Gül meets with presidents at TCC’s Friendship Dinner

September 27, 2008 at 7:40 pm Leave a comment

Turkish President Abdullah Gül was the main speaker and guest of honor at the Third Annual Friendship Dinner held on Thursday at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel and hosted by the Turkish Cultural Center (TCC).

In attendance were the heads of state of seven other countries and numerous officials from Africa, Asia and Europe, among them Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic, Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski, Tajik President Imamali Rahmanov, Guinean President Lansana Conte, Cameroonian President Paul Biya and Kosovar President Fatmir Sejdiu.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, Economy Minister Mehmet Şimşek and Turkish Ambassador to the United States Nabi Şensoy were also present at the event. Former US President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York sent a video message to the event in which they praised the relations and interaction between the Turkish and American nations.

President Abdullah Gül, who took to the podium for the keynote address, also praised Turkish-American relations.

He expressed the belief that both countries would exert their best efforts to further boost their ties. “Turkey and the US have a deep-rooted relationship based on common values and objectives. They have managed to diversify the fields of this multi-faceted relationship over the years,” he stressed.

Gül then underlined the geographical significance of Turkey to the world, a crossroads between Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. He said Turkey sits as a natural bridge between various cultures and civilizations, adding that it works for peace and stability in its region in cooperation with the US.

“As two allies who have common strategic interests, our countries work in their regions and beyond for the protection and maintenance of peace, stability, prosperity and safety. Turkey and the US have common interests in a number of fields, including finding a solution for the conflict between Israel and the Arab world, the normalization of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the restoration of stability in the Caucasus. Even though the positive aspects of relations between the two countries make up a long list, their ties are faced with a short list of challenges. However, despite these difficulties, the strategic partnership between Turkey and the US stands more powerful than ever,” he remarked.

Gül also focused on ways to improve relations between countries around the world.

“Such fundamental values as democracy, pluralism, respect for human rights and dignity, the improvement of gender equality and the promotion of the importance of the rule of law continue to guide the communities. Increasing interaction between nations in the fields of education and culture will provide with them the opportunity to build permanent bridges between themselves. Social harmony and intercultural dialogue is now a must for the peaceful existence of different nations to survive under a single umbrella,” he stated.

Underlining that some forms of discrimination pose a threat to global peace, stability and safety, the president listed them as racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

“We all witness that there are attempts to divide the world into cultural and religious groups. We need to show a strong determination and political will to stand up against these attempts,” he said.

Gül stressed that the Alliance of Civilizations (AoC) is a good reflection of this determination and will. The AoC was first proposed by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations in 2005 and co-sponsored by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The aim of the alliance is to galvanize international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

“Turkey being a natural bridge between various civilizations has gained this country such virtues as understanding different cultures and religions and tolerance and respect toward them. The US was the first country to recognize Turkey’s central role in the Alliance of Civilizations. This alliance offers the world an unprecedented opportunity to fight against intolerance, extremism and polarization, three threats that may poison relations between different cultures,” Gül concluded.

TCC President Recep Özkan also addressed the guests, thanking them for accepting their invitation to attend the dinner and stressing that he is hopeful the world will one day be surrounded with goodness and beauty, two core elements of humanity.

“Humanity will sooner or later return to its self and thus to these two elements. I believe beauty and goodness will go beyond their borders and expand their scope to the whole world. Therefore, we need to appreciate even the smallest step to this end,” he said.

Another topic Gül touched upon during his speech was Turkish-Armenian relations, bringing to mind that Turkey was among the first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence.

“Turkey and Armenia unfortunately have no diplomatic relations. My Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, was courageous to invite me to Yerevan. I accepted his invitation with similar courage. We not only watched a soccer game during this visit. We also had the opportunity to discuss Turkish-Armenian relations as well as relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the recent conflict in the Caucasus. My sole wish with this visit was to help crate a positive atmosphere for Turkey, Armenia and other countries in the region so that everything returns to normal. I am hopeful in this sense,” he remarked.

In response to a question from a participant, Gül stressed that the recent conflict in the Caucasus was very saddening. “Problems in the region should not remain unresolved. I don’t say this for only Nagorno-Karabakh but also for Abkhazia and Ossetia. … Russia is not pleased with recent developments in the region, either. Strong support from Russia for the regional alliance in the Caucasus is very meaningful,” he added.

Clinton praises Gülen’s contribution to interfaith dialogue

Former US President Clinton and his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the contributions of Fethullah Gülen — a prominent Turkish intellectual — to inter-religious dialogue in a video message they sent to the event.

“By being here tonight you are contributing to lasting security at home and the world. You are promoting [the idea of] tolerance and interfaith dialogue inspired by Gülen and his transnational social movement,” he said.

He also said Gülen’s interfaith and intercultural dialogue activities strengthen the common values of the world and encourage the continuation of cultural and educational relations that interlink the world.

“In this interdependent world, the faiths of people on opposite sides of the globe are increasingly linked. It is critical to keep the lines of communication open as much as we can. That’s why the communication between the Turkish-American community and the people of Turkey is so important,” he added.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, praised the TCC for its contributions to the relations between Turkey and the US and thanked the organizers of the event. She also wished Muslims a happy Ramadan and said the holy month has a message that fosters peace, affection and solidarity among people.

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Entry filed under: Diplomacy, News.

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