There is an urgent need for implementing “comprehensive and meaningful reforms” at the UN, starting with restructuring the UN Security Council, Turkey’s president said on Tuesday.
“We have seen how ineffective the existing global mechanisms have been during this crisis. This was so much true that it took weeks, even months, for the Security Council, the most fundamental decision-making body of the United Nations, to include the pandemic on its agenda.
“Thus, we have once again seen the rightfulness of the ‘the world is bigger than five’ thesis, which I have been advocating for years from this rostrum,” Erdogan told the 75th UN General Assembly via video link.
Stressing the importance of reviewing mentality, institutions, and rules, to prevent the loss of reputation of international organizations, Erdogan said that the fate of humanity cannot be left at the mercy of a limited number of countries.
“We must provide the Council with a more effective, democratic, transparent, and accountable structure and functioning. Likewise, we should also strengthen the General Assembly, which reflects the common conscience of the international community,” he urged.
Touching on the needs of global cooperation for global problems like COVID-19, he said that the world should try to use the mechanisms for multilateral cooperation in the most effective way.
“We have been in the forefront of efforts to combat the pandemic in the G20, the Turkic Council, MIKTA, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other platforms, he said, adding that Turkey has extended help to 146 countries during the global outbreak.
The Turkish president said that the supply of medical equipment and drugs as well as vaccine development should not be an issue of competition.
“No matter which country they are produced in, vaccines to be made ready-for-use should be offered to the common benefit of humanity,” he exhorted.
Erdogan said that the pandemic adversely affected conflict dynamics around the world and increased vulnerabilities.
“We regret that the United Nations Secretary-General’s call for a global humanitarian cease-fire, which we also support, has not produced concrete results,” he stated.
“As Turkey, we are looking for ways to eliminate threats to our country and humanity, by taking any kind of initiative if required.”
On Syria, he said that the civil-war torn country “continues to pose a threat to the security and stability of our region.”
“As the country that struck the first and most serious blow against Daesh [ISIS] in the region, we continue to fight against the PKK-YPG terrorist organization,” he added.
He also said the international community cannot find “a permanent solution to the Syrian issue without adopting the same principled attitude and decisive stance against all terrorist organizations.”
“It should be a priority for all of us to resolve the conflict in Syria on the basis of the roadmap endorsed in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.
“To this end, the political process initiated under the auspices of the United Nations, which is also Syrian-owned and Syrian-led, should be brought to a successful conclusion,” Erdogan said.
“Today, countries like Turkey, which are hosting the highest number of refugees, save the dignity of all humanity through their sacrifices, however, some states, including some European countries, unfortunately, violate the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.”
Erdogan called on the UN to take a firm stance against these violations that corrode the Geneva Convention and the international human rights system.
“The attacks launched by the coup plotters in Libya last year to overthrow the legitimate Government of National Accord have brought only pain and destruction to this country,” he stressed.
“The international community couldn’t ensure that neither the coup plotters nor their supporters have been made to account for the massacres, human rights violations, and especially for the mass graves in Tarhuna,” he said.
Turkey has been the only country to give “a concrete response” and provide support the Libya’s legitimate government upon its call for help, the president said.
Erdogan also expressed belief for “a permanent political solution in Libya through an inclusive and comprehensive dialogue conducted by the Libyans.”
On Yemen, Erdogan said that history will not forgive those who covet Yemen’s sovereignty, political and territorial integrity, or overlook its continued suffering.
Turning to Iran, he voiced support for resolving the issues about Iran’s nuclear program in the light of “international law, through diplomacy and dialogue.”
He also reiterated the call for all parties “to abide by their obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which significantly contributes to regional and global security.”
On Palestine, Erdogan urged the establishment of the independent, sovereign, contiguous Palestine State based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
“Upon rejection of the document of surrender, which was tried to be imposed on Palestine under the name of ‘Deal of the Century,’ Israel this time accelerated its attempts to ‘have the inside track’ with the help of its collaborators,” he said.
“Turkey will not support any plan that the Palestinian people do not give consent to,” he added.
“Countries that have declared their intention to open embassies in Jerusalem, in violation of the United Nations resolutions and international law, only serve to make the conflict more complicated with their actions,” he said.
On the Kashmir conflict, Erdogan said that it is key to stability and peace in South Asia and remains “a burning issue".
"Steps taken following the abolition of the special status of [Indian-administered] Jammu and Kashmir further complicated the problem," he added.
"We are in favor of solving this issue through dialogue, within the framework of United Nations resolutions and especially in line with the expectations of the people of Kashmir," he added.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts but claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965, and 1971 – two of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with Pakistan.
According to several human rights groups, thousands have been killed and tortured in the conflict that flared up in 1989.
On Aug. 5, 2019, the Indian government revoked Article 370 and other related provisions from its Constitution, scrapping the country’s only Muslim-majority state and its autonomy. It was also split into two federally administered territories.
