This year I have the joy and the distinguished privilege of celebrating our Republic’s 96th birthday together with Turkey’s friends in Romania. Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on 29 October 1923, seals the victory in Turkish motherland in the aftermath of the WWI and marks the birth of modern Turkey.
Proclamation of the Republic draws upon the stages of reform in the nineteenth century Ottoman Turkey and brings them to the level of modern polity. New modern Turkish nation-state lived up to what the contemporary political formations of statehood in post-Empire era of Europe entailed, whereas it also underlined Turkey’s well-deserved and renewed place in the world family of nations.
Birth of the Republic of Turkey should be understood in the backdrop of holistic transformation in the early twentieth century in Near East. Proclamation of the Republic represents the launch of the fundamental modernization process in Turkey. Turkish nation underwent a comprehensive set of reforms in all facets of life, leading to social, economic and institutional transformation. It managed to transform its deep experience of modernization efforts accumulated in the preceding two centuries into a modern, democratic, and secular state.
Turkey’s revolutionary and well-achieved transformation represented a solid example to the brand new era of emerging nation-states. Subsequently, new era of international relations and politics in our region epitomized in Turkish Foreign Policy experience.
Young Turkish Republic adopted the motto of “Peace at Home, Peace in the World” in her foreign policy. Based on the principle of promoting stability and good neighbourly relations, Turkey led to the formation of a series of regional alliances in her vicinity during the interwar period.
Among all, the Balkan Entente bears special significance for us. In our joint search for regional solidarity against the rising belligerents of the time, Turkey and Romania came together along with their neighbors Greece and Yugoslavia to establish a regional non-aggression pact against the-then irredentist aggression. Through the exemplary far-sighted approach it employed, Balkan Entente brought into life the very practice of modern day regional ownership back in 1934. Our Foreign Ministers Tevfik Rüstü Aras and Nicolae Titulescu displayed wisdom and constructive diplomacy in bringing together Balkan states around a non-aggression pact, only two decades after the subversive Balkan wars.
Founding principle of the Turkish Republic’s foreign policy “Peace at Home, Peace in the World” continues to steer our diplomacy. In spite of diversifying challenges and the growing threats that increase in variety day by day in global contemporary order, it still sheds light to our bilateral relations and regional cooperation.
In an age of volatilities and uncertainties, Turkish Foreign Policy relies upon its traditional ability to adapt to changes so as to lead the surrounding parameters towards peace and stability. “Humans” occupy the core of our efforts, in the midst of political and economic fragility and drastic changes. Turkey highly values the concept of “taking initiative” for the good of her entire vicinity. We enjoy a deep-rooted tradition of statehood and democracy amalgamated with our profound historical expertise. Turkish foreign policy employs several political, economic, humanitarian and cultural cooperation tools in a complementary fashion. With a total of 243 diplomatic and consular missions, Turkey conducts one of the largest global networks. We name this “Enterprising and Humanitarian Foreign Policy”.
With this understanding, Turkey has developed a wide network of cooperation and interaction with the countries in her surrounding and beyond. We have established High Level Cooperation Councils with 25 countries and trilateral or multilateral collaboration platforms that traject our humane approach and enterprising methodology to an ever wider outreach all over the world. We maintain close ties with the countries in the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa, Southern Caucasus, South and Central Asia. Moreover, we are deepening our African Partnership Policy and developing our relations with Latin America, Caribbean and the Asia-Pacific.
Our foreign policy is based on a harmonious approach. We prioritize the utilization of relevant instruments and multilateral platforms to project peace, security, and stability in our region and beyond. We aim to enhance our strategic relationships and establish new ones. In this regard, it is significant to refer to our Strategic Partnership with Romania, which we enjoy since 2011.
As a staunch ally of NATO, we consider the transatlantic link vital to European security and prosperity. We believe in the fundamental principle of “the indivisibility of security”. Hence, Turkey is among the top five contributors to NATO’s operations. Turkey defends the Southern borders of NATO against any contemporary challenge and asymmetric threat.
Turkey is also fully committed to her European integration goal. Turkey’s integration with Europe would benefit the EU as well within the context of the Union’s proclaimed target to make it a more active global player.
Being a part of Europe, Turkey is also among the founding members to two major European multilateral platforms; namely the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Turkey plays a leading role in mediation. She stands out as the only country that co-chairs groups of friends of mediation at the UN, OSCE and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Additionally, Turkey organizes annual Istanbul Mediation Conferences to contribute to the conceptual work on mediation and the “Mediation for Peace Certificate Program” to build capacity in this field. This year’s Mediation Conference edition will be held in İstanbul on 31 October.
In line with our firm belief in the concept of regional solidarity as a tool of diplomacy to remedy in regional problems, Turkey is also founding member to several regional organizations and initiatives. Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the South East European Cooperation Process stand out as two where we display harmonious interaction with Romania.
