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Turkey: Karamanlis, Al Bashir and Alliances Of Civilizations
by Europe & Us
2008-01-31 08:55:11
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A visit to Turkey for a Greek prime minister must have been the most troublesome. In fact Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was barely able to make the visit that had been announced in 2005. Or since 1959, when Greece's legendary politician and uncle of Costas, Constantine Karamanlis visited Turkey officially in the aftermath of the Sept. 6-7, 1955 pogrom, a rather tense period began. Therefore this official visit was a great success by itself, just because it happened. In fact, no other progress was made during the proceedings.

europeusWe only noted of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan finally announcing that the “'Ecumenical' title of the patriarch is the Orthodox world's business.” This is quite a progress if you compare it to a relevant judgment that a Turkish high court ridiculously made last June: “Ecumenical claims are baseless.” I hope that these words of reason will lead to the elimination of unnecessary tension with the Orthodox world, including the reopening of Heybeliada (Halki) Theological School. But knowing the arch old shortcomings of Ankara one can foresee that the government won't go further than this announcement.

Turkey lobbies hard for a non-permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council for the 2009-2010 period. Systematic and long-term works of diplomats, however, are harmed by unjustified and untimely moves by the government such as the red carpet visit of the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Of course since we are a central country, we are not accountable to anyone for anything and we can invite whom we like!

Already in early 2006 Erdoğan paid an official visit to Sudan and declared on Darfur “I am of the opinion that there is no assimilation or genocide here,” taking the total opposite stance of the international community. And now Al Bashir was officially invited to Turkey. Consequently the Sudanese regime was relieved a little after being in complete international isolation, being accused of genocide and loathed by all Black African countries. Even though the Khartoum government is not the direct cause of the Darfur genocide, it has failed to find a solution and supported Muslim Arab Janjaweed militia butchering Muslim Black Africans as it circumvented the U.N. mediation and peace efforts. President Abdullah Gül who received his guest uttered, as though he has any influence, that all efforts are being exerted for a solution in the Darfur conflict!

Except for solidarity with the Arab world it is impossible to understand why one bothers to make so much negative public relations efforts in order to strike a few business deals in Sudan. Similarly to Turkey, the other country treating Sudan well is China who buys oil from the country. The difference is China that has a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council!

Last week, I attended a Mediterranean meeting and delivered a speech at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Mekteb-ul Eskenderiya), which reopened near the site of the famous library of the antiquity. The new library is being projected into the modern world as a restatement of the ancient library's legacy, which was burned down in the fourth century with all its scientific content, and is worth seeing.

“The Culture Workshop” initiated by the former French President Jacques Chirac is one of the 20 or so initiatives aiming to find a solution to the feud religions, cultures and civilizations face today. The High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations that Erdoğan co-chairs with his Spanish counterpart Zapatero, Jorge Sampaio, was also at Bibliotheca Alexandrina to brief us about the Madrid meeting held two weeks ago.

Such meetings where people usually talk to agree can hardly help against the ongoing race of arms and wars. On top of this, underlying concepts are often dubious. For instance how meaningful is the word “civilization” used in plural? History of mankind being the history of mutual interaction as much as of wars. Therefore what does “alliance” mean in this context? Isn't there a semantic shift when the “West-Islam” antagonism, uttered constantly, put a religion against a geopolitical concept?

This being said, what made the “Culture Workshop” different from others was to bring governments, nongovernmental organizations and academia all together. At the third and last meeting in Alexandria, we came up with a concrete plan of action with tangible recommendations. From now on, the challenge is to put them in practice.

Last but not least, as one of the most meaningful ways of intercultural understanding is Turkey's EU membership, to point out the deep contradiction of some Turkey bashers in Europe was my task once again.

Cengiz is head of the EU Research Center of the Bahcesehir University - Istanbul

(Taken from

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Emanuel Paparella2008-01-31 11:59:13
If Christopher Dawson's discourse on religion and civilization has any validity, then religion, civilization, geo-politcs and history and their interaction need to be studied as an inseparable whole. That is the underlying positive feature of The Culture Workshop and Chirac can justifiably be proud of its legacy.

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