North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Two apologies

Last week, there were two incidents from which we should take heart. In the opaque and often zero-sum (win-lose) world of diplomacy or positioning, there were three nations involved in two apologies.

From the Guardian newspaper, "Australian prime minister Julia Gillard delivered a historic national apology in parliament on Thursday [March 21] to the thousands of unwed mothers who were forced by government policies to give up their babies for adoption over several decades. More than 800 people, many of them in tears, heard the apology and responded with a standing ovation.

Prime Minister Gillard speaking before Parliament and mothers who lost their children to questionable adoption procedures. Photo from Australian Broadcasting Service

"Today this parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering," Gillard told the audience. "We acknowledge the profound effects of these policies and practices on fathers and we recognise the hurt these actions caused to brothers and sisters, grandparents, partners and extended family members," she said. "We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children," she added.

Many in the audience were moved with grief and thankfulness for the public apology. Photo from China Post

Gillard committed A$5m to support services for affected families and to help biological families reunite."

It was particularly heartwarming to note the response from those affected - a standing ovation. How healing for a nation.

Members of the audience place flowers in remembrance of families split up by the adoption policies.

Israel and Turkey

While US President Obama visited Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan during a trip last week, a phone call either instigated or orchestrated by the administration was especially admirable.

As the Jerusalem Post describes it, "In a dramatic development that occurred just as US President Barack Obama was leaving the country, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan for the first time since the Israeli prime minister took power in 2009. Netanyahu voiced regret for the loss of life in the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, apologizing for any mistakes that led to the death of nine Turkish activists. Breaking a three-year deadlock, the two agreed to normalize relations.

The ship Mavi Marmara was a Turkish ship taking part in an attempt to break a blockade set by Israel to prevent arms smuggling to the Gaza strip. The ship was not smuggling weapons itself, but attempting to highlight lack of essential supplies in Gaza. Activists on board the vessel were killed by Israeli commandos, who maintained they were defending themselves upon boarding the vessel.

The conversation was facilitated by US President Barack Obama, taking place during Obama's prolonged meeting with Netanyahu on Friday afternoon. "The United States deeply values our close partnerships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security," Obama said in the statement released by the White House just before he ended a visit to Israel.

"I am hopeful that today's exchange between the two leaders will enable them to engage in deeper cooperation on this and a range of other challenges and opportunities," the president said.

US President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. If some sort of face saving on the part of the two countries was all that was needed by President Obama to get these two leaders to talk on the phone, congratulations is in order. The two countries have a huge conflict on their borders and much to lose if the Syrian civil war spirals further, taking Lebanon with it.

From Ynet News, "Turkey, for its part, agreed to drop all charges against a group of former Israeli military commanders including former chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi [who was in charge of the IDF during the 2009 blockade - Teatree]. "Erdogan told Binyamin Netanyahu that he valued centuries-long strong friendship and cooperation between the Turkish and Jewish nations," the statement from Erdogan's office said. ...

Netanyahu [for his part] said he saw the interview that Erdogan gave the Danish newspaper recently, in which Erdogan stepped back from his statement equating Zionism with racism, and Netanyahu expressed his appreciation for the clarification."

So this apology could be optimistically viewed as an opportunity to reset these two countries longstanding relations, and a welcome relief to see a Muslim and a Jewish nation finding ways to get along. The chance to rekindle a working relationship is especially important in light of the unraveling of Syria between them (both Turkey and Israel having borders with Syria).

Securing chemical weapons, containing Hezbollah in Lebanon, shaping the Syrian opposition away from rising Islamic extremism are common goals for both Turkey and Israel.

The value of public apologies ...


Teatree said...

A followup article on the challenges facing both Turkey and Israel, from the New York Times

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