Speech delivered by Ambassador Reha Keskintepe at the Gallipoli 1915 : A Century on İnternational Conference reception
The Honourable Senator Ronaldson, Minister for Veterans Affairs
Members of Parliament,
Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO RAN (Retd), National President
Dr. Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial,
Professor Ian Young, Vice Chancellor of the ANU,
Members of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening, iyi akşamlar!
It is indeed a great honour and pleasure for me as the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to host this reception for our guests and the participants to the International Conference entitled “Gallipoli 1915: A Century On” organised jointly by the Australian War Memorial and the Australian National University and I wish to welcome you warmly to Lalezar Hall this evening.
As we mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, this conference brings together
leading scholars and experts from different parts of the World, including Turkey
who will present their perspectives on different aspects of the Gallipoli campaign over the
next few days. I am confident that their ideas and analysis will contribute to an impartial and fair treatment of this period of Turkish history.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Nelson and Professor Young for organising the conference on the eve of the Centenary of the Çanakkale battles and Anzac landings in Gallipoli, which will be marked by official ceremonies to be held at the highest level next month in Çanakkale.
The scale of the First World War was unprecedented in history.
Individually and collectively, the sacrifice was stupendous. The Great War is now often depicted as senseless slaughter that claimed an estimated 14 million lives, including 5 million civilians as well as 9 million soldiers, sailors and airmen from 28 countries. At least 7 million troops were left permanently disabled.
Together with the tremendous loss of human life the old world order was also irreparably destroyed. The destiny of a great number of
nations around the world was affected and the consequences are still felt in many countries, including Turkey.
For Turkey, the war did not end in 1918 but continued until 1922 when all invading forces were defeated and the Turkish people were liberated.
Both the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires came to an end. From their ashes a host of new countries emerged, in Europe and the Middle East.
Russia was wrecked by revolution. Monarchies fell. The emerging new world order, brought about political changes that can still be seen today, nearly a century later.
Among the many battles and campaigns of this war, the Çanakkale Sea and Land Battles that took place in 1915, had a particular significance for Turkey as well as for many other combatant nations.
Tomorrow on 18th March, Turkey will be commemorating the centenary of its victory in the Çanakkale Sea Battle. They constituted some of the bloodiest confrontations of the Great War and they
not only changed its course effectively, but also the flow of history thereafter.
Moreover, heralding the emergence of national consciousness, the Çanakkale Battles occupy an exceptional place in the history of Turkish nationhood as well as in the history of Australia. At a time when the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating the Turkish nation displayed its utmost perseverance and determination to protect and defend the homeland against all odds, paying a very heavy price in blood and treasure. Turks proved there was no limit to the sacrifice they would endure in the struggle for dignity and freedom. Turkish troops were led by courageous and battle hardened commanders, most notably Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who was victorious at Gallipoli.
We are forever indebted to him for leading the War of Independence and founding the Republic of Turkey, a Western oriented country with a predominantly Muslim population. And his words of compassion and wisdom addressed to Anzac mothers in 1934, which are well known and often recited, will resonate for centuries to come and constitute the foundation of the ever deepening Turkish-Australian relations.
The Ottoman Empire lost an entire generation of its population
in many fronts extending from the Caucasus to the Middle East and the Balkans in those years. Yet, Turkey maintains today amicable relations with all of the combatant countries regardless of the circumstances and location of the confrontations.
From this perspective, the Çanakkale Land Battles offer a good example by illustrating how friendship is born out of war.
The battle grounds of Gallipoli and other fronts where soldiers of different nations lie in peace, side by side, will continue to stand as an eternal monument to peace and friendship.
If you look around, you will see on the walls of this Hall photographs taken in Çanakkale 100 years ago during the naval and land battles.
Although one hundred years have passed after the end of World War I, global peace still faces serious challenges.
Careful contemplation on the circumstances of that period which caused vast devastation and loss of life and deprived all combatant countries of their young generations, will lead us to better comprehend many issues troubling the modern day international community. I am confident that the conference will make a unique contribution in this regard.
So, as we mark the centenary we must ensure that the lessons learnt live with us forever and we must remember the extraordinary sacrifice of a generation.
We will always honour and remember those who served and those who lost their lives in the Great War, in the sea and land battles at Çanakkale and at Gallipoli in 1915.
I wish to conclude my words with a quote from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk; these words have been and will continue to be the guiding principle of Turkish foreign policy: ‘Peace at home, peace abroad’.
Thank you, and enjoy the evening!
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