The Meeting of the Islamic Conference of Ministers Responsible for Water, held by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, was hosted in Istanbul in May 17th 2016. The meeting was the second largest meeting in the last months where the leaders of Muslim countries gathered in Istanbul. The opening speech of the meeting was delivered by Turkish President, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr. Erdogan touched on many issues, including the issue of Muslim refugees, visa liberalization with the EU, and the water pipeline between Turkey and Cyprus. The most remarkable part of his speech was the following:
“We are signing off documents, but when it comes to putting them into practice, we fail to do that. If we simply meet, discuss and walk away, yet fail to put them into practice, such meetings would be fruitless. We need to make them fruitful. We need to get results. If we do not, it will be a pity.”
This statement is of critical importance. Likewise, especially the challenging situation of the Islamic world necessitates further unity and solidarity among Islamic countries. Forming an alliance is of greater importance than ever for Muslims. For that reason, meetings wherein the Islamic countries gather should be meetings of historical significance where the resolutions taken are implemented without compromise, rather than being mere conferences where documents are simply signed.
With its 57-member countries, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is the second largest international organization after the United Nations. The joint press conference of Iranian President Rouhani
and Turkish President Erdogan marked the last summit of the OIC held a month ago. In that meeting, the two leaders addressed the conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, which are increasing in the region by making an apt and important statement: “Our Religion is Islam.” These shared messages of mutual peace and collaboration brought about serious decisions in politics as well and were crowned with a comprehensive agreement on tourism which was made immediately after trade negotiations.
This agreement between Turkey and Iran does not seem to be like previous agreements based on mutual interests, the likes of which we’ve seen plenty before. It is clearly understood that Turkey and Iran, as two brotherly countries, aim to grow together, arm-in-arm.
It should be also noted that as a manifestation of this brotherhood, Turkey supported Iran during the embargo years as well. As is known, Iran’s economy was heavily constrained during that embargo period of 30 years. The country was forced to suffer from severe economic losses in that period, and the Iranian people were the ones most affected by these losses. The material and moral support of Turkey on the lifting of the embargoes, along with commercial ties of the country, were an indication of the brotherhood between Turkey with Iran, and the leaders of both countries expressed sense of this brotherhood at every opportunity.
With the embargo being lifted, it is obvious that Iran is in need of immediate breakthroughs and particularly industrial investments in these days. Turkey made an important breakthrough by tripling its GNP in the last fifteen years. Now, Turkey is ready to share its fund of knowledge for a collaborative development in the field of technology as she did in the field of tourism. However, not only Turkey but also other Islamic countries already possess the knowledge Iran needs, except for a few key technologies. It is beyond question that Iran should benefit from the technology and industry in the West as well. However, the commercial links with Turkey in particular and other Islamic countries will be a crucial instrument for the development of the solidarity between the countries.
The joint projects that will be developed by Iran and Turkey will certainly be an appropriate model for the Islamic world as, given the data, it is observed that the Islamic countries do not often undertake joint action when it comes to projects. The volume of international trade in the Islamic countries constitutes only 6% of global trade, amounting to some $2 trillion dollars in total while the volume of trade among the Islamic countries reached its peak in 2012 at $400 billion dollars. It is a very low figure in general on behalf of the Islamic world. Commercial affairs in the Islamic world are carried out by a relatively small number of countries, with the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Saudi Arabia at the center. Furthermore, trade goods are mostly limited to oil, gas and assorted petroleum byproducts. For such a fruitful region, trade relations are carried out with a rather limited number of products.
Out of the current 49 least- developed countries worldwide, 22 are OIC members. However, the Islamic world is a very wealthy community as a whole. The food market alone for the Islamic countries amounts to $2.5 trillion dollars. The annual textile expenditures for OIC members reached $350 billion dollars, which is equivalent to the volume of trade of the U.S. market. The members of the OIC account for one-fourth of the world’s total land area, and one-fifth of the total world population. The organization is geographically larger and far more populous than the European Union. Upon scrutinizing these figures alone, everyone can acknowledge the importance of taking joint action. If OIC members are to act as a whole, they will be able to have a word in everything, varying from trade to military, from energy to peace. This can turn them into a strong organization that could put an end to the current sufferings of Muslims around the world.
The implementation of joint commercial, cultural and social projects will make the Islamic world converge, leading to an increase in commonalities rather than differences. The Islamic countries have the potential to end the ongoing and largely sectarian conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. When this happens, the Islamic lands will be an abode of peace, not of war. It should be remembered that fruitfulness lies in the brotherhood, love, friendship, collaboration and altruism among Muslims. This is the path that the Islamic World should follow today. This is how the civil wars, border struggles and sectarian conflicts claiming the lives of millions of Muslims today may end.
Adnan Oktar's piece in EKurd Daily: