ISTANBUL – I started my political career in 1991 – the same year as the first Gulf War and the Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid. The leaders of the time were well aware of the complex links between the Palestine problem and other challenges in the Middle East. Unfortunately, those links remain.
Since that time, I have witnessed many initiatives, plans, and projects for resolving various Middle East conflicts. Needless to say, my country, Turkey, has always been at the forefront of the international community’s efforts to secure peace, stability, and cooperation in the region, and I contributed to some of them as a member of parliament, prime minister, foreign minister, and finally as President.
Unfortunately, despite an immense expenditure of energy and resources spanning a quarter-century, these efforts have not yielded the desired results. Modest progress has been either sabotaged or insufficient, even as thousands of innocent people, both in the Middle East and beyond, have fallen victim to violence, hatred, and vengeance. The massacre of civilians (including many children) in Gaza last summer, the barbarity of ISIS, the murder of rabbis at a Jerusalem synagogue, and the terrorist attack in Ottawa last October – all convey a simple truth: violence is contagious.
In 1991, Saddam Hussein was the only regional threat; today, the threats have multiplied, with cumulative effect. In 1991, the United States and the Soviet Union jointly sponsored the Madrid Peace Conference; today, the US and Russia are barely on speaking terms.