Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Turkey plays high-stakes game positioning itself at heart of Arab world

PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been lauded in Cairo for his bold stance against Israel – but just how far will he go?

Ian Black, Middle East editor
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 13 September 2011

"Recep Tayyip Erdogan's speeches in Cairo were excellent platforms for Turkey's campaign to become a bigger player in the Middle East – against a backdrop of the momentous changes of the Arab spring and a rare sense of movement in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Rousing cheers in Egypt reflect Ankara's strong stand against Israel, rupturing decades of close alliance in favour of an openly critical position since last year's bitter row over the Gaza aid flotilla killings....

Unlike Iran, accused of playing the sectarian card in its alliances with armed Shia groups in Iraq and Lebanon, Turkey looks like a sympathetic Sunni Muslim power with an instinctive feel for the region. Bluntly, Turkey is admired largely because it has been far bolder and more confrontational towards Israel than most Arab states, starting with its outspoken response to the 2008 Israeli offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Beyond that, its political system looks like a useful model for Arab countries emerging from decades of authoritarian rule....

For all the excitement about a new departure, there may be limits to how far Turkey will go. It has been very active over the Syrian crisis but has conspicuously not joined western countries in calling for Bashar al-Assad to go......"

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