Ali Babacan'ın BM Afrika Grubunda Yaptığı Konuşma, New York, 24 Temmuz 2008 (ingilizce tam metin)

ADDRESS by H.E. ALİ BABACAN, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF TURKEY to the GROUP OF AFRICAN COUNTRIES, New York, 24 July 2008

Mr. Chairman,
Excellencies,

It is a great pleasure for me to address the distinguished members of the African Group and I thank you Mr. Chairman for organizing this meeting. Less than a month ago, I attended the African Union Summit in Sharm el Sheikh and I had the pleasure of meeting with many of your Foreign Ministers. I am sure that today will be a continuation of the very productive meetings I had with them on that occasion.

As you know, the relations between Turkey and the African countries continue to develop constantly. I therefore try to make use of every opportunity to meet with my African counterparts or their representatives. And every time we meet, not only I see our relations further enhanced, but I also observe the ever greater strides taken by the African continent as a whole.

Indeed, today Africa lies at the centre of global attention and interest. When we look at the transformation that is underway in the Continent, we see that Africa is fast becoming a rising power. What is even more important and promising is that the moves undertaken by Africans themselves play a significant role in that regard.

Of course, it is also a fact that the continent is still faced with certain problems. Epidemic diseases, climate change and increasing food and oil prices are particularly challenging for the African states. Also, the ongoing conflicts and humanitarian crises in some countries continue to be a source of concern. But it is also the widespread expectation of the international community that Africa’s destiny is changing and that in the near future Africa will be the shining star of our world.

I am a strong believer of this foresight and so are the people of Turkey. Thus, Turkey has every motivation to strongly support the efforts of the African countries towards stability, development and prosperity. Indeed, we are determined to work together with African nations as friends and partners, with a view to expanding the scope of our cooperation in every possible field.

As you know, back in 1998 Turkey adopted an African Outreach Policy which aims at further developing and diversifying the political, economic and cultural ties between Turkey and the African countries. After 10 years, we are pleased with the progress made, although we are fully aware that there is still a big potential to be tapped.

First and foremost, we have laid down the conceptual and legal framework of our political and economic partnership by signing a series of agreements. Exchange of bilateral visits at every level also enabled us to better evaluate the existing opportunities based on our comparative and complementary advantages. Cooperation between private sectors is also promoted through the establishment of joint business councils and/or chambers of commerce.

As a result, our trade volume with African countries which was only 5 billion Dollars in 2003, increased more than two fold and exceeded 12 billion Dollars in 2007. Yet, considering that Turkey’s overall trade volume amounts to 300 billion Dollars, we believe that our bilateral trade can and should be increased significantly. Turkey’s target is to reach a trade volume of 30 billion Dollars with Africa by the end of 2010.

There are hundreds of Turkish firms currently operating in various African countries. The contracting services provided by Turkish firms in those countries alone have reached a total of 18 billion US Dollars with ample room to expand. On the other hand, the amount of direct Turkish investments in African countries exceeded 500 million US Dollars and shows promising signs of further increase.

Turkish Airlines currently flies to Addis Ababa, Khartoum, Lagos and Johannesburg and there are plans to operate more direct flights to several other destinations in Africa. We are also looking into new means of transport, particularly in the maritime field.

Turkey is also stepping up its efforts to provide humanitarian and development assistance to African countries. In this regard, the Turkish International Development and Cooperation Agency (TİKA) has opened 3 offices in the region; Sudan, Ethiopia and Senegal. From these 3 offices TİKA is operating in 37 countries. They are now actively exploring new avenues of development cooperation in areas like health, water sanitation, education, technical training, environmental protection and transportation.

To this end, we have provided several dedicated funds for the use of African countries. The latest initiative is the allocation of 50 million US Dollars by the Turkish Government for the financing of development projects in African countries over the next five years. Also, the recent commitment by Turkey of a total of 20 million US Dollars to the Least Developed Countries (LDC), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Land Locked Developing Countries (LLDC) provides another resource pool for many African countries.

In this regard, one of the specific areas we are particularly interested in helping is related to the HIV/AIDS and its implimentation for Africa. It is indeed unacceptable that nearly six thousand people die every day because of AIDS and that nearly seven thousand people are diagnosed every day as HIV-positive. We are thus resolved to help our African partners in combating this menace and ensuring universal access to HIV prevention and treatment. On this occasion, I want to declare that my country has decided to donate three million US Dollars for that purpose to be used over the next three years.

As you might see from this brief summary, our relations are definitely on the right track. And we will do whatever it takes to maintain this momentum. For instance, in line with the significant strides taken in advancing our relations, the year 2005 was declared as the “Year of Africa” in Turkey and new incentives are provided covering all aspects of our relation.

