On Turkey and the Middle East

June 24, 2017

In the fall of 1966, I took a series of exams to join the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Among other things, we were asked to comment on a widely used metaphor, “Turkey is a bridge between East and West”. I wrote that throughout history Anatolia had been a meeting point of cultures and that Turkey’s future lied in creating a successful synthesis. During my later years in diplomatic service I continuously objected to the use of this metaphor arguing that a bridge belongs to neither of its banks and that Turkey had already made her choice. With the launching of EU accession negotiations in October 2005 I came to believe that we had finally crossed the Bosporus Bridge and were travelling towards the West. This by no means meant a rupture with the East for obvious reasons. Moreover, our good relations with the region were seen as an asset by the EU.   Continue reading

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Middle East of Inconsistencies

June 19, 2017

“Pact of the League of Arab States” defines the purpose of the League as achieving close collaboration between Member States to safeguard their independence and sovereignty.

Articles 5. and 6. of the Pact state the following: Continue reading

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The Gulf Crisis and Turkey (2)

June 12, 2017

On June 9, 2017, in a statement on the Middle East, Secretary Tillerson said:

“… As we combine efforts to defeat the military, financial, and ideological support of terrorists, we expect to see progress in the Arab world toward greater political expression. An important pathway to attack Islamic extremism and to prevent political activism from escalating into violence is to allow marginalized voices opportunities for political expression. Continue reading

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The Gulf Crisis and Turkey

June 7, 2017

On June 5, 2017 Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen’s UN-backed government, the eastern government of divided Libya and the Maldives severed diplomatic relations with Qatar over allegations of support for terrorism. In addition, they closed all land, sea and aviation links.

According to a statement attributed to an official source, the Saudi Press Agency reported that the Kingdom has taken this decision, Continue reading

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Turkey Needs a Serious Foreign Policy Review

May 31, 2017

Turkey’s traditional foreign policy stood on pillars. Our relations with the United States and the European Union constituted the first two. A third one was our relations with our neighbors and the region. Prominently among those was Russia. Since the world is in a constant process of transformation Turkey was also searching for new pillars to add to the existing ones. Relations with China, India and other emerging powers offered new prospects.  Since they did not constitute alternatives to one another, strengthening each and every one of these pillars was a dictate of Turkey’s interests.

Those pillars have undergone serious damage in recent years for two reasons: our leaving the path of democratic reform and our involvement in the Syrian conflict. Continue reading

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President Trump and Israeli-Palestinian Peace

May 24, 2017

President Trump has now completed the Middle East leg of his first trip abroad. Though not as important as what he discussed with leaders in Saudi Arabia and Israel, images from his visits were also interesting. For example, especially after his visit to Riyadh, millions and millions of people watching him on their television screens must have been struck with the plain, unadorned residences of both President Rivlin and PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Continue reading

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Presidents Obama, Trump and the Middle East: Choice of Capitals, Messages and Audiences

May 22, 2017

President Obama arrived in Turkey in April 2009 after attending a G20 summit in London, a NATO summit in Strasbourg and an EU summit in Prague. This was his first overseas trip as President.

The following paragraph from the speech he delivered before the Turkish Grand National Assembly on April 6, 2009 reflected the purpose of the visit:

“This morning I had the great privilege of visiting the tomb of your extraordinary founder of your republic. And I was deeply impressed by this beautiful memorial to a man who did so much to shape the course of history. But it is also clear that the greatest monument to Atatürk’s life is not something that can be cast in stone and marble. His greatest legacy is Turkey’s strong, vibrant, secular democracy, and that is the work this assembly carries on today…” Continue reading

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