Rome '08 Workshop

Threats to the Black Sea Region and to Global Security: Turkey's Efforts to Achieve Peace and Stability 

His Excellency Vecdi Gönül

Turkish Defense Minister 

His Excellency Vecdi Gönül

First of all, I would like to thank the Italian Minister of Defense, Mr. Ignazio La Russa; the director of the Center for Strategic Decision Research, Dr. Roger Weissinger-Baylon; and all the other sponsoring institutions and contributors for holding the 25th International Workshop on Global Security and for extending an invitation to me to address this distinguished audience. 


At the moment, the world is going through the pains of change and transformation. Conventional threats and risks are being replaced with an environment of uncertainty, and asymmetric threats that we are unaccustomed to, such as terror, fundamentalism, the exploitation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal immigration, climate change, and water and energy scarcity, have taken the place of the evident military threats of the Cold War era. An important characteristic of these new risks and threats is that no nation has enough power and capacity to cope with them alone. Consequently, coordination and cooperation have become more important than ever before for international security. 

In addition to changing global tendencies, the emergence of Asian countries such as China and India, which have rapidly growing economies; the rise of the Russian Federation as a prospective superpower; the suspension of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) by the RF; the Missile Defense System in Europe; and the “frozen conflicts” and ongoing disputes, particularly those in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Middle East, are having a clear political-military impact on the developing security environment. 


From the Baltics to the Black Sea, NATO is the most noticeable security actor. With the end of the Cold War, NATO successfully achieved its goal of collective defense of its member-countries within the scope of its 1949 founding charter. Now, NATO is making great progress regarding its assets and capabilities as well as its operational competence. It adopted a new strategic concept and made significant changes in its military command and force structure. In addition, NATO accepted several former Warsaw Pact countries, including Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Baltic countries, as NATO members. Twenty-four other countries remain in NATO’s field of interest and are involved in the organization as Partnership for Peace members. After including Croatia and Albania, an invitation to the Republic of Macedonia will be extended as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue is reached. At the Bucharest Summit, NATO members also clearly stated their agreement about the prospective NATO membership of Ukraine and Georgia. 

As an evolving organization, NATO keeps taking on additional roles in order to meet continuously changing risks and prevailing instabilities. Turkey endeavors to support all of the tasks and roles assumed by NATO to the maximum possible extent. NATO has always been perceived not only as a security organization but also as an important political tool because of its deterrence aspects. However, we should not forget that the essence of this organization is collective defense, namely Article 5. 

NATO is on the way to becoming a global organization. Enhanced cooperation with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and Argentina, under the auspices of “Contact Countries”; with Gulf countries, as a result of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative; and with Mediterranean Dialogue countries has expanded NATO’s domain considerably. In addition, the mechanisms established under such NATO arrangements as the Individual Cooperation Program, the NATO-Ukraine Commission, and the NATO-Russia Council continue to serve as useful tools for extending regional security cooperation. 

European governments have responded to this new security environment by adding a security and defense dimension to the European Union as well as by bringing in new members and boosting internal security cooperation. The European Union is the second most important security actor from the Baltics to the Black Sea, and has been improving and enlarging since the 1950s. It became a union with the Maastricht Treaty and continued its progress with a series of foundation treaties, the last of which was the Lisbon Treaty. This treaty, I must say, proposes an enhanced EU defense capability that seems to duplicate many of the functions of NATO, particularly NATO’s collective defense clause, Article 5. 

Since its creation almost 10 years ago, the ESDP has also made significant progress and become an effective tool in crisis management, mostly for civilian missions. It constitutes a growing dimension of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture and has room for development with the view of making it more active, capable, and coherent. 


As a member of NATO for almost 56 years, and with the longest borders with the Warsaw Pact countries during the Cold War era, Turkey has clearly demonstrated her commitment towards the ESDP by actively supporting and contributing to its improvement from the outset. Turkey has indeed been a leading non-EU European ally in terms of participation in the ESDP operations. In terms of the geographical scope of ESDP operations, the Balkans have been a central theater. Indeed, preserving and promoting security and stability in this region are of vital importance. 

At this point, I would like to express my country’s clear support for the Comprehensive Approach. It will facilitate the creation of a more sound framework and contribute to the better and more effective planning and execution of current and future operations that involve interaction with a wide variety of actors and factors in the theater of operations. Regarding the EU, there is already a mutually agreed upon framework between the two organizations. For other non-NATO actors, there is a need to formalize relations as well, but while seeking better interaction with them NATO should preserve its role as the main security organization in the Euro-Atlantic area. The long-term success of the Comprehensive Approach is only possible if all major actors have the same basic understanding of this concept. We are pleased to observe that other international organizations such as the U.N. are beginning to discuss the issue in the same vein as NATO. 


I would now like to draw your attention to the Black Sea region, which has gained greater significance during the last decade because it has become one of the most important energy corridors of the world. The Black Sea has a set of unique features. It is a gateway to three important strategic areas—the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Caspian Sea—and because of its strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, the Black Sea was one of the first avenues for trade and diplomacy. 

The Black Sea maritime domain, the Turkish straits, and the Turkish mainland, by means of pipelines, are now major mediums for transporting Caspian, central Asian, and Russian energy resources to world markets. As a consequence, the amount of tanker traffic along the Black Sea and Turkish Straits has increased remarkably. Approximately 145 million tons a year of oil that originated in the Black Sea basin are transported through the Turkish straits—in other words, 3 million barrels of oil are being transported every day to global markets by 25 to 30 tankers. Forty percent of this amount, which is expected to reach 70% by 2020, is brought to Europe. This makes the issue of energy transportation security even more important for both regional and global players. 

