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August 30, 2015 / 15 Elul, 5775
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Mordechai Kedar: What Drives Turkey?

Palestinian and Turkish flags

Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

Despite all this, even one or two years ago, some political commentators were wondering “Who lost Turkey?” or “Where is Turkey headed?” because it seemed to them that Turkey had turned its external political axis away from the West. The reality is that Turkey’s external trends have remained as they were, because they depend on Turkish values that are shared with the West, and what did change is our increased insistence on the need to work harder to ensure a greater degree of stability and personal well-being in our area, which is expressed by our support of freedom, democracy and responsibility, not only to ourselves but also toward others [also the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq?].

This trend was reflected in our attitude toward the Arab Spring, which Turkey supported enthusiastically right from the beginning. We did not hesitate or avoid supporting those who are struggling for their rights and their dignity, and actually Turkey is seen as the most active and effective partner in assisting states such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, which are trying even now to implement the changes that began among them on the institutional plane. We spare no efforts to help these states, and we give them tangible support in the form of economic cooperation and in building political capabilities.

In Syria, despite this, the revolution has not yet borne fruit, because of the barbaric oppression that the regime uses against its opposition. Every day dozens of people who only seek dignity are killed, and Turkey invests most of its efforts in alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people, but unfortunately, the performance of the international community as a whole in providing an effective response to this crisis, has been poor so far.

The position of Turkey regarding the Iranian nuclear project was similarly clear: We strenuously object to the presence of weapons of mass destruction in our area, and it’s clear that attempts to create WMD or to procure them might instigate an arms race on a regional scale. That is why we have always called for turning the Middle East, including Iran and Israel, into an area without WMD.

We support the right of Iran to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but the Iranian nuclear project must be transparent, and its leaders must prove to the international community the non-military character of the project. The key to achieving this goal centers on bridging the gap between lack of faith and preparing the way for an effective dialog. In April we hosted the opening meeting of renewed negotiations between the international community and Iran.

For the sake of clarity on this matter: There is no military solution to this problem. Military intervention will only complicate the problem by creating new layers of conflict in our region and beyond. The reality is that Turkey is investing great efforts in this matter and other matters in order to function as a “positive force”, which compels us to find the right fit between our national interests and values such as justice, democracy and human dignity, and to act for realization of our foreign policy goals, but by mutual cooperation, not by force.

Effective multilateral action is a major aspect of this view, because Turkey served as a member in the Security Council of the UN during the years 2009- 2010, and it aspires to another term during the years 2015-2016. Because of the great importance of current developments in this part of the world, the involvement of Turkey in the Security Council assures that it will have great value. In the year 2015, we will also have the presidency of the Group of 20 (G-20), and we will need to invest most of our efforts in turning it into a more effective mechanism for global control.

The economic change that Turkey underwent during the past decade, places it in an ideal position to bring efficiency to the whole region, and in the future, also to global society. Despite the fact that we have achieved much, even more is demanded from us. In view of the challenges that confront our neighbors [Syria and the rebellion, Iraq and the Iranian hegemony, Iran and the internal stability as a result of international pressure, Israel and its threats on Iran] and the central role that the region plays in international affairs, Turkey does not hesitate to take upon itself new areas of responsibility.

This concludes the article of Abdullah Gul. The article reflects the way in which the Turkish leadership thinks of itself as a regional power. It doesn’t relate to problems between Turkey and Israel, because – in my opinion – it sees Israel as a problem too small to consider. The only mention of Israel is in the nuclear context, with veiled criticism and comparison to Iran. It ignores the issue of peace between Israel and her neighbors, since Turkey failed in its efforts to mediate between Israel and Syria in the days of Olmert.

About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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