Deputy Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism has emphasized the importance of Turkish-Arab dialogue as the best way to overcome misunderstandings. Below is a far reaching interview with the Turkish culture official conducted by the Jerusalem-based Akhbar el Balad’s publisher Khalil Assali.

Dr. Serdar ÇAM firstly emphasized that the new presidential governmental system has proved to be very advantageous for Turkey. Taking of H.E. Mehmet Nuri ERSOY, a successful entrepreneur and a prominent figure of the sector, office of Ministry of Culture and Tourism was possible as a result of this system. H.E. ERSOY has brought his years-long experience and vision from the heart of the culture and tourism sector. Based on His vision and facilities provided by the new system he started works which can lay the ground upon which projects contributing to regional prosperity, hence regional stability and peace, can be implemented. By means of cooperation in tourism and culture, He accelerated steps towards regional peace.

Jerusalem first

Dr. Serdar ÇAM said that Jerusalem is a sensitive and sacred issue both for Turkey and the leadership and is a priority for President Recep Tayyip ERDOĞAN, adding: “We want to further improve our relations with Jordan which has the Hashemite guardianship of Al-Aqsa Mosque. We are ready to provide all possible assistance. Besides, though we face difficulties with regards to our relations with Israel, it is the advantage of the two important nations in the region, to have good relations there as well, in order to serve Al-Aqsa Mosque and support Palestinian people and state. My country is the first Muslim country, which started diplomatic relations in year 1949."

“It is of utmost importance for Jordan to manage Al-Aqsa affairs, and we are ready to cooperate and provide the required assistance for reconstruction or any other support in order to contribute to the strength of the Al Quds Islamic Waqf. To this end, Turkey is ready to do what is necessary in cooperation with competent Jordanian authorities, and God willing, we will visit Jordan or invite Jordanian ministers to Turkey to exchange ideas about ways of cooperation and strengthening and deepening relations in order to protect Al-Aqsa Mosque."

“When I was president of TIKA, I made several visits to Jordanian capital, Amman, in the last of which I was a member of our President’s delegation. As it was emphasized in all those visits the need for cooperation between Turkish and Jordanian institutions is vital and we should work on signing legal documents to materialize the scope and the content of such cooperation which in turn will benefit Al Aqsa Mosque and our Palestinian brothers. Signing a protocol for modernization of the Islamic Museum in the Al Aqsa Complex could be a good example for describing how we could cooperate, and putting forward further legal documents would avert misinterpretations about the reasons behind, and the results of, this cooperation between the two brotherly countries. It should be kept in mind that misleading discourses about Turkish – Jordanian cooperation would be harmful to Al Quds and Palestinian people, hence we should try to weaken such discourses.

The UAE – Israel Agreement

“The answer to this question from the Turkish perspective is quite easy: No peace initiative or agreement in the region is disturbing to us, instead we always worked for improving regional peace. It is in fact what Turkey calls for, seizing every opportunity. Add to this, though the Treaty is called ‘Abraham Accords “Peace” Agreement’, we know that no conflicts had been on the stage. The rights of Palestine and expectations could never be excluded. If the countries are sincere in bringing peace to the region the first thing is to act fairly. As a Turkish citizen my personal opinion on this matter is that there is nothing surprising about this agreement. What has been running on the background for a relatively long time is brought to the foreground through official declaration.

However, I think that the word “peace” here deserves a special attention: We have for a long time witnessed fast circulation of the word “peace” in our region, but unfortunately it is about to lose its meaning and the value it has, since there are numerous bad examples of contradiction between the discourses and what is really happening on the field. Turkey has always been serious and sincere in her pursuit of peace with all countries and warned all parties about the terrible results of such contradiction. Entitling documents “peace agreement” would be meaningless if they do not really stop conflicts on the field.”

 Turkey – Jordan Relations

 Dr. Serdar ÇAM says: “What I observe is that Jordan has a wise leadership, one with a vast experience which is based on history and geography as Jordan stands between the East and the West on the one hand and between Israel and Palestine on the other. I think that this experience of Jordan must be shared with neighboring countries, including Turkey. In my opinion it is an obligation to deepen and extend the scope of the Turkish – Jordanian relations which in turn would in many aspects benefit the two brotherly countries, in addition to Palestine and Al Quds.”