Turkey’s human-centered state tradition compels us to work with an enterprising spirit in the humanitarian dimension of her foreign policy as well. With 8.6 billion USD of humanitarian assistance in 2018, Turkey is the largest humanitarian donor in the world, and the most generous country on the basis of per capita humanitarian spending. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, Turkey hosts the largest number of externally displaced people in the world. She is accommodating around 4 million externally displaced people, 3.6 million of whom are Syrians, who have had to flee destruction in their home country. Turkey has spent around 40 billion USD to deliver aid and services to the Syrians. We provide free healthcare and education services to our Syrian guests. On top of these, the first ever World Humanitarian Summit was held in Istanbul in 2016.
In recent years, Turkey has faced a number of formidable challenges: A big refugee crisis, a violent and bloody coup attempt, murderous attacks by various terrorist organizations, and ongoing proxy wars on our doorstep. In spite of all these challenges, Turkey managed to be an element of stability in its region.
Within this framework, in our search to elucidate on the security consequences of the Syrian crisis inflicted upon Turkey, I would like to take this opportunity to take stock of what the Syrian crisis generated on Turkey’s borders and go through the most recent developments on Turkey’s position.
Security vacuum created by the crises in Syria and Iraq spawned new terrorist elements on the ground. DEASH is one of them.
Turkey, sharing a land border of 911 km with Syria, and with her sound experience in fighting against terrorism, came to the forefront in the international platforms to address such concerns and expectations deriving from terrorism. As an active member of the Global Coalition against DEASH, since its inception, Turkey fought against DEASH in Syria more than any other country, and paid the heaviest price. Indeed, Turkey was the only country engaging in chest-to-chest combat against DEASH terrorists. In this regard, Turkish Armed Forces realized two military operations in the north of Syria in 2016-17 and 2018. Turkish Army cleaned an area of over 4.000 km2 from DEASH and PYD/YPG terror. Hence, the operation allowed an approximate number of 370 thousand Syrians to return to their homes in this area.
Emanating from the security vacuum in Syria, an equally significant terrorist organization is the PYD/PYG, which fundamentally threatens and poses a grave risk against the long-term stability of the region.
Since 2017, especially from the east of River Euphrates, Turkey was exposed to over a hundred cases of hostile acts by the PYD/YPG, Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist organization. Moreover, through tunnels dug by PYD/YPG along the bordering areas in this region, explosives and ammunition were smuggled to Turkish territories to be handed over to the PKK. On the other hand, there is credible evidence that DEASH terrorists detained by PYD/YPG were released in exchange of infiltrating into Turkey or northwest Syria in order to conduct terrorist acts.
In the face of growing threat against our national security, our talks with Allies on the establishment of a safe zone with a view to addressing our legitimate security concerns and sustaining the fight against DEASH remained inconclusive.
Being no longer able to tolerate the presence of an armed terrorist organization at her borders, Turkey launched and conducted the “Operation Peace Spring”, on the basis of international law, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter with the right to self-defence, and the relevant Security Council resolutions. The objectives of the operation were to eliminate a long-standing terror threat against our national security; to enforce Syria’s territorial integrity and unity; to liberate the local population from PYD/YPG’s oppression, and, to lay the ground for safe and voluntary return of displaced Syrians. As was the case with the two previous operations carried out by the Turkish Armed Forces in Syria, only terrorist elements, their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, vehicles and equipment were targeted during the planning and execution phases of the operation.
Operation led to a common understanding among the major actors in region on Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, and the functionality of a safe zone to address these concerns and the need to remove PYD/YPG from Turkish border.
We would like this outcome to be complimentary to the efforts to find a lasting political solution to Syria crisis and protect Syria’s territorial integrity and unity permanently. Stability of our neighbours bear utmost significance for us.
In this regard, Romania holds a special place for Turkey and Turkish diplomacy as a neighbor, a strategic partner and a staunch ally. On the basis of our long-standing and close relations at a multitude of different levels, we now enjoy and celebrate strong cooperation in almost all fields and vivid people to people relations.
Turkish-Romanian relations continue to prosper in an era, where we experience multiple turbulences. Our cooperation sets an example of durable solidarity, which should be read with a sense of immediacy in such a period of global disarray. Our close dialogue and interaction matches with a vigorous solidarity at regional and international platforms. We value our strategic partnership and would like to advance it further. We also highly esteem our cooperation within the NATO Alliance.
Here comes into the picture our common values and shared vision for the future of our region. These two elements have so far set the founding bricks of our mutual confidence and solidarity in all and different pages of history. Today, they continue to act as the two driving dynamics of our interaction. Contemporary Turkish-Romanian collaboration covers a broad spectrum of areas. Turkish private sector operates throughout Romania, creating jobs and contributing to production and exports. Likewise, social and cultural ties, which have a long history, continue to prosper. Our militaries have regular close contacts at various levels. High level contacts take place with a dense frequency. Our Joint Chief of Staff and Commander of the Land Forces paid consequent visits to Bucharest this year.
