Opinion leaders from around the world met to discuss the problems and potential opportunities which have arisen from recent events in the Middle East and North Africa.

The second meeting of the Chatham House Istanbul Roundtables took place on 26 and 27 November at the Sabancı Center and Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul, hosted by Akbank, and with support from Vodafone.

The event, entitled 'Changing Middle East and North Africa: Difficulties and Opportunities', looked at the challenges presented by the political changes that have swept through parts of the region this year. The event also looked at the possible opportunities that may arise out of the turmoil.  A variety of senior figures in the fields of economics, politics and non-governmental organizations participated.

The President of the Republic of Turkey, HE Abdullah Gül delivered a keynote speech during the second day of the meetings. He said:

'The world is definitely going through a historic transition. For me the Arab spring was inevitable then, and it is irreversible now. It is simply the normalization of history in this part of the world. It is still too early to make a safe prediction as to what will happen in each country engulfed by the winds of change. But what is obvious is that an unavoidable and irreversible journey towards democracy has started in the region.'

Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator, HE Egemen Bağış, who made a keynote speech during the first day of the meetings, said:

'The attainment of democracy and stability in the region is essential for the security and the stability of the world order. Therefore, the Middle East needs to be backed up in this historical cornerstone of democracy. We all know that the EU emerged as the most successful peace and development project of the history after a bloody war. Today, we have the very same expectations for the Middle East.'

Suzan Sabancı Dinçer, Chairman and Executive Board Member of Akbank, and also a Member of the Chatham House Panel of Senior Advisors, said:

'The political changes being seen should be absolutely accompanied by economic reforms. It is very important for Turkey and European Union countries to support the North Africa and Middle East countries in the application of economic reforms. Turkey is an important actor in this process, not only with its relationships in the region but also with the successful example it presents. The fact that Chatham House brings this subject to the table in Istanbul confirms this.'

The meetings ended with a summary by Dr Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House in London, concerning the changes in Middle East and North Africa.

In his summary, Dr Niblett said:

'Chatham House is delighted to organize this event with Suzan Sabancı Dinçer who is the member of our Panel of Senior Advisors and our host for the second Chatham House Istanbul Round Table meeting. We are grateful to Mrs. Suzan Sabancı and Akbank for their invaluable support. The event took place at a pivotal moment in the Arab uprisings. We had the opportunity to discuss the practical ways Turkey, European states and the international community can support the process of change whilst recognizing that cooperation between Europe and Turkey is crucial.'