 Turkey and the Arab World

 “We are neighbors. Wherever you are in the Arab world, in Amman, Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, you can arrive at Istanbul in a few hours and vice versa. We do share the same geographic and socio – cultural environment, as have done throughout centuries.”

Problems of the region affect us all. We are immersed in our regional issues, in conflict and fighting, whereas the world suffers from wider global problems. If we would stop for a moment and think, we would see that our problems are small compared to what is happening on the globe, that solving our regional problems is easier than we think.

However, problems with the great powers such as China, the United States and Russia are to be looked at with great caution. Unfortunately, these great powers are operating chaos in the Mediterranean. Russia competing the European Union and China in a race with the United States, the international arena is subject to quick changes, a situation which cannot be claimed positive for anyone. Hence, efforts should be paid by the countries of the region to understand their neighbors and become able to develop common approaches and policies.”

Importance of Dialogue

“Dialogue is exactly what must be accomplished for peace and prosperity. Everyone must embrace it as the one and only possible way for solving problems. However, fairness should be the other issue in providing good relations.

There are some groups and powers who try to block channels of Turkey’s dialogue with the world, especially with her neighbors. These elements produce the formulaic news against Turkey and President ERDOĞAN which you probably have watched or read frequently in last years. These are fake, fabricated and baseless allegations. Nearly all these news and articles are produced at one single center by elements of FETO and their domestic/foreign supporters (and some by other terrorist groups who define Turkey as their enemy) and disbursed to different countries in different languages via their own or affiliated media channels. Besides, relations of ownership and affiliation are in most cases very secret due to the subtle nature of this terrorist organization.

In the same way, the baseless claim that the Turkish government is changing goals to establish an agenda of neo-Ottomanism spreads through the same channels with support by certain powers who want to weaken Turkey’s maneuverability, since they know that initiatives by Turkey only pursues contribution into the regional peace and prosperity. Turkey is a republic, a young republic, but is proud of her history, since this history differs significantly from those which are full of imperialism, destruction, tears and blood. We want all countries to understand us in a just and correct way. Our efforts are directed only towards supporting and maintaining peace. Turkey is the most aware country that free and prosperous peoples make the foundation for regional peace. Hence Turkey is in favor of regional cooperation through win – win policies which shall include all parties in the region.

However, terrorist organizations and some powers who have goals parallel to them for the region want us to not preserve good relations among each other. In their propaganda they try to make our peoples forget that our biggest problems also are common, such as economy and development.

In the meantime, the fight against terrorism with its all dimensions has been Turkey’s most important agenda during President ERDOĞAN’s period of rule. We are a people which suffered the most from the atrocity of terrorism. FETO, YPG/PKK and DEASH are recognized as terrorist organizations by the Turkish state and people. Syria and Iraq also suffer from the same terror groups. We are well aware of the fact that these countries are not only neighbors, but peoples of these countries see each other as relatives. Hence, Turkey always keeps her position that channels of improved dialogue should be built between neighbors which is the only way to gain a common victory against these groups as a whole.

We unfortunately witness that some countries use terrorist groups to harm others. Terrorist organizations never should be seen as an instrument to use for achieving certain goals. For regional peace, every country should respect its neighbors and this respect of course should extend to the neighbor’s experience of terrorism, especially its definition of who the terrorists are.

Finally, I want to remind that in the past countries of this region used to sit around the same table and negotiate their problems. Now they do not do this, they rather quarrel. We all must sit around the table again and be able to talk. It is only after sound dialogue, no matter how hot the discussions, that agreements can be reached. Regardless of our differences, a consensus among all Arab and Islamic countries must be reached at once, and related agreements must be made, based on the principle of protecting Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Turkey has always been promoting dialogue. I believe that as long as we respect each other’s sovereignty, which we undoubtedly do, an unlocked door will remain under even the most difficult conditions. I hope, for example, our relations with Saudi Arabia which few had turned negative in the history until the case of Khashoggi will be restored. Turkey could not turn a blind eye to the case because the scene was her territory. On the other hand, we share a number of commonalities with Saudi Arabia. Everyone is aware that the two peoples share a common background in terms of history and culture, and I am hopeful that the depth in relations of the two states would be reflected on the decisions of the decision makers. Somehow, the wise people of the two nations will find the necessary solutions in recovering the deeply rooted relations. If Saudi Arabia hopefully does so, this would also be supporting for the principles of inclusion of all sides in the regional peace processes and implementation of win – win type of policies which Turkey sincerely embraces