Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu: Nobody Can Limit Turkey’s Vision

“The balances of power according to a bipolar system has ended,” said Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs H. E. Ahmet Davutoğlu at a Brookings event on Monday, “but still we are looking for new axes and new balances” which need to be “adjusted, especially in the UN system.” In this statesman’s forum address, hosted by the Center on the United States and Europe, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu focused on how Turkey’s foreign policy is evolving to meet challenges in the region and globally.

He began with the UN and the humanitarian crisis in Syria:

The international system, unfortunately, in charge of—the UN especially—in charge of keeping peace and stability in international order, is not providing quick answers to the questions and crisis which are the threats to the international system.

He detailed the crisis: 130,000 people killed, 7 million displaced, 2 million refugees (700,000 of them in Turkey), chemical weapons used, and millions facing “serious challenges on the ground.” He called attention to the lack of a UN resolution on the humanitarian crisis: “There should have been a common ground to agree on humanitarian issues,” he said. “This is just an example,” he added, “how the international political system today is not responsive enough to the security challenges around us. … The UN system should be much more responsive as the ultimate institution of international and global order.”

He stated that Turkey has been affected by Europe’s economic crisis and the Arab Spring. “Turkey is right at the center of all these challenges,” he said. An “economic crisis doesn’t only mean an economic crisis … it transforms to a social [and] cultural crisis,” he said, noting rising xenophobia, rising Islamophobia, and anti-Turkish discrimination in some places in Europe.

He linked Turkey’s economic development to its foreign policy, noting that Turkey’s economy has grown nearly four times over the last decade: “Our foreign policy should be linked to democratic restoration and economic restoration [to] strengthen Turkish economic and political structure in order to create a new vision for surrounding regions … and also for Turkish position in international system.”

On EU membership: “Assume that there was a scenario that Turkey became [a] member of [the] EU in 2006 or 2007 … I am sure today we would have a new Europe, a much more creative, dynamic Europe. Even responding to economic crisis in a much better way. … We hope that this relation will be leading to full integration as early as possible.”

On relations with the United States: “Strengthening our ties with the U.S. has always been the backbone of our foreign policy. … It is a model partnership.”

On democracy in the greater Middle East region: “Despite all the difficulties, the future of the Middle East and North Africa should be in the direction of democracy, and a new consensual relation between people and state.”

Ultimately, the prime minister says all of these developments are aiming in the same direction: “To make Turkey a real global player, and to make Turkey one of the supporters of stability, democracy, and a new vision for global and regional order. … Therefore, we will be active everywhere. … nobody will or can limit our vision.”

Fiona Hill, director of the center, introduced the foreign minister. TÜSİAD Senior Fellow Kemal Kirişci, director of the Turkey Project at Brookings, moderated the question period.

Full event audio is now available.

Colleen Lineweaver contributed to this post.