Turkey Striving to Be Among 'New Axis' in Mideast

Turkey, which aspires to be the top mediator between 'the east and the west' and between the Arabs and themselves, suddenly finds that its circle of friends has grown.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

It is impossible to catch one's breath after all of this celebrating. From the marriage of the prince to the assassination of the Saudi to the anticipated wedding ceremony that is due to take place today in Cairo, the sensory overload of the last few days threatens to conceal the real problems.

Like in any celebration, the bridesmaid tries to attract attention by getting close to the cameras and within earshot of the merry-makers. This was how Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu managed to secure a spot next to Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshal so that he could witness the festivities, alongside Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa, the Egyptian prime minister, his intelligence chief, and his foreign minister during the signing of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement.

Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at parliament in Ankara, Turkey, February 8, 2011 Credit: AP

Turkey, which aspires to be the top mediator between "the east and the west" and between the Arabs and themselves, suddenly finds that its circle of friends has grown. In a dramatic move, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made clear that "the best way is for Qadhafi to leave power immediately." Erdogan said that the congress which was formed in Benghazi is the only acceptable interlocutor from Ankara's standpoint. This is the same Turkey that until last weekend was convinced that it could sell its compromise plan until it realized that there was nobody to sell it to.

Erdogan, who was in a feisty mood, is also furious with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Instead of adopting Turkey's recommendation to undertake massive reforms, Assad opted to dispatch tanks and helicopters against protesters, hundreds of whom have been killed.

How long will it be before Erdogan demands that Assad take leave of his chair? Does this warning also apply to Iran, with which Turkey signed a series of economic agreements?

Meanwhile, Turkey is left with just one festive event - the one which is due to take place today in Cairo and which will consummate the inevitable process of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. It was a process to which Turkey was an active party, persuading and cajoling both sides as well as Assad to lend their support to the deal. Davutoglu even took the trouble to mention that he had spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During the conversation, the Turkish foreign minister suggested to her that Washington support the reconciliation deal. The only thing he did not mention was Clinton's response.

On the face of it, the reconciliation agreement is a Palestinian, Egyptian, and slightly Turkish matter. In practice, however, this is the cornerstone upon which a real, substantive reconciliation will rest - one that is likely to have a significant ripple effect across the region for years to come.

Can Washington, which successfully eliminated an arch-terrorist, ignore or oppose a reconciliation that is aimed at establishing a united Palestinian state that would serve as the antithesis of the pan-Islamist ideology espoused by Osama bin Laden? Will Israel's cries of protest succeed in cracking the wall of international support for a Palestinian state? And what of Iran, which suddenly sees the possibility that Syria and Hamas could slip through its fingers and return to the Egyptian bosom, their natural place?

A "new axis" is about to take shape. While Turkey was quick to understand this and join up, Israel is sulking in the corner.



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