Turkish Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Oguz Ozge: Israel and Turkey: Where to from here?
It is with great pleasure to meet a cross-section of the Jewish community in Melbourne this evening and it is with warm feelings that I salute you all. We gather here in beautiful Melbourne, a metropolis that is the multicultural capital of Australia, and that is where the Turkish-Australian community has the highest concentration in Australia.
Before proceeding further I wish to express my appreciation to Mr Manny Waks, President of the Capital Jewish Forum, for his efforts to make this evening’s meeting possible. My thanks also go to those members here in Melbourne who have helped this get-together.
Turkey and Israel are the two nations that play crucial roles as far as the maintenance of stability and peace in the Middle East is concerned. We have been enjoying a long running relationship. Turkey was among the first group of nations to recognise the State of Israel in 1949, right after its independence in 1948. From then on the Turkish-Israeli relations have developed to a level of cooperation that has satisfied the needs of both nations. Political, military and economic ties have advanced fast. A number of similarities between the two nations have also contributed. Firstly, they are two of the three non-Arab nations in the region. Secondly, both enjoy a democratic system of government and they are largely secular in a region where religion is in the forefront. Thirdly, their economies are open and based on free market capitalism. Both have developed good relations with the western world.
The Turkish Government is convinced that peace and stability are essential in the Middle East for Turkey to continue on the path of economic growth. We believe that an ultimate peace in the region is also in the interest of the Israeli people. Efforts by the Turkish Government to help secure peace in the Middle East should be seen from this perspective. Political developments that take place in the region, however, may sometimes have an adverse impact on the relations between Israel and Turkey. For instance, Turkey considers the situation in Gaza from a purely humanitarian perspective and hopes that human suffering there will be alleviated by lifting the restrictive measures applied to Gaza.
There have been periodic ups and downs in our relationship, including the recent Mavi Marmara incident. Taking into account the rise of reform movements in the Middle East and the ensuing unrest in a number of Arab countries over the past year, the two nations should be able to overcome their differences to ensure that the state of things in the Middle East does not get out of hand. I believe the differences that we have today are not irresolvable, however, it is crucial that Israel should meet the two conditions i.e. offering an apology to Turkey and compensating the families of the victims of the Mavi Marmara incident.
I also point out before concluding that the Turkish people have always been receptive and friendly to the plight of the Jewish people throughout history, as evidenced by the sanctuary granted by the Ottoman Sultans to Sephardic Jews in the days of the Spanish Inquisition. In addition, Turkish governments have always condemned the Holocaust as the most grave and unprecedented crime against humanity in history and never failed to reiterate Turkey’s firm stance against antisemitism, racism and discrimination.