Turkish diplomat speaks to students In visit to Eureka High School, envoy says cooperation crucial in fight against terrorism
By MATT BUEDEL
Economic turmoil ebbs and flows. Political power changes hands. But the threat of international terrorism will persist for generations and should be dealt with by nations unified around the common goal of its eradication.
That's the message a Turkish diplomat shared with central Illinois high school students Friday as part of a brief tour sponsored by the Peoria Area World Affairs Council and the Turkish Cultural Foundation.
"We need international solidarity to fight against terrorism," U. Kenan Ipek, consul general for the Republic of Turkey, told a group of students at Eureka High School. "We have to adapt and grow a conscience."
Ipek touted what he called the common goals of the United States and Turkey to bring peace and democracy to the world and outlined how his country is in a favorable position to help achieve those goals.
"Our main foreign policy principle is peace at home, peace in the world," he said. "This is where Turkey and U.S. . . . aims come together."
Ipek said Turkey could play a pivotal role in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians because of its common bond with both sides.
Turkey, a secular nation with a predominantly moderate Muslim population, was the first to recognize Israel as a nation in 1948 and has what Ipek described as positive relations with Palestinians and Syria.
"There's a big credibility of Turkey and these people," Ipek said. "So we want to use this for the good of everybody."
But the diplomat also cautioned against a premature withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, which Turkey borders to the south.
While he acknowledged a fundamental misunderstanding of the Iraqi culture at the onset of the war, he also said more stabilization was needed now before a drawdown of the American military presence.
"We always told our American friends, 'You don't know the realities of the region very well,' " Ipek said, explaining that Turkish authorities were in a much better position to understand the social and cultural dynamic of the region. "The first thing that needs to be done now is stabilization, and then we can talk about withdrawal."
Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or email@example.com.