Another characteristic of the Black Sea domain in the post-Cold War era is the changing status of the countries in the region in terms of their memberships in different international organizations. Today, Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria are NATO members. The Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Georgia also have a variety of relationships with NATO through specific frameworks. Bulgaria and Romania are new members of the EU, the last of the international organizations to reach the Black Sea region. Turkey is currently a candidate for the EU. 

Because the Black Sea is an important region for stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic area, many regional cooperation schemes exist, including the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) in the political-economic field, the Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Force (BLACKSEAFOR), the Black Sea Coast Guard and Border Control Cooperation Forum (BSCF), Confidence Building Measures, and the Black Sea Harmony operation in the military field. Regional cooperation coupled with more wide-ranging interaction with the Euro-Atlantic area is the key to a more stable and secure region, which would have positive effects on the whole of Eurasia. 

Currently, we believe that the Black Sea maritime domain provides a generally stable environment, contrary to some other parts of the world. However, countries within regions usually strongly wish to cooperate, and can be models for the world in maintaining stability and peace. 


The attacks of September 11 underlined the fact that in today’s ever-shrinking world, no country is immune from terrorism or other types of threats that have global and truly terrifying dimensions. The terrorist attacks that extinguished the lives of dozens of innocent civilian women, children, and students in Istanbul (November 2003), Ankara (May 2007), and Diyarbakir (January 2008) are not any different from the attacks in New York, Madrid (2004), or London (2005). Eliminating these threats requires a multidimensional approach that cannot hope to succeed without a genuine collective effort. 

Currently, the threat posed by the PKK/KONGRA-GEL terrorists based in the north of Iraq represents the single biggest security challenge facing Turkey. The PKK seeks survival through extortion, human trafficking, drug and weapons smuggling, and homicide. The fight against this organization, which poisons and abuses European as well as Turkish youth, is a responsibility not only of Turkey but also of our friends, partners, and allies. 

Long-lasting disputes and conflicts in neighboring regions of Turkey have great impact on global security as well. In this context, addressing the general situation in Iraq is of the utmost urgency. The security environment has improved although it is still very fragile. We are doing everything we can to promote political dialogue among different political factions and ethnic and confessional groups. 

We are also doing whatever we can to support Iraq’s difficult transition to becoming a sovereign, democratic, and prosperous nation at peace with itself and its neighbors. The enlarged process that Turkey pioneered, which brings together both the neighbors of Iraq and the P-5 and G-8 nations, will continue to be an important mechanism in developing regional support for the challenges facing Iraq. 

In the context of the Middle East, efforts to break the perpetual cycle of violence, revive the peace process, ensure security for Israel, create a state for the Palestinians, and promise a lasting peace for both countries are all high priorities, given that the question of Palestine lies at the core of all ills in the region. Turkey is the only regional country that has good relations with both sides, which could help pave the way for eventual peace and stability. Developments over the past few years and indeed the past few months have shown how delicate the situation is and how high the cost of inaction can be. 

Lebanon continues to be in a very fragile state. By contributing to UNIFIL II, Turkey has shown its interest in and desire to help strengthen the Lebanese government as it strives to solidify its nationwide control. Syria is also one of our important neighbors and Turkey is also actively engaged in trying to ensure that Syria is included in the equation that leads to peace in the region. The impasse in the ongoing search for a diplomatic solution to the question of Iran’s nuclear program and the ramifications of U.N. sanctions is another factor aggravating regional tensions. 

Afghanistan has always been close to Turkish hearts. However, the nation-building process there is running into major difficulties. Politically, militarily, and economically, Turkey supports international efforts to help the Afghan people meet the challenges they face. Having assumed command of ISAF twice and now running a PRT in Wardak Province, Turkey continues to significantly contribute to fostering stability in this troubled country. Afghanistan will be a test case for our ability as a community to bring stability, security, and prosperity to distressed states around the world. 

For the first time in its history, NATO has been active in a theater of operations that is more than 5,000 km from its headquarters in Brussels. It has acted in an exemplary manner in the Afghan context through the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. The deployment in Afghanistan of SEEBRIG, the Multinational Peace Force South-East European Brigade, was another step that showed the Euro-Atlantic community’s resolve to extend our support and assistance to conflict areas with whatever means available. 


In line with its increasing contributions to international peace, security, and stability, Turkey has put forward its candidacy for one of the non-permanent seats at the U.N. Security Council for the term 2009–2010. Because Turkey has not been represented in this body since 1961, its election, in recognition of its growing responsibilities, will only be fair and will also give a boost to its efforts to help realize the goals and vision of the United Nations. 

One of the most important missions the new circumstances have given to Turkey is promoting peaceful coexistence, tolerance, and cooperation between different cultures. In the post-September 11 world, a debate over a possible clash of civilizations has increasingly occupied the global agenda. In this context, Turkey is cosponsoring with Spain the Alliance of Civilizations initiative under the auspices of the United Nations. This project aims to promote dialogue and cooperation among countries from diverse cultural backgrounds and to counter extremism of all types through collective efforts. 


As we express at all occasions in which security issues are discussed, Turkey has been following its motto of “Peace at home, peace in the world.” We also believe that, with today’s global conditions, the principle “Peace and security are either everywhere or nowhere” should be mutually understood. It is clear that improving our efforts and implementing them effectively depend greatly on the good will and cooperation of the international community. In this regard, it is my hope that this workshop will support our efforts to improve mutual cooperation against global security problems. 

I would like to conclude with a statement made by our leader Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, who emphasized the importance of international cooperation by saying: “We should consider humanity as a single body and a nation as one of its organs. Pain on the tip of a finger is felt by all other organs.” Therefore, we should see all nations as part of a single body and then take the necessary precautions. 

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