HL Turkey offers special `peace pipeline'
Byline: TURGUT OZAL
Credit: 1991 World Economic Forum
SO THE KANSAS CITY STAR (KCST)
LP * Turgut Ozal is the president of Turkey. Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, a Geneva-based leader of the Ismaili Muslims, a sect scattered from Iran to Pakistan, is the special representative of the secretary general of the United Nations for Humanitarian Affairs relating to issues arising from the Iran-Iraq War. Ozal's statement and the * question-and-answer exchange that follows with Aga Khan took place in Davos, Switzerland, during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
TX In the late 1980s, we saw signs that a new era was opening. The Cold War was coming to an end. There was great progress in relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The end of the Iran Iraq war, and the tremendous changes in Eastern Europe in 1989, raised high hopes for the decade ahead. Regional problems like Angola, Nicaragua and Afghanistan were in the process of resolution. The way was even being cleared for tackling complex problems like the Palestinian question, especially after the U.N. Geneva meeting in 1988. Lasting peace seemed at hand. Iraq's occupation of Kuwait came at this juncture. It came as a great shock to the whole world. In response, the United Nations adopted 12 resolutions, first resorting to an embargo, then a blockade and finally to armed intervention. Although we in Turkey had remained neutral during the Iran Iraq war, such neutrality was not possible concerning Kuwait because it was a matter of principle involving the maintenance of peace in the region and the world. Therefore, we took the lead in implementing of the U.N. resolutions. We have incurred great costs because of the embargo we are participating in and because of the war in neighboring countries. Today, we must look ahead beyond the Persian Gulf crisis, rather than to the past. The confrontation between capitalism and communism has now ended and extremists in the world are looking for new areas of confrontation. The historical conflict between Islam and Christianity may be revived. An extreme right and extreme left in both the Islamic and Western countries are trying to use the gulf crisis for their purposes. I believe we all have to be very careful about this danger. After the crisis, the Middle East will never be the same. And I don't mean geographically; in terms of borders and geography, nothing is going to be changed. Great care should be taken to uphold the long-term interests of stability rather than seeking short-term benefits. Otherwise, the world may head into a much more difficult period. On the other hand, if we give a helping hand to the Middle East without fanning emotions, taking all historical realities into consideration, we may bring peace to the region. Outside powers should facilitate this task and perform a stabilizing role, but, I emphasize that all questions need to be dealt with primarily by the people of the region. The first step toward long-term peace must be to find a solution to the Arab Israeli conflict and to the question of Palestine as soon as possible. Here, the United States and Western Europe have a very constructive and positive role to play. Perhaps we may want to consider an arrangement like the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe for this region. Of course, this cannot be a replica of its European counterpart. In particular, I believe we must place more emphasis on comprehensive economic cooperation in the region, together with security arrangements. Conflict can only be replaced with cooperation through the achievement of economic interdependence. Turkey is ready to take an active role in this regard and support measures toward the free movement of goods, capital, services and people throughout the region. We are ready to do our part for the realization of necessary infrastructure projects, such as developing badly needed water resources, with pipelines to carry water from Turkish rivers to the Arabian Peninsula running parallel to the region's oil and gas pipelines. Other infrastructure projects like dams, roads, telecommunications networks no doubt also need special attention. The creation of an economic development fund should facilitate cooperation. This fund could be created by a certain percentage of petroleum revenues from the region, combined with contributions from the rich Western world. The people themselves must become more tolerant. The people of Iraq, Palestine, Jordan and Yemen deserve special understanding now. They need to be considered as active participants for the realization of peace in the region. They cannot be ignored after the war. Democracy breeds tolerance and understanding while marginalizing extremism and militancy. That is our experience in Turkey and it is why I believe democracy needs to be encouraged actively in the whole region. Turkey has a special role to play in this regard because it is a secular state, with a broad, predominantly Muslim population, a democracy and a free market economy. We can serve as something of a model for other countries of the area who are seeking lasting peace. * AGA KHAN: Mr. President, the Gulf War has highlighted in a very spectacular way the enormous military capabilities Iraq was able to amass. What is the main lesson you draw from that buildup and now war? How should that lesson be used in preparing for the post-war situation? OZAL: Very clearly, too much money was spent on armaments and warfare. And this was the money not just of Iraq, but of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well. Instead of putting all that money into armaments, it would have been much more beneficial to use it for economic development. Had that been the case, Iraq would probably be one of the richest countries of the region instead of one that is now destroyed. This war should show everyone that there is no benefit to arms buildup and war as a substitute for economic development. That is the big lesson. * AGA KHAN: There have been many hints of territorial designs by different countries in the region on some parts of Iraq after the war. How do you see the situation with respect to the borderline states? OZAL: From the first days of this crisis, starting on Aug. 2, I have been in contact with all the leaders of the area. I have said to them very clearly that the geography of the region is not going to be changed, especially, the borders of Iraq should not be changed. Despite rumors in the press, no one is asking for this, not Turkey, not Syria, not Iran. * AGA KHAN: You have said that a new conflict between Islam and Christianity should be avoided as a result of the Gulf War. What do you think should be the first initiatives to be taken after the war to avoid such a grave danger? OZAL: This is critical. Extremists have a say in the Middle East region because of economic deprivation. That is why I so greatly emphasize the role of economic cooperation and even economic interdependence. That is why I argue that Turkey must provide the most precious resource we can contribute to this end: water. The issue of the future in the Middle East is water, not land. If war comes again to our region, it will probably be because of the shortage of water. Turkey is offering what I call a "peace pipeline" to the region after the war. In this way, economic development can begin to take place and the extremes will be pushed to the margins. * AGA KHAN: What role could Turkey play - as a country of Islamic faith, which is also a member of NATO and a friend of Israel - in helping to resolve the Palestinian question? OZAL: First of all, we would like to provide the facilities for a conference on the Palestinian problem, either in Istanbul or Ankara. And, being in close relation with the Arab world, the Islamic world and with Israel - and also having had 400 years of experience in the Mediterranean and the Middle East - I think we have much to contribute. * AGA KHAN: There has been a lot of speculation about the Iraqi planes that have landed in Iran, Iran's intentions in the war and in the long term. What are your views? OZAL: I have spoken with President Hashemi Rafsanjani many times, in person and on the phone. We have also exchanged our representatives in Tehran and Ankara just recently. I know what they are thinking. From their point of view, they are in a very good position. During their eight-year war with Iraq, I was in Tehran many times and I saw people chanting, "Down with Saddam, down with America." Now, Iranians see that both their enemies are fighting each other. Therefore, they are very happy. So, I believe they will remain neutral. They will not let those planes be returned to Iraq. And, as far as I know, they have no demands for Iraqi land.
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