Turkish Ambassador speaks to Canberra group

March 17, 2010 by J-Wire
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Turkey’s ambassador to Australia Oguz Ozge has addressed the Capital Jewish Forum.

Manny Waks, Ambassador Oguz Ozge and Umut Ozturk

More than thirty CJF members, from diverse professional backgrounds, watched a tourism film on the sights and sounds of Turkey and then heard Ambassador Ozge speak on the ‘Turkey-Israel relationship in the Middle East and global context’ at the Turkish Embassy in Canberra. The Embassy also generously offered CJF members local Turkish delicacies, including Turkish delights, beer and coffee.

Some of the points raised by Ambassador Ozge in the ensuing Q&A session include:

Turkey has good-neighbourly relations with Iran but is concerned with its attempts to obtain nuclear weapons. Turkey may feel threatened if Iran should have nuclear weapons, and believes Iran should abide by all United Nations resolutions. However, Turkey does not object to Iran operating a nuclear programme for peaceful purposes (i.e. energy use).

·        While there is a religious movement at the political level in Turkey, there has long been a robust secular base, which will make it very difficult for any political force to change the status quo. There are still issues to overcome but Turkey has been a beacon of multiculturalism since the days of the Ottoman Empire. Dialogue is important in the process of bridging the gap between the religious and secular movements.

·        Advocates of the secular movement greatly desire European integration, predominantly because of perceived benefits in relation to prosperity, intellectualism etc. But there are two important movements which do not support this integration, namely the extreme religious and nationalist movements. Their reluctance to integrate with Europe must not be under-estimated. Similarly, the European Union’s demand of Turkey to demonstrate a non-interventionist approach by the military in the political affairs will not happen overnight – the military’s influence in Turkish society is pervasive mainly due to the role it played in the founding of the Turkish republic.

·        Turkey is considered a model state for undemocratic Muslim countries in the Middle East.

·        There are no prejudices against Israelis or Jews in Turkey. While anti-Semitism might occur in Turkey, much as it happens throughout the world, it is not particularly visible in Turkey and is not considered an issue. Turkish people accept members of other faiths, cultures and ethnicities with acceptance and respect.

·        Turkish citizens of Kurdish descent are protected by the Constitution. They do not face any discrimination. In fact around one fifth of Turkey’s parliamentarians are of Kurdish descent. While the Kurdish community is predominantly located in the South East of Turkey, they are well integrated with the rest of Turkish society in the main cities throughout Turkey. There are indeed some Kurdish groups calling for autonomy. While the Turkish Government is willing to consider a range of requests from Kurdish groups, under no circumstances is it willing to consider requests for autonomy or any other resolution that would lead to an independent Kurdish state within Turkey.

·        Turkey of course supports peace negotiations between Israel and Syria and would be willing to act as mediator should the parties request this.

CJF founder and director Manny Waks told J-Wire: ” It should be noted that the event ran an hour over time – a great indication of the level of enjoyment by all those in attendance.”

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