countries. It should be kept in mind that misleading discourse about Turkish-Jordanian cooperation would be harmful to al-Quds and Palestinian people, which is why we must limit it.
The answer to this issue from the Turkish perspective is simple: we welcome any peace initiative or agreement as we have always worked toward improving regional peace. The deal goes by what Turkey stands for – seizing every opportunity. Even though the treaty, dubbed the "Abraham Accords" is called a "peace agreement," it makes no mention of the conflicts.
The rights and hopes of the Palestinians could never be excluded from the deal. If countries are sincere about bringing peace to the region, all parties should feel they have been treated fairly. As a Turkish citizen, my personal opinion on the matter is that there is nothing surprising about the agreement, which is the culmination of what has been running in the background for a relatively long time finally being brought to light through official declaration.
The word "peace" deserves special attention. It is a fast circulating word in our part of the world but one which is, unfortunately, losing its meaning as in numerous cases the call for "peace" during discussions is contradicted by what is then done in the field.
Turkey has always been serious and sincere in its pursuit of peace with all countries and warns all parties of the terrible consequences of contradicting the word. Entitling documents as a “peace agreement” is meaningless if they do not really stop conflicts on the field.
What I observe is that Jordan has a wise leadership, one with a vast experience based on its history and geography as Jordan stands between the East and the West on one front and between Israel and Palestine on the other. I believe Jordan's experience must be shared with neighboring countries, including Turkey and that it has an obligation to deepen and extend the scope of the Turkish-Jordanian relations. This move would benefit the two brotherly countries as well as Palestine and Jerusalem.
First of all, we are neighbors. Wherever you are in the Arab world, in Amman, Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, you can be in Istanbul within a few hours, and we also share the same geographic and socio-cultural environment, as we have done throughout centuries.
Problems in the region affect us all. We are immersed in our regional issues, in conflict and fighting, whereas the world suffers from wider global problems. If we would stop for a moment and think, we would see that our problems are small compared with what is happening globally and that solving our regional problems is easier than it seems.
However, problems with the big powers such as China, the United States and Russia are to be looked at with greater caution as they are orchestrating chaos in the Mediterranean. Russia competing with the European Union and China in a race with the U.S., the international arena is subject to quick changes, a situation that proves positive for no parties. Efforts need to be made by countries in the region to understand their neighbors in order to develop common approaches and policies.
Importance of communication
Communication is the key to accomplishing peace and prosperity and must be accepted by all sides as the only possible tool in problem-solving. Fairness should be extended to all parties to establish lasting good relations.
There are certain groups and powers that aim to block Turkey's channels of communication with the outside world, especially their neighbors. These are the same forces responsible for the formulaic news criticizing Turkey and Erdoğan we have all been subjected to over the last years. These baseless allegations – all stemming from the same source, produced by members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and their domestic/foreign supporters (including other terrorist groups who view Turkey as an enemy) – are dispersed to other countries and reported in different languages by their own or affiliated media channels. The affiliation in many cases is kept under wraps due to the secret nature of the terrorist organization.
The organization spreads through the same channels another baseless claim that the Turkish government has a neo-Ottoman agenda. This claim is supported by certain powers that wish to weaken Turkey's maneuverability when in reality the nation only pursues initiatives that contribute to regional peace and prosperity.
Turkey is a republic, a young republic that is proud that its history is not like many others – tarnished by imperialism, destruction, tears and blood. We are a country that wants to be understood correctly and that our efforts are only ever directed toward supporting and maintaining peace. Turkey is more aware than any other country that free and prosperous people are the key to regional peace which is why Turkey is in favor of regional cooperation through win-win policies including all parties of the area.
Terrorist organizations and certain powers which have aligned do not encourage good relations and through their propaganda try to make the audience forget that our biggest problems are actually common ones, such as the economy and development.
In the meantime, fighting terrorism in all its dimensions has been an important part of Turkey's agenda during Erdoğan’s term, as we as a people have suffered many atrocities at the hands of FETÖ, the YPG/PKK and Daesh who are all state-recognized terrorist organizations.
Syria and Iraq are also plagued by the same terrorists, two countries we see not only as neighbors but its inhabitants as relatives. This is why Turkey is adamant that improved channels of communication built between neighbors are the only way to defeat this common enemy by coming together as a whole.
We, unfortunately, do see cases of countries using terrorist groups as a tool to achieve certain goals or harm others. In order to achieve regional peace, every country should respect its neighbors and this respect should extend to the neighbor’s experience of terrorism, especially its definition of who the terrorists are.
In the past countries of this region used to sit around the same table and negotiate their problems, but as of late all they do is argue. We must all be able to sit around the table again and talk because it is only after sound communication, no matter how difficult the discussions, that agreements can be reached. Regardless of our differences, a consensus among all Arab and Islamic countries must be reached at once, based on the principle of protecting Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Turkey has always promoted communication, and I believe as long we respect each other's sovereignty, the door for open communication will remain open even under the most difficult circumstances. I hope, for example, to repair ties with Saudi Arabia following the case of Jamal Khashoggi as our two nations had always enjoyed a positive relationship in the past.
Turkey could not turn a blind eye in this case, as it occurred on Turkish land, but we do share a number of commonalities with Saudi Arabia due to our common history and cultures. I am hopeful that the depth of the relationship between the two nations will be reflected in the outcomes of the decision-makers.
Somehow the wise people of these two nations will find the necessary solutions to ameliorate the deeply rooted relations. If Saudi Arabia agrees, it would be supporting Turkey's principles of the inclusion of all sides in regional peace processes and the implementation of win-win policies.
*Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism