UNA-UK Conference: “A Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction”

Ünal Çeviköz 28.05.2012
Remarks by the Ambassador of Turkey H.E. Ünal Çeviköz
UNA-UK Conference: “A Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction”
Scottish Parliament
28 May 2012

Honorable Members of the Parliament,
Distinguished audience,

At the very outset allow me to thank the UNA-UK Edinburgh Branch for organizing this very timely conference on the establishment of a Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

It is a great pleasure for me to be back in Scotland to address the annual UNA-UK Conference series once again.

In fact, I had the privilege to speak at the Conference held in this Parliament in October 2010 and I recall that we had a stimulating debate on various security and non-proliferation related issues in the run up to the NATO Lisbon Summit.

Today we get together in the aftermath of the NATO Chicago Summit. Since our meeting in 2010, we have been witnessing a colossal process of change and transformation in our world; most of them occurring in the immediate vicinity of Turkey’s neighborhood.

Last year alone, on the one hand a seismic process of transformation was launched in the Middle East and North Africa, while on the other, European countries were further drawn into the abyss of financial crisis which seems to be one of the worst in the history of the continent.

As the international system evolves to a new world order, emerging challenges and opportunities require all members of the international community to be more vigilant and adaptive in their policies. I think grasping the right understanding of the nature of the ongoing changes is imperative in order to adopt the right approaches.

As I was asked to speak on the issue of a “Secure Middle East” today, I will first draw a picture of how Turkey perceives the ongoing transformation process in the Middle East and North Africa region and its reflections on the security situation. Subsequently, in line with the general theme of the conference, I will focus on Turkey’s approach vis-à-vis the establishment of a WMD free zone in the Middle East.


Let me begin with the Arab revival.

In our understanding what we have been witnessing in the MENA region was long overdue. Let me explain what I mean by that:

First of all, the mass demonstrations in the Arab countries were caused by the legitimate frustration and expectations of the people. People were fed up with poverty, corruption and repression. They demand freedom, justice, respect and dignity.

The Middle Eastern peoples have shown the world that democracy is not only for certain cultures or religions. Desire for democracy is universal. It has happened in Latin America in the 80’s, in Central and Eastern Europe in the 90’s and it is happening in the MENA now.

This is why change is not something to be feared but to be welcomed and supported. Change and democratic transformation was inevitable, and it has become irreversible now. From now on, no administration can ignore people’s demands.

All governments must undertake true reforms that will pave the way towards more democracy and freedom. There needs to be legitimacy, accountability and responsibility.

Turkey believes that the long and arduous journey the region has embarked on towards democratic transformation involves daunting challenges, as well as unique opportunities.

The common feature of all these processes is that they are all home-grown, reflecting the simmering inherent dynamics.

Being a neighbor to the region Turkey has adopted a principled stance regarding the popular movements in the MENA countries since the very outset.

Let me briefly explain the points we emphasize in order to ensure that the process of change takes place in an orderly manner:

i) Sustainable security and stability is only possible through meeting the legitimate aspirations of the people.

ii) Thus, we strongly encourage our regional partners to announce and implement comprehensive reforms in due course.

iii) Violence and use of force against people is unacceptable.

iv) Sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and political unity of each country have to be preserved and respected.

v) Transformation should be led and owned up by the respective peoples themselves.

vi) We should not let these processes be hijacked by radicals who seek fomenting sectarian, ethnic or ideological strife across the region.

Each country has its own unique characteristics. Thus, the scope of change and dynamics differ from one country to the other. Therefore, one-size-fits-all approach cannot be applied to the countries in transition.

Each country will form its own model during the transformation process towards democracy.

We should be careful and patient because reforms cannot happen immediately. But they cannot be delayed for long either. The reform process requires long term commitment.

It is also imperative that the leaders and peoples should be in the driving seat. Also, the international community should help them in this journey.

Having said this, I have to underline however that there is a need for the international community to act in unity. The people’s needs and demands must be above narrow interests.

In this journey, if needed, Turkey remains ready to share her own experience with the interested countries. We believe that there are some reasons for that:

- We have unique historical, cultural and religious ties.

- Turkey has an open society, pluralist political system and strong economy.

- We are not a model for these countries. Every country has its own characteristics. But we provide a source of inspiration.

- Moreover, we are willing to enhance political and economic consultation mechanisms and increase our technical cooperation with the regional countries.
In conclusion;

We believe that countries upholding universal values such as democracy, freedom, the rule of law and good governance will contribute to the security, stability and welfare of the entire MENA region.

Establishment of a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East

This brings me to the second part of my remarks, where I will focus specifically on the issue of the establishment of a WMD Free Zone in the Middle East.

At the very outset I should strongly emphasize that Turkey's security policies exclude the production and use of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

We believe that possession of WMD does not provide additional security to any country, but further increases instability.

Turkey is committed to a world without nuclear weapons. We sincerely wish to see that all countries will come to share the goals of non-proliferation and collectively work towards a safer and more stable world.

Located in a volatile region of particular concern with respect to the proliferation of WMD, Turkey supports all efforts aimed at developing a common regional understanding on the establishment of an effectively verifiable zone free of WMD and their means of delivery in the Middle East.

Turkey is a strong advocate of the objectives of the Resolution on the Middle East adopted at the 1995 NPT Review Conference.

We worked together with many other countries towards the endorsement by the 2010 RevCon, the convening of a Conference in 2012 on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other WMD.

We strongly welcome last year’s appointment of Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland as facilitator and we also support the designation of Finland to host the 2012 conference.

We appreciate Mr Laajava’s steady efforts to reach out and consult with numerous countries including Turkey, in order to lay the foundations for a successful conference.

We have also carefully noted his report to the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the NPT. (I am sure my Finnish colleague will provide us with a better insight on the efforts of Mr Laajava.)

We view the 2012 conference as an initial step in a long process, the success of which will depend on the genuine political engagement of all states in the region.

We, therefore, encourage constructive involvement of all states in the Middle East and the co-sponsors of the 1995 Resolution in the preparatory process of the Conference and beyond.

The idea of a Middle East NWFZ has been on the international agenda for over thirty years with little tangible progress so far.

It is a long-term goal that requires concerted efforts by the international community to make it a reality.

In our view, a clear and honest understanding and acceptance of the specific conditions and realities of the region by the international community would help identify reasonable objectives to be achieved on a gradual basis.

Distinguished Participants,

I tried to provide you a brief overlook of Turkey’s approach to the issue of a Middle East without WMD’s at an era of constant political transformation in the region.

I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have.

And before closing my remarks, I once again would like to express my appreciation to the UNA-UK Edinburgh Branch for organizing this event.

I look forward to a fruitful discussion and exchanging ideas with you throughout the day.

Thank you.


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