Turkish and Romanian collaboration covers a joint effort to address a diverse set of various regional crisis and problems that await solution from the international community. Presence and interaction of Turkish and Romanian civilian or military units on the ground also helps the international community in its endeavours towards settlement. This joint presence refers to a long route that straddles the Balkans and Afghanistan on two edges on the map, covering the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. In this regard, our transatlantic institutions set the main platforms that we should continue to exploit to further our collaboration. To this end, the UN, NATO, OSCE, and BSEC are the tangible examples to the variety of platforms them set the main venues. Black Sea security and stability is one high priority area where we have a shared interest. Trilateral consultation mechanism with Poland has also become a solid platform for cooperation. The most recent Trilateral Ministerial meeting was held in Ankara last April generated efficient conclusions for the solidarity between our future generations.
Romania’s sincere endeavours to contribute to Turkey-EU relations is another prominent case in point. Turkey much appreciated Romania’s elaborate diplomacy and intense efforts to contribute to the Turkey – EU relations. In this regard, convening the Turkey-EU Association Council represented a landmark for future collaboration.
Economic and trade relations set a distinct pillar in our cooperation. Turkish entrepreneurs who came to Romania after 1989 pioneered a strong economic integration. They are proud to call Romania their second home. As of the end of 2018, our bilateral trade reached an approximate volume of USD 6,3 billion, making Turkey the 5th largest trading partner of Romania and the biggest outside the EU. As for 2019, we have already hit a mutual volume of USD 4.1 billion as of August. An important step in our economic relations as for 2019 has been the First Meeting of the Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO), held in Ankara on 19 April 2019, following the visit of our Minister of Trade to Bucharest in February. As confirmed during the visit and the JETCO meeting, we will work hard with our Romanian counterparts to keep the momentum in economic cooperation and render growth sustainable in our mutual trade.
Turkish investments also continue to flourish in Romania. Over 15.000 Turkish companies are registered in Romania with a total investment of an approximate USD 7 billion. Turkish companies in Romania operate in a wide range of sectors, including banking, machinery, home appliances, construction, glass and wood production, textiles, transportation, tourism, agriculture, food processing, health, and media. I believe that Turkish private sector will continue to make further contributions to the Romanian economy and Turkish – Romanian bilateral ties.
Tourism is not only an area of economic and cultural cooperation, but in Turkish and Romanian case, it also serves as a solid venue where we yield the sound outcome of growing affinity between our two peoples. Last year, almost 700 thousand Romanian tourists visited Turkey. The figure as of August 2019 has already reached 560 thousand, thus marked a solid increase of 25% compared with that of August 2018. These figures strongly indicate a probable overall increase by the end of the year compared to the end of last year. Meanwhile, number of regular weekly flights between Istanbul and Romanian cities surpassed 50 to address the steadily increasing demand.
A detailed and elaborate narrative of Turkish-Romanian friendship and partnership is never complete without touching upon the Turkish-Tatar community. Being proud citizens of Romania, Turkish-Tatar community sets the strongest bond between our two countries. In this regard, I deem it a must to thank and praise the exemplary inclusive policies of the Romanian state towards the Turkish-Tatar minority, within the framework of the Dobrogea Model.
Similarly, the dynamic Turkish expat community has also demonstrated one distinguished experience of smooth integration. Numbering around 15 thousand, they have constructed a permanent bridge of prosperity between Turkey and Romania. On the one hand, we are proud to witness their achievements as well as their contribution to this beautiful country, whereas on the other, we commend the business-friendly environment and encouraging policies of past and present Romanian governments.
Turkey and Romania set the two ends of a friendship and prosperity bridge. Relying upon this sound and thorough pillars, historic friendship between Turkey and Romania will elevate to even newer heights on the basis of our strategic partnership and alliance under the NATO umbrella. We the diplomats will continue to serve to our mission to generate more synergy for this dynamism-driven interaction to the benefit our two peoples.
Concluding my words, I reiterate our pride and cherish to commemorate the proclamation of Turkish Republic. I pay tribute to the founding fathers of modern Turkey, notably Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, on whose legacy we have built our path towards peace, friendship and stability. Our unwavering commitment to maintain a democratic, secular, and prosperous country goes unabated.
Last but not least, in diplomacy, it is among our priorities to ensure that our region follows a robust sustainable development and peace agenda. With this understanding, hand in hand with Romania, we are most eager to continue to promote regional and international collaboration against global challenges. In this respect, we attach utmost significance to converge our endeavours towards the guarding of our people’s prosperity and stability, with those to serve to the stability and prosperity of all nations in our vicinity and beyond.
This special supplement covers articles by representatives of our larger Embassy family. You will have the opportunity to have a quick tour of their views and works. You will also find additional articles on several aspects of the Turkish culture. I thank the Nine O’Clock family for this opportunity and wish them success in their valuable work for the expat community in Romania.
Long live the Turkish-Romanian partnership!