Speech at the Global Counterterrorism Forum held in Singapore

Murat Lütem 30.03.2017

A warm welcome to our guests who have travelled to Singapore for the first regional workshop of a new GCTF initiative, co-led by Turkey and the US, on the protection of soft targets from terrorist attacks.

I would like to start by thanking the Government of Singapore for hosting this workshop.

I would also like to thank our US colleagues for their relentless efforts within the Global Counter Terrorism Forum.

Turkey and the US closely cooperated in order to create this important forum in 2011 and co-chaired the GCTF until last year. Although we have already handed over this important role to the Netherlands and Morocco, Turkish-US partnership is continuing. Last year the two countries co-led two important initiatives within the GCTF. And this year, we have been working together again on this new initiative on the protection of soft targets.

Distinguished participants,

Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. It has always been a security challenge for governments and a source of fear for ordinary people.

What we are facing today, however, is unprecedented: We see a drastic proliferation of terrorist groups that possess enhanced capacity to inflict great physical damage on us.

They have an ever increasing ability to disseminate their “narratives” and can lure disillusioned young people to commit heinous forms of violence.

Hardly a day goes by without an act of terrorism taking place somewhere in the world, indiscriminately affecting innocent people, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As such, terrorism has become a truly global and rapidly evolving threat.

To address this threat effective, nimble and coordinated global response has become a must.

Distinguished participants,

There has always been a transnational aspect to terrorism. We, the Turkish diplomats, know this very well through bitter experience: It was in 1973 when a Turkish diplomat, Mr. Mehmet Baydar was killed by a terrorist when he was serving abroad as the Consul General of Turkey. This act of terrorism was the first in a series of terrorist attacks targeting Turkish diplomats in various countries. Since then, Turkey has been and, unfortunately continues to be victimized by different terrorist groups.

The call for international cooperation is not just a rhetoric or an academic interest for Turkey. The terrorist groups targeting Turkey, including the PKK, DHKP-C and Daesh, operate across borders, running camps and acquiring financial resources in third countries. They even freely operate media outlets to disseminate their propaganda and glorify their vicious acts. We have seen perpetrators of terrorist crimes, their mentors and financiers escape justice and travel freely in third countries.

Our own struggle against this menace has tought us the crucial lesson that we cannot succeed in our counter-terrorism efforts in the absence of solid international cooperation.

Accordingly, Turkey has been leading efforts to increase awareness of the international community on the threat of terrorism.

We have worked hard bilaterally and at the various international platforms to create mechanisms for more effective information sharing and operational cooperation in a counter terrorism context.

We have also contributed to the development of new legal instruments aimed at detecting and suppressing terrorists and bringing them to justice.

Looking back at recent history, we can confidently claim that the capabilities of the international community to address the threat of terrorism have enhanced considerably.

Yet, despite all these efforts, the scourge of terrorism remains very much alive and continues to evolve and inflict pain on our societies.

2016 was a terrible year in that respect: We have all been traumatized by brutal and inhuman acts of terror. We lost so many lives. This year started just as badly.

Our peoples are rightfully demanding their Governments to stop these killing machines. Is this possible? Can we stop them?

The simple answer is: Yes. We can defeat this scourge.

Yet, based on our own experience in Turkey, I admit that, it is not an easy task. We have to consolidate international solidarity, and the GCTF has an important role to play in that respect.

In fact, the GCTF has been the first platform to raise the then-emerging issue of Foreign Terrorist Fighters a few years ago.
It has also played a leading role in bringing the crucial subject of violent extremism and radicalization to the attention of a wider audience. Thanks to our joint efforts within the GCTF, we have now an impressive tool-kit

addressing the whole life cycle of radicalization, as well as other non-binding guidance documents and good practices. These documents benefit not onlypolicy makers and practitioners, but also local communities and civil society in their efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism.

Now, Turkey and the US are co-leading another important initiative on the protection of soft targets from terrorist attacks.

As a matter of fact, we have been observing a change in the tactics and methods of terrorist groups around the world:
A decade ago, critical spots such as military facilities, embassies and airliners were the priority targets of terrorist groups. They targeted these places for spectacular attacks. Yet, due to various reasons, they are now shifting their target towards public places such as religious centers, tourist sites, public transportation, hotels, restaurants, stadiums, and entertainment venues, where people frequent.

These places are relatively vulnerable to a terrorist attack due to their open access and limited security measures.

A teenager, blowing himself up during a street wedding in Gaziantep, killing more than 50 civilians, including many children…

PKK terrorists turning a car into a bomb and blowing it on Kızılay, the heart of Ankara…

Or a driver in Nice, running over with a truck a crowd that has gathered for July 14 celebrations…

A gang of terrorists, shooting civilians indiscriminately at Bataclan theater and several restaurants in Paris…

Or, a terrorist in an SUV crushing the pedestrians on a bridge near Parliament in London…

This is the new face of terrorism today.

Human, economic, and political consequences of these attacks are evident. We must focus on soft target protection and that is the crux of our initiative.

The Soft Targets Initiative has two objectives:

-Raise awareness, identify needs, and leverage expertise and experiences to better protect potential soft targets; and

-Develop a set of internationally-recognized non-binding good practices, which can serve as the basis for international engagement, assistance, and training to enhance the security and resilience of sites that are potential soft targets.

We aim to bring together not only national governments and local authorities, but also international organizations, and private industry in a series of meetings in different regions to share views and expertise.

The launch of the STI initiative was held in December last year, in Antalya/Turkey.
It was attended by about 60 experts from more than 20 countries worldwide.

Today is the first regional workshop, to be followed by similar workshops in Senegal and Brussels.

All these meetings and workshops will result in the development of a good practices document that will be put forward for approval at the GCTF Ministerial meeting on the margins

of the UN General Assembly in September 2017.

Distinguished guests,

Shortly after the launch of the meeting in Antalya, the PKK perpetrated two simultaneous vehicle borne IED attacks near a stadium in Istanbul. The result was 44 casualties and hundreds of injured people.

A few weeks later, on the new year eve a DAESH-linked terrorist opened fire in a well known restaurant in Istanbul killing 36 people. The perpetrator was captured alive a few days later. What is important to note here is that the perpetrator was trained in the Fergana valley, captured in Iran, then released and he crossed illegally to Turkey.

In other words, he was on the radar of several countries, but we had not received any information from them. We also learned that the initial target was the very crowded Taksim square in Istanbul. The terrorist had conducted a surveillance in the square and concluded that due to hard security control that venue was not suitable for a terrorist attack.

These two attacks are tragic examples that indicate the importance of the Soft Targets Initiative.

I am confident that the discussions we will hold today and tomorrow will bring about valuable insight and best practices that can benefit all our partners in their efforts to fight the scourge of terrorism.

Thank you.

Pazartesi - Cuma

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