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Speeches, 1/11/2017

Speech by Minister Soini at Turkeys' Annual Ambassadors' Conference

Speech by Foreign Minister Timo Soini at Turkeys' Annual Ambassadors' Conference on 11 January 2017.

Towards 2023: National Values and Global Goals

It is a great honor and privilege to be here in Ankara today and to address the Annual Ambassadors´ Conference and such a distinguished audience. One cannot but admire that Turkey's Foreign Representation network is growing steadily, and covering almost all the countries of the world.  This is a symptom of the prominent political and economic place Turkey is taking in the global context. You, as Ambassadors, play a key role in representing Turkey and enhancing Turkey's global role.

As Turkey is preparing for the 100th anniversary of the republic in 2023, Finland is celebrating her 100 years of independence this year.  These are very important milestones for both of us.

We have come a long way since the Ottoman Republic recognized the Finland´s independence in February 1918, merely a couple of months after Finland declared independence from Russia. In turn, Finland was among the first countries to recognize Turkey in 1924.

Remembering our history does not mean dwelling in the past. Rather it gives us perspective to look into the future and recognize the opportunities and challenges it brings.

I would like to start by reflecting on the past year and chart the year ahead of us. Last year was marked by unpredictability: Brexit, the outcome of the US elections, deepening crisis in Syria and the attempted coup in Turkey. It was a year of turmoil and global uncertainty. Unpredictability is increasingly becoming a permanent state of affairs internationally and internally.

Brexit shook the European Union. With Brexit Finland will lose a like-minded partner in the Union. But we should not slam the door.  Both the EU and the UK need to take a constructive approach so that negative effects from the separation could be minimized – also in relations with our neighbours and partners. The EU has to deliver on questions that are important for citizens ‒ especially security, migration and economic growth.

Your country faced unprecedented challenges during the past year. The Finnish Government has strongly and clearly condemned the coup attempt against the democratically elected institutions of Turkey. I was personally shocked about the events on 15 of July. I have asked myself as well as the Finnish parliamentarians: how would you react if our parliament was bombed, TV station was seized and almost 300 people were killed?

We have felt the negative effects of instability in our neighborhood. Your country has suffered from horrible terrorist attacks. I wish to reiterate my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the people of Turkey. Let me be clear, I strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms. We stand by Turkey in countering terrorism.

Increasing radicalization, extremism, and terrorism have a growing presence in Europe. We have witnessed a growing number of terrorist attacks: Paris, Nice, Brussels, Berlin, Ankara and Istanbul. Uprooting terrorism will take a long time and a lot of political courage. But we must stand for our open, democratic societies and the values upon which they are founded. Terrorists aim to bring down our values and principles. We must not give up!

The situation in the Southeast of Turkey is challenging. As diplomats you know that in the end violence cannot be solved by violence. Sooner or later there is a need for a political solution.  I sincerely hope that everyone in Turkey could live in peace and security. The acts of terrorism by ISIL, or DAESH and the PKK and other terrorist organizations must stop.

In times of turmoil and uncertainty we need a beacon to guide us through the deep fog. For me values are such a beacon. We have personal values and convictions, and nations have their sets of values. Most importantly, there are universal values that apply equally to everyone and must not be compromised or neglected. Both Finland and Turkey share the same democratic values as founding principles.

I do understand the turmoil and the difficulty of the situation that your country is going through. I have followed recent events and developments in Turkey with great concern. Even in the most testing times the actions of a democratically elected government need to be proportional. They must be in full respect of the basic principles of democracy, rule of law, and human rights and fundamental freedoms such as freedom of speech and media.

Having been in politics for decades, I am familiar with being in the opposition. Therefore, for me, allowing the opposition to perform its functions is an integral part of parliamentary democracy.  The will expressed by the people in elections must be respected. Checks and balances are part and parcel of the democratic system. This is hard at times, but the only way for democracy to grow stronger.

Dialogue between different groups is essential for national unity and resilience of the state.

I personally have strong convictions on capital punishment and I am concerned about the possible reintroduction of capital punishment in Turkey. It belongs to the past. Reintroducing death penalty would have harmful consequences. I do hope that this will not be the road that Turkey takes.

My country wants to keep Turkey close to Europe and its values. These values are expressed in the EU, in the Council of Europe and in the OSCE.

Turkey and the European Union have significant mutual interests and we must build on them. Both Turkey and the EU benefit from continuing the accession negotiations and EU-Turkey cooperation on migration.

Finland considers Turkey's accession negotiations to the EU very important. During Finland's EU Presidency in 1999 Turkey was granted the candidate status. Ever since the Turkish EU accession negotiations started Finland has been in favor of opening new negotiating chapters as soon as the necessary requirements have been met.

We apply the same approach to visa liberalization. We are ready to proceed once the criteria have been fulfilled.  For us, as pragmatic people, there are no shortcuts but no detours either.

Finland remains committed to the accession negotiations and maintaining an open dialogue and working together with democratic and inclusive Turkey. For mutual benefit, close cooperation is needed to address issues on our common agenda, such as migration, terrorism, energy, economy and trade.

I look forward to further developing the cooperation with Turkey and working together to bring stability, prosperity, and well-being to our citizens.

I have deep appreciation for Turkey for hosting and addressing the needs of more than 3 million refugees. Your country has been carrying an extremely heavy burden.

Uncontrolled migration is not in anyone’s interest. The EU-Turkey cooperation on migration has been successful.

It has led to a drastic decrease in people dying at sea and to a substantial reduction of irregular arrivals from Turkey to the EU. Continued implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement remains crucial. As a small country Finland has done more than her share in resettlements, relocations and financial contributions, and will continue to do so. I have encouraged other EU countries to do their part. Further problems arise if the EU Member States fail to respect mutually agreed commitments.

