Over the last few years, one of the questions that I have been often asked is: Is Turkey leaving the West? Is Turkey's axis shifting? Is Turkey turning its back on the West? The simple answer is no. Turkey is a democratic, free and secular country with a majority Muslim population, friend with the West and this will stay as it is. However, Turkey has realized her responsibilities as the natural leader in the Turkic Islamic world. Turkey as a soft power, like an elder brother, can and will be a unifying entity, a model to the Islamic countries to inspire a new vision where people can see that Islam does not conflict with democracy, fundamental freedoms and human rights. What is more it can initiate key solutions to end conflicts in the region by bringing these countries under the same umbrella with a new spirit of brotherhood. Let me tell you how.
Imagine a union among the countries of the Middle East, the Caucasus and North Africa; not a materialistic or economic union like the European Union, not the kind of unity where they want to get rid of you when you are in trouble or weak, but a spiritual union, ready to serve, to help, with a consciousness of self-sacrifice in which one will not sleep in comfort when her neighbor has a problem. Imagine living with open borders, traveling between countries as you travel among cities. No visa procedures, no passports.
In fact it is quite natural to expect a union between the Turkic countries and the Islamic countries because these countries share so much in common and what is unnatural is the division among them. However what is more important and unique about this unity is that it will include Israel and Armenia, and even Russia in the later stages. In the same way that a family is made strong and healthy by its members helping one another, this unity will constitute a family.
The immediate establishment of this Union is essential for the entire region. This Union does not imply any racial superiority nor will it impose any religion. It will rather be one that treats Muslims, Christians, Jews and all others with great affection, and recognizes their right to exist as first class citizens. Indeed, the ones who would benefit most from this would be non-Muslims; Armenians, Greeks, Jews. It will constitute a social role model with a democratic and secular structure that attaches the proper value to human rights and fundamental liberties. Not only believers, but also Buddhists, Zoroastrians, atheists - in short everyone - will be free to express their opinions and live as they choose in the climate of freedom established.
One important characteristic of this Union is the member states preserving their national identities as sovereign nation states. No one will interfere in anyone's foreign or domestic affairs. So we are not talking about a repressive or despotic regime. There will be nothing about it that damages or interferes in the internal matters of the states. Member states will preserve their own governments and will be guaranteed their sovereign status.
This model may cause one to immediately think of the Ottoman Empire, but it is not an attempt to resurrect that concept. What I am talking about is something else. We do not regard the Ottoman era as perfect; we know they had defects and made mistakes. Since this will be a union of brotherhood, a union of love, not a concept of racial superiority or the classic model of an empire built by military conquest , the radical voices will have to behave themselves. This great unity will also be a deterrent force and the radical elements will be deterred from pursuing their extravagant and nefarious goals. There will therefore be no terror and anarchy in the region. All the money currently spent for the military will instead be directed to people's comfort, and will be spent on ensuring a high quality of life for all. It will help the region to get rid of the scourges of terror, economic troubles or of the torment of confinement, and it will provide economic support, by enriching them through the sharing of natural resources. The aim is for these states to come together under a single roof and establish joint security and welfare. This is a Union that will watch over and protect all nations, that will embrace Muslims, Christians and Jews in the same way.
None of the countries in the region is currently comfortable. For one thing, just like the other countries, it will come as a huge relief to Israel. This Union means the salvation of Israel. Israel will be able to relax, dwell in tranquility and trade freely to the fullest extent in the region, and will enjoy a peace and security it has never known before in its history. Israelis will live in the utmost peace, security, joy and abundance just like the others in their respective countries. Jews will be able to worship as they wish, they will continue to live in that region, and will do business and worship as they see fit. It also means Armenia attaining a high quality of life and bounty. It means people in Armenia being freed from their current woes and confinement in the region. It means a new beginning for the whole region.
Yes there is pain and angst at the moment, but these are birth pains, and the birth of this Union will be a glad tiding to the entire world. What the region needs is not cold political agreements with temporary solutions, but a new vision, a new spirit that will bring true peace and brotherhood. There is already a step by step progress in that direction. What we need to do is remove the artificial obstacles and accelerate this process.
I can already hear the critics saying that this is either a dream or simply wishful thinking; however, I would like to remind everyone that many things we take for granted in today's world used to look like naive dreams in the past. After all, it has only been 67 years since the end of World War Two, and today people travel freely throughout Europe and have created a union that would have been impossible as little as three decades ago. The border between Netherlands and Belgium in Baarle-Nassau passes by a café; there are no soldiers, no barbed wire, no mines. Also, many will recall that the USSR and the Berlin Wall were perceived of as a regrettable reality that seemed so strong that nothing could change it; the rapid dissolution of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union came as a distinct shock to many observers of geopolitics and indeed to many intelligence services throughout the world, none of whom had anticipated that particular chain of events. Until the last moment, many people were deeply suspicious of German unification, fearing aggression; former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was famously skeptical of the idea, as was former French President Francois Mitterrand. Things that may seem like a dream today can come true tomorrow morning. If we honestly believe in such a vision, and strive toward transforming that vision into reality, any idea can be realized far sooner and with greater ease than anyone could possibly imagine.