In 2005, Turkey has also obtained observer status in the African Union. Then, and maybe even more importantly, the African Union’s decision in January 2008 to declare Turkey as one of its Strategic Partners has elevated our relations to a new level and further enhanced Turkey’s resolve to further deepen and expand our partnership.

Finally, the most recent boost for our partnership came last May when Turkey has become a non-regional member of the African Development Bank. This membership will undoubtedly open new areas of cooperation.

Of course, as we take our relations to such a new level, we need the expertise and resources to support and sustain it. In fact, we have already 12 Embassies and more than 20 Honorary Consulate Generals all over the continent. However, this is not enough to meet our expectations. Therefore, my Government has recently decided to open new Embassies in 15 African capitals. On the other hand, only 13 African countries have resident Embassies in Ankara, 3 of which are recently opened. Hence, we would like to see other African countries opening Embassies in Ankara and me remain ready to support them in this regard.

The last point I want to mention regarding our relations is the upcoming Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit to be held in İstanbul, on 18-20 August 2008. H.E. President Gül has already extended invitation letters to all African leaders. Likewise, I have conveyed invitations to my counterparts. We believe that, this first summit meeting will allow us to take stock of the progress made until now. We will also look at the future of our relations with a view to further developing and diversifying them.

As you know, we have also extended invitations to Your Excellencies, PRs, for this meeting. In doing so, we are guided by the belief that our deepening bilateral relationship should also find its reflection in the UN. What is more, the close contact and cooperation between our Permanent Missions in New York also provide us with alternate channels of swift communication between our capitals. So I would like to see you all in the magnificent city at Istanbul next month.

Distinguished Ambassadors,

Having mentioned the UN, we are indeed cognizant of the importance of the Africa-related issues on the UN agenda, and the invaluable contributions your missions are making to the deliberations in the General Assembly, in the Security Council and in the ECOSOC. Since development, security and human rights are the three cornerstones of the UN, African countries certainly have a great say in the future of this organization and all what it stands for.

I am also pleased to observe that, despite the geographical distance, we share common positions on many of those issues. Hence, there is ample ground for increased cooperation.

That brings me to the last part of my remarks, our candidature for one of the non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council for the term 2009-2010.

In a nutshell, we see our prospective membership in the Security Council as an opportunity which will allow us to contribute even further to the achievement of our common objectives in the UN.

In this regard, it is worth underlying that the last time Turkey served in the Security Council was in 1961, and for only a one-year term. Having stayed out of the Security Council for almost half a century, while at the same time remaining at the heart of many issues and problems that demanded the close attention of this body, we think it is now time that we are given the opportunity to bring our added value to the work of the Security Council.

Also, the drastic changes that took place in world politics within the last two decades and the ensuing transformation of Turkish foreign policy in line with these new realities have strengthened our motivation to become a non-permanent member of the Security Council.

Indeed, looking back into the recent past and the efforts exerted by Turkey in addressing our common risks, threats and opportunities, I am pleased to see a satisfying record. Allow me to briefly mention a few points.

First of all, our humanitarian and development assistance, about which I have already spoken within the context of Africa, is increasing steadily. To give you an idea of our efforts, the ODA we provided for the last three years has been 600 to 700 million US Dollars per year. When we include, for the same period, the aid provided by our private sector and the NGOs, the figure for our total assistance then reaches to 1.1 to 1.7 billion US Dollars per year.

Secondly, our level of participation in the UN peacekeeping missions has also shown a constant increase, making us an important contributor to such operations. In this context, we attach special importance to ensuring peace and stability in Africa. Currently, we are providing personnel and financial contribution to 6 of the existing 8 UN missions in Africa (Sudan, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Burundi). We are also one of the leading police contributors to the UN.

On another front, we take particular pleasure to co-sponsor the Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative which, under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, aspires to serve as a catalyst for the much needed dialogue and interaction between different cultures. Already, 74 countries, including many of you, and 14 international organizations associated themselves with this initiative through membership to its Group of Friends. Given the high risks and stakes involved, Turkey is committed to the success of this initiative and make use of its unique bridging qualities to promote tolerance, understanding and harmony among different faiths and cultures.

Dear Friends,

I know that you are already familiar with many of these issues. Therefore I will conclude by just saying that Turkey truly feels itself well-qualified to be represented in the Security Council and that we believe we can indeed bring a significant added value to the work of the Council if and when given the opportunity.

In light of the common interests and ideals shared by our respective countries, African Group’s support to our quest for Security Council membership is of vital importance for Turkey. We have already received a strong show of support from the African countries and we are indeed grateful for that. On our part, I would like to reiterate that we would do everything to prove worthwhile of your support and, if elected, Turkey will remain particularly sensitive to the challenges facing Africa.

Thank you.

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