Erdogan in Beirut – We need a Middle Eastern Schengen area

(The Daily Star, November 26, 2010)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the Arab states to create a zone resembling Europe’s Schengen area. Speaking at the award giving ceremony held by Union of Arab Banks in Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel in Lebanon, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the award was very important and exciting for him.

Turkish Premier said, “although we are talking different languages in this vast geography, we should not forget that we have one history, one culture and similar values. We have given a shape the history together. Be sure that we will give a shape to the future altogether. We are the members of a civilization that gives high importance to neighborhood.”

Erdogan said Turkey mutually removed visa requirements with Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Jordan. “We have not lost anything or met any problem. On the contrary, when we removed the visa requirements, we clearly saw that they were meaningless. We have not removed the visa requirements; we have removed a century old yearning among our people. Our people embrace each other now,” he noted.

He also added that people visited each other. Cooperation opportunities were improved. Not only one country, but the whole region and people of the whole region won and made use of this new era. “EU says ‘Schengen’. Why could not we make a similar Schengen among us? It was not possible to understand this meaninglessness, this fear and this reservation.”

Turkish Prime Minister said, “peace in the region is the unique target of us. We want tranquility, prosperity and stability in the region. Turkey wants “zero” problem with its neighbors and undertakes sincere efforts to this end. Turkey carries out full membership talks with the European Union. Turkey believes in the synthesis of a Muslim identity with European values. However, this does not require us turn our back to the East, South, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Of course we will establish High Level Strategic Cooperation Council mechanism with Syria and Iraq. Of course Turkey established Four-Way Cooperation Council with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan. This is very natural”.