September 30, 2011
Over the last two weeks, Turkish diplomacy went all out to capitalise on the country’s increasing international clout. President Abdullah Gul has made a 4-day visit to Germany, Turkey’s main European partner, whereas premier Erdogan has made a highly publicised visit to Egypt and has recently met with President Obama in New York to discuss the situation in Syria.
Turkey’s sustained economic growth and the pro-Islamic geopolitical agenda it adopted a few years ago have transformed the country into an indispensable partner for the West. Turkish diplomacy and influence could become instrumental in helping the EU, for instance, deal with the upheavals in the Maghreb and help stabilise the region. The US, too, needs Turkish assistance in dealing with the crisis in Syria and in resolving the Palestinian question. Finally, Russia might find it opportune in future to use Turkey’s help in dealing with the political upheavals in countries like Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan or others in Central Asia.
Even if Turkey’s increased international standing, as well as its status as a major regional power in Asia and within the Islamic world, are by now indisputable, a cooler approach to the Palestinian issue might make its efforts more effective than it has been the case so far. Pushing Israel too hard on the Palestinian question is – as the latest events prove – counterproductive. The Turkish diplomacy has to find a way to help Palestinians by working closely with EU diplomats and the US administration in order to persuade the Israelis to soften their resistance to international efforts of helping Palestinians achieve statehood. As cooperation on the issue brings more rewards than confrontation, threats to accompany Gaza-bound humanitarian convoys with Turkish warships could only aggravate matters and increase tensions in the Middle East. Such a display of hard power could only play in the hands of Israel’s military and undo the successes achieved by the Turkish diplomacy’s soft means over the last decade.
Most analysts, especially from Europe, believe that Turkey is in fact a responsible stakeholder in the Middle East and contributes to increasing the political stability of the region. By spreading the message of democracy and human rights around the Islamic world now in turmoil, Turkey is also viewed by many inside and outside the Arab world as a positive force for democratic change. These are but a few reasons why the Turkish diplomacy will have to tread much more carefully in future on the Palestinian question and avoid antagonising unnecessarily Israel and its main backer, the US. (sources: Today’s Zaman, Project Syndicate, Reuters, Al Arabiya)Florian Pantazi