Erdogan proposes regional conference on E.Med
On the tension in Eastern Mediterranean, the Turkish leader said: “For a while, there are countries acting with the understanding of ‘the winner takes all’.
“The futile steps to exclude our country have no chance of success,” he vowed.
“We do not have designs on anyone else’s right, remedy, and legitimate interests, neither in the Eastern Mediterranean nor in any other region,” he reiterated.
Turkey cannot “turn a blind eye on the violation of the rights of our country and the Turkish Cypriots and to the fact that our interests are being ignored,” he said.
“The reason for the problems existing in the region today is the one-sided steps taken by Greece and the Greek Cypriots since 2003 with maximalist demands.
“Turkey is a country that is compelled to shoulder the burden of any negative developments in the Eastern Mediterranean by itself,” he added.
Erdogan said that Turkey’s “priority is to settle disputes in a sincere dialogue, based on international law and an equitable basis.”
“However, I would like to clearly state that we will never tolerate any imposition, harassment, or attack in the opposite direction.”
He reiterated Turkey’s call for establishing dialogue and cooperation between coastal countries of the Eastern Mediterranean.
“For this purpose, we would like to propose the convening of a regional conference, including Turkish Cypriots, in which the rights and interests of all the countries of the region are considered,” he said.
The Turkish president cited “the absence of a fair, comprehensive, and permanent solution to the Cyprus issue” during the negotiations that have been continuing intermittently since 1968 as one of the reasons for the crisis in the region.
“The only obstacle to a solution is the uncompromising, unjust, and spoiled approach of the Greek Cypriot side.
“Ignoring international agreements, the Greek Cypriot side aims to make the Turkish Cypriots a minority in their homeland, or even completely exclude them from the island,” Erdogan added.
“As a guarantor country, we have never left the Turkish Cypriot people alone in their rightful cause, and we will not leave them in the future. The solution to the Cyprus issue is possible only by accepting the fact that the Turkish Cypriot people are the co-owners of the island,” he said.
“We will support any solution that will permanently guarantee the security of the Turkish Cypriot people and their historical and political rights on the island,” Erdogan pledged.
Tensions have recently escalated over the energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greece, Southern Cyprus and other EU members have tried to block Turkey’s energy exploration, claiming it is searching in Greek waters, using a maximalist view of Athens’ maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.
Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – says this view is illegal and makes no sense and has sent out drill ships, with military escort, to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have rights in the region.
It has repeatedly urged negotiations with no preconditions to lay out fair sharing of the region’s resources.
Climate change and Islamophobia
Erdogan also stressed the importance of acting together on climate change.
“We see how human interference in the balance of nature can lead to heavy costs,” he said. “We must stop and reverse this.”
“As Turkey, we sincerely support the efforts in this regard and fulfill our obligations, even though we have an almost negligible historical responsibility at this point,” he added.
The Turkish president also highlighted “a problem that threatens humanity, but for some reason is considered invisible."
“Racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and hate speech have reached an alarming level,” he said.
“In the course of the pandemic, acts of violence against vulnerable people, especially migrants and asylum-seekers, accelerated while xenophobia and racism increased,” he added.
“Muslims are the most exposed to these dangerous tendencies fueled by prejudice and ignorance,” he said.
“Those who are primarily responsible for this dangerous course are politicians who turn to populist rhetoric for the sake of votes, and marginal segments who legitimize hate speech by abusing the freedom of expression,” he said.
The Turkish president called on all international organizations to take concrete steps in the fight against this behavior.
“I reiterate my call for March 15, the day of the terrorist attack perpetrated in New Zealand against Muslims, to be declared by the United Nations as ‘International Solidarity Day Against Islamophobia’,” he said.
Asia and Africa
Erdogan also touched upon Turkey’s relations with Asian and African countries in his address.
“With our Asia Anew initiative, we will give our relations a new dynamism, in the current time when the pendulum of history is shifting again toward Asia.
“We have also gained significant momentum in our relations with Africa, with which we have humanitarian and historical ties connecting our close geographies,” he said.
“We plan to implement projects aimed at strengthening Africa’s capacity at the third Turkey-African Union Partnership Summit that we intend to hold in Turkey next year," he added.
He stressed the importance of cooperation during the pandemic.
“We must of course keep our distance from the pandemic, but we must also close ranks in our joint struggle and cooperation against all challenges that threaten the international community,” he said.
“We will continue our efforts to transform Istanbul, one of the most prominent cities in the world throughout history, into a regional hub of the United Nations,” he added.
Across the world, COVID-19 has claimed over 965,000 lives in 188 countries and regions since last December. The US, India, Brazil, and Russia are currently the worst-hit countries.
More than 31.35 million cases have been reported worldwide, with recoveries exceeding 21.52 million, according to figures compiled by the US' Johns Hopkins University.