The Speech Delivered by Ambassador Sarnıç, Consul General of Turkey in Jerusalem, At the Conference on “Turkey and the Palestinian Cause … Challenges and Ambitions”
The Honourable Ministers,
Distinguished members of media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to speak in front of such an auspicious audience which gives me an ample opportunity to share my views about the Turkey’s position on the Palestinians cause, the bilateral relations between our countries and Turkey’s efforts for reconstruction of Gaza.
Before beginning my speech, I would like to present my heartfelt thanks to the organizer, Dr. Ahmed Yusuf, the President of the House of Wisdom in Gaza, and his team for leading such an important and timely Conference. I would like also take this opportunity to explain my sincere appreciation to the participants from the Turkish academia for the interest they show to this Conference. I am sure that their attendance will invaluably contribute to the success of it.
Turkey’s official relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization goes back to year 1975. Turkey was one of the first countries that recognized the independence of Palestine - when it was declared in exile in 1988. We have always strongly supported the establishment of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine. To this end, we have reflected our solidarity with Palestinians in all international forums.
In this context, Turkey, four years ago, actively backed the efforts to upgrade Palestine’s status to a “non-member observer state” at the UN. It constituted a landmark together with the hoisting of the Palestinian flag at the UN Headquarter in New York last September; however, we are still waiting for the international community to take its responsibility in paying its belated debt to the Palestinians.
The debt is: To let Palestine have its own much deserved sovereign, independent and contiguous state on the pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
We believe the daily lives of the Palestinians have to be improved and a viable and sustainable socio-economic infrastructure of a future Palestinian state should be established. This is a moral and humanitarian mission for the whole international community.
Within this framework, Turkey, has pledged 150 million US dollars for Palestine in the Paris Conference at the end of 2007, and another 50 million US dollars in the Sharm Al Sheikh Conference on the Reconstruction of Gaza.
As a nation always standing with and behind their Palestinian brothers, it’s both a duty and honour for the Turkey when it comes to assist and support our Palestinian friends. Turkey’s support to her Palestinian brothers is indeed unconditional and it will continue uninterruptedly.
In the summer of 2014, a human tragedy unfolded in Gaza before the eyes of the international community. This crisis caused massive death toll and the worst ever destruction in Gaza. In addition,
the ongoing inhumane blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and the closure of Rafah Border Gate have deteriorated the humanitarian situation in Gaza worse than ever.
We believe that the needs and rights of Palestinians in Gaza must be protected. Turkey is always ready to offer any assistance to improve the difficult humanitarian conditions in Gaza. In this respect, following the tragedy in Gaza in 2014,
Turkey pledged another 200 million Dollars in Cairo Conference for the reconstruction of Gaza for the period 2014-2017.
The amount of
Turkish official humanitarian and developmental assistance to Gaza (including medical assistance, fuel for Gaza Power Plant, fuel for generators of medical institutions in Gaza, in kind donations, referrals of the wounded Gazans to Turkey for treatment, development projects and scholarships)
since the war in 2014 up to date has reached well above 100 million Dollars. I am proud of declaring here that the total amount of our humanitarian assistance projects have reached almost 400 million US Dollars within a decade.
In this context, the Government of Turkey currently undertakes two ambitious development projects in Gaza.
The first one is the Gaza Friendship Hospital whose main construction is already completed with a four-year long heavy works by a Turkish company. The hospital was initially planned to be operational at the end of 2013, but due to the restrictions imposed by the Israeli side, as we all know, especially those related to the double-usage materials we could not succeed to finish the construction on time. Nowadays relevant Turkish authorities are busy with the tender process of the medical equipment and furniture of the Hospital, in order to put it into service as soon as possible.
The second important project is the ongoing housing Project which is initiated by the generous contribution of the Turkish people. Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TICA) recently signed a protocol with the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works to implement this housing project. In this regard it is planned to construct 20 apartments with 320 housing units. Under normal conditions, by November 2016 all buildings with their infrastructure are expected to be completed and then, by December 2017 all apartments are planned to hand over to the local owners.
I cannot go unnoticed also the tireless mission assumed by other Turkish institutions and civil society organizations like the Turkish Red Crescent and IHH that played a tremendous role especially during the last Gaza War of 2014 by alleviating the suffering of the inhabitants of Gaza.
Dear Palestinian brothers and sisters,
I need drawing your attention ever deteriorating economic and social posture caused by occupation. I meant that the Separation Wall and an inhumane blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007, coupled with confiscation of Palestinian land, forced eviction of Jerusalemites and revocation of their residency rights, demolition of homes and application of severe restrictions to movement has been isolating the city of Al Quds from the rest of the Palestinian territory, most of which could be categorized as collective punishment.
It is very clear that one cannot expect a flourishing economic and social activity under these harsh conditions.
The daily lives of the Palestinians have to be improved and a viable and sustainable socio-economic infrastructure of a future Palestinian state should be established.
In fact, it is an undeniable human right to travel freely and enter the trans boundary commercial activity for the people of any country. So can we say that Palestinians in Gazans have the ability to travel to other Palestinian cities in West Bank and East Jerusalem, let alone reach to foreign countries? Can we have a sense of relief that Palestinians are unhindered to enter the Noble Sanctuary in Al Quds? And can
we argue that Palestinians in West Bank are equitably making use of natural resources?
I wished that answers to these basic questions would be a modest positive.
Unless and until the grievances of the Palestinian people are not met, this huge vacuum is liable unavoidably to create further instability and insecurity in the region. That’s why, Turkey is adamant to continue its firm and principled policy vis a vis the Middle East
Peace Process to move forward it and by the time
to supportPalestinians by all means. Within this context, we are encouraging our private sector to share their experience with their Palestinian counterparts to develop some ambitious projects in Gaza and in West Bank. For instance, as long as we take some more leaps in the Industrial Park Project in Jenin the construction of which has already started, it will lead us to revitalize the original place of this project, namely Erez. However, all these assumptions depend on the willingness of all sides concerned to have a common understanding that the state of affairs in Palestine is unsustainable and genuine conditions to adhere to the core principles of international law and international humanitarian law must be created on the ground.
Finally, while thanking you all for this valuable conference programme, I would like to express my best wishes for the peace and prosperity of the people of this region.