We thus called for peaceful and gradual political transformation, such that the new regional governments could be shaped by the popular demands of their citizens. When some Arab regimes ignored such calls, we did not hesitate to support the people's legitimate struggle for reinstituting popular sovereignty as the basis of political authority and regional stability.
Our emphasis on zero problems with neighbors neither prevented us from taking that bold position nor ceased to serve as a blueprint for our foreign policy in the region. When we initiated the "zero problems" policy, it was in no way meant to suggest that Turkey would pursue a values-free realpolitik agenda, solely focused on advancing its economic and security interests. Rather, it meant to eliminate the barriers preventing Turkey's reintegration with its neighbors, irrespective of where those obstacles came from. Our main objective was to ensure deep inter-societal communication, notably between our people and the people of the region, which we called "maximum cooperation."
Today, the "zero problems" vision means that we cannot make a decision that will alienate us from the hearts and minds of our region's people. If the main challenge to that vision of peace comes from those who deny the people's basic rights by oppressive means, we cannot remain silent. If we don't stand against oppression today, we cannot face the future generations with dignity. We also might erect new and lingering barriers between Turkey and the region, which would hinder our efforts at reintegration.
The "zero problems" principle, in the sense of friendly relations with regional states, still forms the basis of our policy in the region. We still pursue stronger ties with rulers who respect their people's demands for freedom and offer a secure and stable domestic order. In the countries that are going through a political transition, we are doing our utmost to help reestablish a balance between freedom and security. Our "zero problems" initiatives in the Middle East in the years preceding the popular uprisings also enabled us to establish valuable ties not only with neighboring regimes, but also societal actors. The leverage we gained in this process put us in a better position to address the challenges of the current regional transformation.
The vision of cooperation and dialogue implied by the "zero problems" principle is still urgently needed to address the current challenges in the Middle East. As the future of regional peace and stability is threatened by deepened ethnic and sectarian conflict, Turkey has warned against a new Cold War. We must not allow new barriers to divide the societies of our region -- such barriers are the biggest challenges to our search for cooperation and integration. Just as we tried to spread this notion through our "Countries Neighboring Iraq" initiative, we are again working to convince our neighbors to embrace a new language of inclusion, inspired by our common history and value system.
The current regional transformation will no doubt prove painful. Turkey, however, will continue to pursue its multidimensional foreign policy and draw on its new diplomatic assets to assist its neighbors undergoing this difficult phase. It is a historic responsibility for Turkey to assume that role: We believe that the regional order can be rebuilt only after people's demands for honor, freedom, and good governance are expressed in their political systems.
Once the regional transition is completed, we will continue our work toward regional integration within the spirit of the "zero problems with neighbors" principle. It will shape our foreign policy as a responsible member of international community -- and also serve as a guide for channeling a new collective conscience of solidarity into a spirit of regional integration.