POLITICS > Arab League shuns Turkey, Iran on Syria

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

No longer the supposed darling of the Arab world, Turkey finds itself on the outside looking in as the Arab League meets to discuss Syria without it due to the body’s unease over ‘non-Arab’ interference in the crisis

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Iraq’s FM Zebari (R) speaks at a conference
with the League’s Deputy Secretary General
for Political Affairs, Ahmad bin Hilly. REUTERS photo

Iraq’s FM Zebari (R) speaks at a conference with the League’s Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ahmad bin Hilly. REUTERS photo

Serkan Demirtaş Serkan Demirtaş serkan.demirtas@hdn.com.tr

The Arab League has shunned Turkey and Iran for its meeting today in Baghdad over Syria with the seeming intention of distancing itself from Ankara-led aggressive policies against Damascus that prioritize toppling President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Turkey was not invited to the Baghdad meeting even though Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has worked closely with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi since the very early days of the Arab Spring, Turkey has observer status at the body and Ankara has participated in almost every crucial summit held by the 22-country organization.

Though officials have said the meeting was closed to all non-Arab countries, including Turkey and Iran, a senior European Union official will take part in the summit, with the executive secretary-general of the European External Action Service, Pierre Vimont, schedule to represent Brussels at today’s meeting.

There are three main reasons for Turkey’s exclusion from the meeting. The first is the current chilly relationship between Ankara and Baghdad over the latter’s accusations that the Turkish government is seeking to increase its influence in its southern neighbor. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki objected to Turkey’s participation, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

Al-Maliki and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan found themselves at odds earlier this year because Ankara believes al-Maliki is acting as an offshoot of the Iranian administration and provides a link between Tehran and Damascus.

As Iraq assumes the term presidency of the Arab League, the league’s relations with Ankara are likely to become bumpier during this period.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari was explicit in expressing his government’s concern over the growing influence of regional powers Turkey and Iran inside Iraq in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

“This summit will enhance our position to stand on our feet vis-à-vis these regional powers,” he said, accusing Turkey and Iran of “competing to fill the vacuum in Iraq in the absence of an Iraqi representative, strong, national unity government.”

Arab League went too fast on Syria
The second reason for Turkey’s exclusion from the meeting seems to stem from the Arab League’s intention to distance itself from the policies of Turkey and some Western powers, which are focused on toppling al-Assad.

Divided over the future of al-Assad, the members of the Arab League will likely endorse Kofi Annan’s mission, which has received a positive response from Damascus. The Annan Plan is perceived as being much more realistic than other competing plans in many Arab countries, who are growing increasingly suspicious of the Friends of Syria initiative. Some Arab countries believe the league moved too quickly in demanding that al-Assad leave office – losing some political maneuvering room by doing so. They have also laid part of the blame on al-Arabi for remaining under the influence of Davutoğlu, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Related to these differing positions over Syria, the third reason for Turkey’s exclusion reflects growing concerns about rising Turkish interference in the Arab world’s internal affairs. A good majority of Arab politicians, scholars and journalists suspect that increasing Turkish influence carries with it the motive of glorifying the Ottoman past, something the Turkish diplomatic establishment strongly denies.


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sam stevens

3/29/2012 11:06:07 PM

I keep saying it & I'll say it again, Turkey belongs nowhere. Not with the Arabs & most definitely not with Europe. They need to get back to true Attaturk secularism ,at present they they seem very confused without a definite character.

US Observer

3/29/2012 10:07:22 PM

How many times can the Arab countries stab Turkey in the back before it stops trying to be best buds? If religion were not involved, would Turkey give two rips about the ME?

Rimon Tree

3/29/2012 8:22:28 AM

I dearly hope this will be an elightenment for Turkey to lean more to the European circle again and double her efforts to join EU, to where she belongs much more than to the Arab World.

rich bind

3/29/2012 7:28:48 AM

When will Turkey get it! They are not part of the Arab world. Turkey threw Israel to the side of the road in the hope that such a policy would give it leverage with the Arabs -- see how that worked. Turkey is now at odds with Egypt, Iran & Iraq.

Dennis Kavaz

3/29/2012 6:13:09 AM

Closing the door on Turkey is an indication that there is a silent party that doesn’t want Turkey to be involved in any of the Arab league negotiations. It seems the links have long airs and little in between. Hence Turkey cares for Turks only

Sue Coon

3/29/2012 4:04:56 AM

I am from the west, so am an outsider, but I would very much like to see the Arab League play a foremost part in the solution to Syria's problems. I also think that PM Erdogan has worked very hard to do the best for Turkey and the region.

Ali Sert

3/29/2012 2:38:33 AM

Betting on the wrong horse again!! Making a lot of money but loosing at the political stage cost more!! First on Libya supporting Khaddafi and change mind for 180 degree, now on Syria not to mention dispute with Israel and loosing the gasfields
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