Turkish PM: Obama Must Rethink Definition of Mideast Terror

Erdogan tells World Economic Forum Turkey would be willing to start mediating Israel-Syria talks again.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that U.S. President Barack Obama must redefine terror and terrorism in the Middle East and use it as the basis for a new American policy.

"President Obama must redefine terror and terrorist organizations in the Middle East, and based on this new definition, a new American policy must be deployed in the Middle East," Erdogan told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The Turkish leader appeared to be referring to the U.S. position toward Hamas and Hezbollah, which the United States considers terrorist organizations. While both have military wings, Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 and remains in charge following the recent Israeli invasion. Hezbollah is a major political force in Lebanon.

As a secular Muslim country that belongs to NATO and is seeking membership in the European Union, Turkey has been a bridge to Hamas and Hezbollah.

Alluding to Turkey's unique position, Erdogan prefaced his message to Obama, saying that "compared to the Western countries, we speak best the language of the Middle East."

Erdogan, whose country has played a key role in trying to mediate among Israel and Syria and the Palestinians, said Obama's new Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, would be in Turkey for talks Sunday.

Before the December 27 attack on Gaza, Erdogan said Turkey had been deeply involved in mediating between the enemy countries and had been awaiting a response from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when the bombs started falling in the Palestinian territory.

"Even though there's now a shaky cease-fire in Gaza, the Israeli-Syria talks appear to be on hold," he said. "I see right now that this is shelved. But if the parties request it, we as Turkey would be willing to take part, to play a role in those discussions."