Mr Minister for Culture of Turkey,Mr Director General,Mr Ambassadors,Mr Presidents of the Turkish season in France,Mr Commissioners,Mr Director of Culturesfrance,Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before I begin, I would like to pay tribute to the memory of the great historian Jean-Paul Roux, who passed away yesterday.

Through his numerous works and the two flagship exhibitions he organized at the Orangerie in 1971 and at the Grand Palais in 1977, he had been able to share his passion for Islamic culture, for Turkey, its mythology and its history, with a very large audience. He also worked hard to create the Department of Islamic Arts at the Louvre in 2003. I would like to pay tribute to him as he officially launches the Turkey season in France with you.

I would like to warmly thank my Turkish counterpart and new friend, Mr. Ertugrul Gunay, for having made the trip from Ankara, and for having helped us greatly in the realization of this great joint venture.

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, Chateaubriand wrote: «We have so many relations with Constantinople, that it would be folly for me to still claim to speak about it» - he spoke about it however, recounting in magnificent pages his arrival in the city, which made him feel like a “Wand of a genius”.

It is true that France’s fascination for your country, Mr Minister, for your civilization, your history, your culture, has its roots in the centuries. It was nourished by the stories of our greatest writers and poets. Hugo, Lamartine, Flaubert… for all, the journey to the East represented a bath of cultural and artistic rejuvenation. Or even a real salute, for Gérard de Nerval who lost his mind in Paris. He was seen in the Gardens of the Royal Palace here, under these windows, and shortly before his departure for the East, walking a lobster on a leash…

This fascination for your country has never ceased.

I am not just talking about the masterpieces of our Oriental painters, who always bewitch so many visitors in our largest museums. Nor even of your extraordinary heritage, witness to a history of legend, which attracts every year many French tourists on the roads of Turkey. I also speak of the contemporary face of your country, its creativity, its dynamism in all fields. The face that, for example, Turkish-born German director Fatih Akin paints so well for us in his film Crossing the bridge, that of a country where culture lives, bubbles, in a striking diversity, allowing itself all the daring, all the avant-garde.

It is this face that we wanted to highlight during this Season. That is why we were determined to focus on youth, young creators and students. They are the future of Franco-Turkish friendship. They will be at the heart of the exchanges programmed by the Season of Turkey.

This demonstration, decided by Presidents Chirac and Sezer [Turkish Head of State until 2007] and confirmed by Presidents Sarkozy and Gul, is the largest ever organized by Turkey abroad.

It will host more than 400 events in 77 cities and many local authorities.

With key events:

From tomorrow, July 1st, a fireworks display of events, from Nantes to Strasbourg, from Montpellier to Lille, will open this Season of Turkey that will illuminate the French cultural scene for the next nine months.

Next Saturday, Mercan Dede and the troupe Anadolu Atesi will hit the three shots of the Season with an exceptional show at the Trocadéro.

From July 17, walkers of the Tuileries Garden will be able to push the doors of the Turkish Café designed by architect Han Tümertekin. They will discover a multidisciplinary program that exalts the beauty and diversity of Turkish arts, with photography exhibitions, shows and many concerts.

Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006, will be the guest of the Odeon Theatre in early October, at the same time that the Eiffel Tower will sparkle with the colours of Turkey.

From the Louvre to the Maisons Folies in Lille, from the Centre Georges-Pompidou to the “Aux heures et cætera…” festival from Nantes, from the Grand Palais to the Conservatoire de Nice, from the Cité de la Musique to the Transmusicales de Rennes, our most emblematic institutions, our highest cultural venues will celebrate the vitality of your arts and your country.

The great writer and poet Yasar Kemal – who will be the guest of the BnF in November – says that “the act of creation is certainly the most important phenomenon of humanity.” This is what we want to show during the Season of Turkey in France.

I will let the two commissioners of the season give you the details of this abundant programming.

Through it, it is the new Turkey that the French will get to know better, in all its facets.

This season will also have a strong economic, scientific, academic and technological dimension.

I would like to thank the many partners who have committed to giving this event the profile it deserves.

As well as the organizers who were particularly inventive and dynamic.

I would especially like to greet AXA and its president Henri de Castries, for his personal involvement and unfailing support. You have agreed to chair the Organizing Committee, for the French part, and you have been able to federate no less than 13 companies around this beautiful project. You are committed to the economic aspect, but also to the many debates of ideas that will be held until next March.

I also greet Necati Utkan, Turkish President of this Season, who is very much in love with France and who I think knows our literature and arts very well.

And I congratulate the two Commissioners General, Stanislas Pierret and Görgün Taner, as well as the two operators who orchestrated this event with one hand: IKSV, the Istanbul Foundation for Art and Culture, and Culturesfrance.

This Season will allow us, I am sure, to progress in the mutual knowledge and understanding of our two countries and to further strengthen the ties that have united us for centuries. This is the wish that I form for this Season which is destined to extend well beyond March 2010.

The Franco-Turkish collaborations it has created will thus be programmed in Istanbul and Marseille, European capitals of culture in 2010 and 2013.

I am particularly pleased. Because through these exchanges, it is our long common history that we honour and continue; this history opened by Francis I and Suleiman the Magnificent by forming an alliance that caused scandal at the time, but which laid the foundations for a solid and lasting dialogue between our civilizations.

I wish a great success to this event, commensurate with the friendship between France and Turkey!

Thank you.

Teshekur ederim