Friday, July 24, 2009

Middle East Diplomacy Continues

Additionally, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas' recent visit further evidenced Turkey's desire to position itself as a mediator between Fatah and Hamas, as well as between Israel and a Palestinian national unity government. Abbas came to Ankara amidst somewhat of a brouhaha after visiting Cyprus and allegedly declaring his support of Greek Cypriot president Dimitris Christofias' position on Cyprus' longstanding dispute with the Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, though Abbas and the Palestinian Authority was careful to emphasize that the PLA had no position on the issue. President Gül eschewed the controvery altogether, instead taking the opportunity to re-affirm Turkey's commitment to a two-state solution and press for an agreement between Fatah and Hamas. Turkey attempted to position itself as a mediator between Hamas and Israel during the Israeli invasion of Gaza last December, though Egypt ended up ultimately leading the talks. Nonetheless, Turkey remains committed to bringing all parties together in an effort to prove its diplomatic clout in the region and is seen as uniquely positioned to do so as a result of its strategic relationships with both Israel and the Arab states. Turkey's western orientation yet predominantly Muslim population, as well as its non-involvement in Arab internecine conflicts, are also thought beneficial to the relationship. Also singificant is Gül's rejection of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solona's proposition of a deadline for recognizing a Palestinian state sans a consensus. It would be interesting to know what attempts, if any, have been made to coordinate Turkish policy with that of the European Union. For an analysis from the Eurasia Daily Monitor, click here.

At the same time, Turkey is eager to facilitate Syria and Israel in indirect peace talks. Following Abbas' departure, Prime Minister Erdoğan visited Syria, both endorsing the normalization of relations between Turkey and Syria and emphasizing the importance of Israeli-Syrian rapprochement. Israel and Syria have long been deadlocked on the issue of the Golan Heights, though Turkey remains optimistic that it can help barter a solution. The United States, initially ambivalent about Turkey's mediator role, has since endorsed Turkish-led peace talks. How successful they will be is another question. For analysis of the prime minister's trip to Damascus, click here for another piece from the Eurasia Daily Monitor.

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