Istanbul '09 Workshop

Keynote Address of the 26th International Workshop On Global Security

His Excellency Vecdi Gönül - Minister of Defense of Turkey

His Excellency Vecdi Gönül


I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you. It is a great pleasure for me to have you in Turkey on the occasion of the 26th International Workshop on Global Security. I believe this workshop will provide an invaluable opportunity for exchanging views on global security and defense industry cooperation in such a period of economic uncertainty.

I also would like to extend my personal thanks to Workshop Chairman Dr. Roger Weissinger-Baylon for offering to hold this useful forum in Turkey.

We all are serving or have served at one time during our careers in leading positions of state or private organizations. So, we are all well aware of how important it is to have confidence in the personnel we work with and in the organization as a whole, which reminds me of a joke I once heard:

Twenty CEOs board an airplane and are told that the flight that they are about to take is the first ever to feature pilotless technology: It is a crewless aircraft. Each one of the CEOs is then told, privately, that his or her company's software is running the aircraft's automatic pilot system. Nineteen of the CEOs promptly leave the aircraft, each offering a different type of excuse. One CEO alone remains onboard the jet, seeming very calm indeed. Asked why he is so confident in this first crewless flight, he replies, "If it is the same software that is developed by my company's information technology systems department, this plane will never take off anyway."

That is called confidence!

Building confidence among members of the international community has particular importance these days. This was, perhaps, the magic word behind the maxim of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, when he famously said, "Peace at home, peace in the world." It is particularly important when the first decade of the 21st Century is drawing to a close and the world is facing a rapidly changing security environment. Especially with the spread of globalization, this process of change has gained momentum.


Globalization will continue to affect security dynamics in many ways. Climate change will put many of our key resources like food, water, and land under considerable strain. The global competition for energy and natural resources will redefine the relationship between security and economics. In addition, our growing reliance on information technology will make our societies more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Increasingly, over the past few years, all our nations have come to realize that globalization is not only a means of opening up economies, lifting people out of poverty, and promoting democratic values. We have seen that globalization is also, unfortunately, a vehicle for importing radicalism and the techniques of terrorism into our societies. It has also facilitated the free flow of materials, including the most dangerous ones, that support nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs.

For example, New York, Madrid, London, and Istanbul have all been the target of terrorist attacks. Instability in Iraq and Afghanistan affects all of us, no matter how near or far we are geographically. Iran's nuclear intentions constitute another problem that needs intensified diplomatic efforts for a solution. And we also have a common interest in energy security, whether we are energy suppliers, transit countries, or energy consumers.


So how do we respond to all this? There is really only one answer, and that is to pursue new approaches to security cooperation—bold and innovative approaches that go beyond established geographical, cultural, religious, or institutional boundaries and that promote a qualitatively new level of cooperation between nations and organizations.

This means we urgently need change and fresh approaches to enduring problems and to new threats as well. As the eminent Canadian physician William Osler said, "Security can only be achieved through constant change, adapting old ideas that have outlived their usefulness to current facts." The fact that demands on security are increasing means that we must all have a clear vision and a common understanding of our roles and tasks. This will then enable us to take the necessary political decisions to prioritize the tasks and identify the resources in order to provide security all over the world.

Security and stability demand a coordinated application of economic, political, and military measures. In the framework of capabilities for providing security, I firmly believe there is a valuable role for enhanced U.N., NATO, and EU cooperation. Unfortunately, there is still considerable room for improvement on this front. That is why we need a qualitatively new level of cooperation among all international security-providing institutions.


As you know, Turkey is a crossing point and a central hub of three continents, with its location between Europe and Asia and with nearby Africa across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey's southern coast. Therefore it is a country that has long traditional, historical, cultural, and economic ties with the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean region, and in this context it plays a significant role.

The Balkans consist of many different ethnicities, religions, and languages. So what we need for the Balkans is a common set of values and ideals. The European Union and NATO are essential for the Balkans in order to bring stability, prosperity, and sustainable peace to the area. The complexity of the political atmosphere in some states in the region is still a cause of concern for all of us. Any major challenge to stability, particularly in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, puts the hopes of general peace in the Balkans at risk. So I believe that prospects for EU and NATO membership are the most important incentives for a promising change in the region.

