Turkish envoy addresses his nation’s place in “new regional order”

Speaking to roughly one hundred Georgetown staff, students and guests yesterday in Copley Formal Lounge, Turkey’s Ambassador to the United States Namik Tan proudly defended his country’s commitment to Western values of democracy, transparency, the rule of law, respect for human rights and free markets. Hosted by the Institute of Turkish Studies, he also reminded his audience of Turkey’s unique position at the intersection of Europe and Asia.

“The global agenda is currently witnessing important trends,” Tan declared, “The historic transition in the Middle East and North Africa comes to the fore with global ramifications.”

Tan, who has served in Moscow, Abu Dhabi, Jerusalem and Washington in addition to holding senior positions in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spent most of his time addressing Turkey’s relationship with the United States and with the European Union. When he did discuss the Middle East, it was often in relation to Western countries.

Describing the US-Turkey relationship, which has become one of the most important bilateral axes in the world in recent years, Tan used three words: “Robust, relevant and resilient.” While acknowledging that the two countries have not and will not agree on every issue, the ambassador emphasized shared values and interests.

Tan also called for a “new regional order” based on democracy, peaceful coexistence, equality and dignity. Referencing Syria, Tan said, “We stand by the legitimate demands of the Syrian people and our goal is to protect the people of Syria.” He expressed Turkey’s desire to see increased stability in Iraq, and emphasized that his government wishes to work with “all the components of the Iraqi people” to ensure shared prosperity and security. He said Turkey would be “an inspiring role model” for other Muslim-majority countries in the region.

Noting the difference between America’s peaceful neighbors and Turkey’s own neighbors, Tan artfully said, “We are right in the middle of fire. Everywhere is burning. Just take a moment and think where Turkey is. It’s very important.”

Asked about Turkey’s desire to join the European Union, and the objections of certain European nations to its possible ascension, the ambassador wondered whether Europeans have “the talent of big thinking.” He remained confident that the wary European countries would come to recognize the value of including Turkey in the EU.

While he was incredibly diplomatic throughout the affair, Tan did have some strong words for Israel’s failure to apologize after killing Turkish citizens that had attempted to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010. “One last word: enemies do not apologize. Only friends do apologize. And I’m sure very soon they will come to understand this,” Tan concluded.

Photo: Jackson Perry

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