As this rain-soaked city hosted the third summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), it was clear that Israel, at the receiving end of global condemnation for last week's attack on an aid ship trying to sail to the Gaza Strip, faced further isolation for its “brazen act” that killed nine peace activists.
While the Gaza attack dominated the conference that concluded on Wednesday, challenges and threats such as terrorism, organised crime, elimination of weapons of mass destruction and curbing of drug trafficking and trans-boundary crimes also figured in the speeches of leaders and Ministers from 20 countries that attended the three-day summit.
As Turkey took over the CICA chairmanship from Kazakhastan, the grouping welcomed into its fold Vietnam and Iraq and granted the observer status to Bangladesh. The CICA also provides a platform for the nations in the high-tension regions of Asia that have become “hotspots” — be it Korea, Afghanistan, Israel or Iran.
There was an unforgiving mood towards Israel at the summit for its act of brazen aggression. The attack on the aid ship “cannot be forgotten” by his country, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said at the end of the summit, which brought together Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
A final declaration of the grouping, however, omitted any reference to Israel, which as a fellow member objected to it. But a separate declaration said: “All member-states, except one, expressed their great concern for and condemnation of the actions undertaken by the Israeli defence forces against an international civilian flotilla transporting humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.” The leaders also stressed the immediate need for lifting the four-year-old blockade.
As pointed out by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the tragedy of Gaza should remind the international community of the need for highlighting the plight of the people due to the lack of food, electricity and freshwater. “Like Afghanistan, Gaza is a test case before us,” he told the conference on the opening day.
Iran's nuclear programme and the Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal on the proposed exchange of Iran's low-enriched uranium with nuclear fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor were also discussed. “Given the already volatile situation in the region, there is no other viable and lasting solution, but a diplomatic one. We have intensified our efforts to promote a negotiated solution through diplomacy,” Mr. Davutoglu said.
Almost all the leaders agreed that most challenges to global security were emanating from Asia, and the top issues were the situation in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan. They also agreed that they had a stake in a sovereign, democratic and stable Afghanistan.
Acknowledging the tough task ahead for the international community in rooting out terrorism, India pointed out that terrorists adapted themselves to countering the cooperative efforts of the States at tackling terrorism. “Distinctions among the terrorist organisations have become blurred, given the ease with which they blend together, both operationally and ideologically,” said Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who attended the conference as the Prime Minister's special envoy. India has been a CICA member since the grouping came into being in 1992.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi called for an international cooperative approach to tackling terrorism through real-time intelligence sharing and addressing its root causes that were being exploited by terrorists to radicalise the youth.
Though CICA has so far been a low-key platform, the Istanbul summit, which came after the Gaza attack, saw the multi-national forum becoming a global talking point. It also provided Turkey with a greater role and profile in hosting it and forging solidarity among the CICA members in denouncing Israel.
The CICA members are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestine, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.
The observers are the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the League of Arab States.