Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived today in Turkey to take part in a major international conference in Istanbul on bolstering the fragile peace process in Somalia.
The gathering " co-hosted by the United Nations and the Turkish Government " seeks to help consolidate political stability, security and reconstruction in the conflict-ravaged Horn of Africa nation, which has not had a functioning central government in two decades.
The Horn of Africa nation continues to be plagued by fighting between Government forces and its supporters and Islamist rebels, as well as by drought, poverty, food insecurity and heavy flooding.
It remains the scene of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), some 575,000 refugees and nearly 3 million people dependent on aid, out of a total population of nearly 8 million.
Participants at the international conference, which kicks off tomorrow, will also explore ways to combat rampant piracy off the Somali coast.
In Istanbul today, the Secretary-General lauded Turkey`s leadership in world affairs in areas ranging from UN peacekeeping missions to diplomacy, including the recent initiative with Brazil to resolve tensions over Iran`s nuclear programme.
Tehran holds that the country`s activities are for peaceful purposes, while some nations contend that they are driven by military ambitions. In 2003 it was discovered that Iran had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Leadership comes naturally to Turkey, " Mr. Ban said in an address to Bogazici University earlier today. For centuries, you have been a bridge among countries and cultures. "
But he exhorted the nation to take on a stronger global role through its participation in the so-called Group of 20 (G20) industrialized and developing economies and in the Security Council, where Turkey is currently a member.
Turkey has earned the right to speak out, forcefully, on issues of global importance, " the Secretary-General said. Let your voice be heard, loud and clear. "
He also spotlighted the country`s efforts to foster tolerance and mutual respect, as well as stand up to extremism and intolerance.
At the initiative of Turkey and Spain, the Alliance of Civilizations was launched by the UN in 2005 to help overcome prejudices between nations, cultures and religions.
Over the decades, Turkey has built a robust democracy, " Mr. Ban said.
Like other nations, you do not always agree on the next steps, " he added. The important thing is that the debate goes on with full respect for democratic principles. "
Paying tribute to the country`s remarkable strength and vigour, " the Secretary-General said that the path you have chosen may not always be easy, but it is the right path. "