Stability in the South Caucasus is essential for the stability of the whole Euro-Asian region. However, achieving enduring stability in the South Caucasus has until now been a distant dream because three of the four frozen conflicts in the OSCE area are located in this small geographical area.

The unresolved conflicts in the Caucasus, namely the problems of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh, continue to be the main obstacles for developing a favorable environment for peace and stability in this region. It is our conviction that the lack of confidence among states directly or indirectly related to the conflicts in the South Caucasus region has so far hindered the well-intentioned attempts to resolve these conflicts.


Hence, Turkey's new initiative, namely the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform (CSCP), which brings together Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, and Turkey, aims to rebuild mutual trust and develop a genuine regional political dialogue. Despite the serious problems that currently exist, the fact that we have managed to bring together these five states around the same table for three preparatory meetings and that they express their continuing support for this initiative gives us hope for this initiative, a cooperation platform, and the region.

In addition to issues in the Balkans and the Caucasus, we are heavily engaged with issues in the Middle East. The dynamism of events and the pace of developments in the area require the international community to be alert and active at all times. As the problems in the region have become interrelated, it is not feasible to address them in isolation. We therefore need a comprehensive approach, and we believe that the peace process should be reinvigorated in all its tracks without further delay.

We attach utmost importance to Iraq. Our main goal is the establishment of a peaceful, stable, democratic, western- oriented country that can be a factor of stability and security in the region while maintaining its territorial integrity and political unity. It seems that Iraq will remain a common agenda item for the foreseeable future. The only negative factor in our relations with Iraq is the presence of the PKK terrorist organization in the northern part of the country, targeting Turkey and thus harming regional stability. As you may know, Turkey attributes a special importance to the Middle East peace process. Therefore, we played a mediator role in the Israeli-Syrian indirect peace talks, in which four rounds were held. Turkey also remains committed to contributing to peace efforts through political and economic processes. Accordingly, Turkey has pledged $150 million to economic and institutional capacity building in the future Palestinian state.

Turkey attributes utmost importance to the realization of the Industry for Peace projects of the Ankara Forum, a tripartite group established at Turkey's initiative in 2005 that includes Turkish, Israeli, and Palestinian private sector representatives in Erez in the Gaza Strip and in Tarqumiyah in the West Bank.

To ensure close cooperation that is results oriented, Turkey has also given impetus to its efforts to institutionalize its relations and consultations with the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council.


Afghanistan and Pakistan are two countries with which we have special historical relations. We initiated the Ankara Process in 2007 and we held the third Trilateral Summit among the presidents of Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan on April 1, 2009 in Ankara. Turkey has been at the forefront of efforts aimed at establishing security, stability, and development in Afghanistan. We believe that our aim, as part of the international community, should be to build Afghan capacity for Afghans to find lasting solutions to the challenges they face. We are pleased to see the international community reacting to the same understanding that military instruments alone are not enough to achieve this goal. Political, diplomatic, economic, and social instruments need to be used as well.

On the other hand, the democratically elected government of Pakistan needs to be supported in its fight against terrorism. It quite often goes unnoticed that Pakistan is the country most negatively affected by developments in Afghanistan. Indeed, we welcome the efforts to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan in a coordinated manner. However, we should not overlook the fact that the challenges faced by Pakistan are not all linked to Afghanistan. The current situation in the North

West Frontier Province is at risk of becoming a humanitarian tragedy. Therefore we urge the international community to do its utmost to assist Pakistan. As I mentioned before, cooperation in every field is essential for all of us, more than ever before in our history.


Now, let me give some examples of Turkey's endeavors in the area of cooperation.