Finland and Turkey share the experience of being located in the borderlands of Europe, where different cultures interact. This exchange has served us well, enriching us both in material and cultural terms.

At the same time, our geographic and geopolitical positions have not always made life easy for us. Lately we have both seen how our neighborhoods have again become more challenging and how geopolitical currents are unfortunately gaining strength.

Supporting the victims of the Syrian conflict remains a priority. I value highly Turkey’s generosity in hosting the Syrian refugees. Finland is also committed to do its part.

Finland will host the launch of the UN Humanitarian and the Regional Refugee and Resilience plans for Syria and the neighboring countries on 24th of January in Helsinki. We are looking forward to seeing our Turkish friends in the meeting.

I appreciate Turkey's active role in facilitating a ceasefire together with Russia in Syria. Hopefully, it will lead to a renewal of intra-Syrian talks under UN auspices, within the framework set by the UN Security Council. Without a negotiated solution with the inclusion of all relevant parties, Syria will continue to be a nest of instability and terrorism.

We have seen how Daesh has been able to flourish out of the discontent of the people in Iraq. As a member of the Global Coalition against Daesh, Finland is committed to support the efforts in defeating it.

As a small country with open economy Finland´s foreign and security policy is based on rules-based international cooperation and respect for international law.

The European Union is the central frame of reference of Finland’s foreign and security policy. The European Union emerged as continent’s internal peace project, and should take an active role as a security community also today.

NATO partnership is a key element of Finland's security policy. NATO's presence and action has brought security to the region. Finland’s partnership with NATO is wide-ranging. We want to develop political dialogue and practical cooperation with NATO even further to strengthen our security. I appreciate and trust on Turkey's support for developing Finland's partnership with NATO.

Sharing 1340 kilometers of land border with Russia means that we need to have good working relations with Russia. In good and bad times alike, we must be able to maintain cooperation in areas where we have common interests and dialogue on issues that we might disagree.

During the past decades the foundation of the security was based on the principles of shared security. In recent years Russia, through its actions, has challenged the essence of the security system.

There is no place or justification for use of force. I wish to stress that Europe divided in spheres of influence belongs to the history.

With her actions Russia has created a tense security environment in Europe which has had a negative impact also on the Baltic Sea region. Our hope is that Russia will take a more cooperative role in solving the situation.

As we go towards 2023 we should strive for increasing peace and security. The wise words of the founding father of Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, "Peace at Home, Peace in the World" are still valid today. Peace, security and stability are what citizens expect from us. This has become even clearer with the wave of terrorism, irregular migration and with the return of power politics. Peace is a value we all have to cherish.

I would like to highlight one particular aspect of Turkey's and Finland's joint efforts in the international fora, the mediation.  Mediation and diplomacy are the most cost-effective way to work for peace and to achieve lasting results.

Turkey and Finland have co-chaired the UN Group of Friends of Mediation since 2010. It has been a success. I thank you for your dedication and excellent cooperation. Now that a lot has been achieved we should have a fresh look on how to take this work forward. I am delighted to work with my dear colleague Foreign Minister Cavusoglu on the way forward.

I am pleased that Turkey is participating actively in the framework of The Helsinki Policy Forum. The Helsinki Policy Forum facilitates informal contacts between leading countries of the Gulf-MENA region to enable sustainable dialogue on peace and security in the region. We hope to have my Turkish colleague to address the forum shortly.

I should not fail to mention the positive news we have heard on Cyprus. There are serious efforts in Geneva to reach a settlement in the Cyprus issue.  The negotiations are hopefully reaching the final phase. I give all my support to the negotiations, as Finland has done in the past decades. Mr. Sakari Tuomioja was the first UN Mediator in Cyprus in 1963. I hope the current Mediator, Mr Eide, will be the last and successful one. For over 40 years Finland contributed peacekeepers to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. We have tried to do our utmost to support a settlement of the Cyprus issue. United Cyprus is possible and would go a long way in opening other avenues for progress.

I count on Turkey's active support to the negotiations to reach a comprehensive settlement. Turkey’s role in the final outcome is crucial.

Turkey and Finland are enjoying exceptionally good and warm relations on many levels. We have frequent exchange of high-level visits. President Erdoğan visited Finland as Prime Minister in 2013. President Niinistö visited Turkey with a prominent business delegation in 2015. Prime Minister Davutoglu was in Helsinki last April, and at the same time I was delighted to host Foreign Minister Cavusoglu. Just to mention a few.

We are making preparations for the first Joint Economic and Trade Commission meeting in Helsinki. Our bilateral trade relations have a long history.  Still, there is unused potential and room for new business.

Our cultural relations have a long history. As a part of Finland 100 years celebrations we will publish a new edition and translation of the famous book “The Land of White Lilies” that has served as an important cultural bridge between our countries.

The 9th of December 2016 marked the 90th anniversary of the diplomatic relations of our countries. Our friendship has reached a mature age. Relations between Finland and Turkey remain strong, frank and close. With friends you can also discuss difficult issues.  If you sometimes disagree you do so openly and upfront, as friends do.

I am confident that the deep-rooted, wide-ranging and excellent relations between Finland and Turkey will continue in the coming years.

I wish to express my warmest gratitude for this opportunity to address such a distinguished audience. Turkish ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps are known to be of top quality and a credit for their country. Let me also thank Ambassador Başağa for his excellent work in Helsinki in furthering our relations.  This is a great start for a new year – to be here among our Turkish friends.  I wish you all the best for 2017! Peace at home, peace in the world!

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Updated 1/11/2017

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