  • Turkey was elected to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member for the 2009-2010 period and also has taken over the rotating UNSC presidency.
  • We attribute particular importance to the fact that President Obama made his first overseas foreign visit to Turkey. We consider his visit a significant sign of the importance the U.S. government attaches to Turkey.
  • Turkey organized the Alliance of Civilizations forum, a Turkish-Spanish initiative, in Istanbul on April 6 and 7, 2009. With more than 100 countries participating, it was a beneficial platform for discussing various international matters within a broad perspective.
  • As a member of NATO for 57 years, and having guarded the longest border with the former Warsaw Pact countries throughout the Cold War, Turkey has been making substantial contributions to missions and operations of international organizations and aims to enhance cooperation.
  • As a negotiating candidate country to the European Union and a strong supporter of and contributor to the European Security and Defense Policy, Turkey remains the biggest non-EU European contributor to ESDP missions and operations.
  • Turkey is currently taking part in Operation Althea with more than 250 personnel. It is also contributing to the EU Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to EULEX Kosovo.
  • Turkey was given observer member status in the European Gendarmerie Force since May 13, 2009.
  • Turkey actively contributes to international counter-piracy efforts off the Horn of Africa and Somalia as a founding member of the Contact Group. A Turkish frigate with two helicopters onboard was deployed to the region on February 17, 2009 within the framework of the Combined Task Force One Five One. On May 3, 2009 a Turkish rear admiral took over the command of this naval force. We have also decided to contribute to NATO's upcoming Operation Ocean Shield with an additional frigate.
  • As one of the major contributors to NATO operations, Turkey continues to provide personnel and equipment to Kosovo and Afghanistan, where security situations remain fragile. Within this framework we sent 560 people to the KFOR mission in Kosovo and almost 800 to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.
  • Turkey has also been actively engaged in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) since 2006. We have provided maritime assets since September 1, 2008. We are currently contributing to the UNIFIL operation with 261 people and two assault boats.


I believe that Franklin Roosevelt was right when he said, "True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence." As you are well aware, we are currently going through a significant financial crisis that has adverse effects on the economic security of the entire world. As a result of this crisis, I admit that we have tough decisions to make as to what to spend the available defense budgets on. We have a double funding challenge of maintaining battle-worn assets for current operations while investing in programs for future systems.

A delicate balance must be struck between keeping current assets serviceable and investing in brand-new development programs for the future. In this context, we have to focus on both the present and the future. If we do not address the current challenges today, they will reappear even larger tomorrow.

Experience shows that global problems require global solutions, rather than isolated measures. In terms of using our forces in ongoing operations more effectively, I believe that we should try to achieve better collaboration on the ground. Such an approach will enable us to better combine our efforts within the framework of our agreed-upon principles of cooperation. However, while doing so, to counter future challenges effectively, we must continue to transform our forces accordingly. We need better interoperable forces and capabilities that can be used in the most remote regions of the world, which reminds me of another joke. It is one that emphasizes the importance of bringing the equipment needed by our troops to the remotest areas where they operate. The joke is:

A man was given the job of painting the white lines down the middle of a highway. On his first day he painted six miles, the next day three miles, and the following day less than a mile. When the foreman asked the man why he kept painting less each day, he replied, "I just can't do any better. Each day I keep getting farther away from the paint can."

One of the important advantages of this international forum is that it brings together the members of different countries' defense industries. Having these companies' chairmen and representatives among us today will definitely help to establish closer relations between defense industry companies.

No doubt, enhanced defense industry cooperation among our countries will help facilitate the negative effects of the current economic crisis. To this end, we should focus more on substantiating technological cooperation, co-developing programs and joint projects, removing obstacles to defense industry cooperation, establishing cooperation networks, and launching concrete collaboration programs in a mutually beneficial way. Such efforts will also ensure better interoperability among us. I hope that at the end of our discussions within the margins of this workshop we will be able to achieve concrete results in terms of defense industry cooperation.

Now I would once again like to say that we are very pleased with your participation in the 26th International Workshop on Global Security in Istanbul. I believe your visit and the productive discussions we will have during the workshop will add new perspectives to our cooperation and solidarity.

I also ask that you perceive this workshop not only as an event for conducting official and serious talks but also as a chance to take a historical and cultural tour around the 2010 "European Capital of Culture"—Istanbul. I wish you an enjoyable time during your stay in this beautiful city.

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