CİHAN ÇELİK > Frustrated Turkey sees diplomatic cold shoulder in Gaza crisis

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A new deadly phase in the decades-long confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians seemed to be ebbing late this week amid a fragile and troubled cease-fire, whose ultimate duration is still in doubt due to sporadic clashes, while behind-the-door mediating efforts for the truce appeared as a diplomatic cold shoulder to Turkey.

For the last couple of years, Turkish leaders have been in a desperate attempt to position the country, which for decades pursued a foreign policy asleep in the arms of Morpheus, as a “regional leader with an influence on core international issues.” The Herculean task was first modeled based on Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s “zero-problem policy,” with which Turkey tried to mend unsettled ties with its neighbors, including now-arch-nemeses Syria and Iraq.

To cut a long story short, the zero-problem policy ended up with more problems with neighbors than ever with the changing and conflicting power relations in the region. Thus, Turkey, which attempted to emerge as the “long-lost peacemaker” in the region with its fast-tracked mediating efforts, has found itself in a position in which it needs mediators for its regional relations.

Amid the unexpected eruption of popular upheavals, now widely referred to as the “Arab Spring,” Turkey was unfazed despite its obvious failure in its tough task of becoming a peace-broker and tailored its regional-based international overtures to a new level, in which it was purported to be a “model” for its neighbors witnessing massive political changes. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was not only among the first to call on long-time rulers to hear the demands of their people, but he was also among the first to give blessings to the new regimes with vows of support or even with visits. But the idea of being a model, which was polished by both national and international actors, also blurred around the edges since the countries that saw regime changes after the reign of long-time rulers moved to shape their futures on their own.

Still, the Turkish leaders were insistent and the recent Gaza crisis gave them a new chance to prove Turkey’s regional influence. However, that chance also backfired, as Turkey has been replaced by the ineffective elder state of Egypt, whose new Muslim Brotherhood leadership was courted by the idea of returning to the “good old days.” The reverse was ultimately triggered by a couple of factors, some of which were out of Turkey’s control.

The enduring harsh bashing of Israel has surely hindered Turkey’s efforts, but it was not the only one. The relatively calm stance by the Egyptian leadership seemed more reassuring for international powers, mainly Washington, as U.S. President Barack Obama threw his support behind Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, apparently not only for a solution to the Gaza crisis but also for a boost in his country’s ties with Cairo. The interesting points were the positioning of both Turkey and Israel in the process. While Turkey’s ties with the U.S. became chillier with the continuing criticism of its premier, Israel was also sidelined by Obama, who was somewhat removed from his ally’s deadly operation in comparison to his predecessors.

When the dust settled over Israel’s aggression on Gaza, what Turkey found on its plate was another failed attempt to emerge as an influent regional player amid its last-minute hopes for recognition with growing frustration, as well as defiance.


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11/27/2012 5:13:03 PM

Turkey will unfortunately reap what Mr. Erdogan has sown. Which is contempt, temper tantrums and undiplomatic boorish behaviour. No surprise whatsoever... Regards

Lior Uziel

11/25/2012 5:09:16 PM

Sid mark, right on the spot.

Sid Mark

11/25/2012 9:16:34 AM

The PM with his FM know very well that they will forever be ignored by big powers.They use the language they use,just to impress ignorand Turks and get their votes.

mara mcglothin

11/24/2012 8:24:32 PM

It is very difficult to be respected as a regional player when your pm continues to alienate as many people as he can every time he opens his mouth, and then you add in the fm and the idiot in Europe and you have a trifecta of backward behavior that will never serve the country well. Very sad with so much opportunity to make a difference in the World.

Sue Coon

11/24/2012 3:33:33 PM

I read newspapers from around the world and I think that people and countries listen to PM Erdogan. I see Turkey as an important power and I think the rest of the world listens when they speak.

Blue Dotterel

11/24/2012 10:00:50 AM

Erdogan's disadvantage over Morsi is that he cannot as easily give himself dictatorial powers to enable him to assist the US and ısrael in their attack on Gazans and plan to attack Iran. They both support their imperial masters, but their peoples do not.

Vargen Vargen

11/24/2012 9:28:28 AM

When Gul and Babacan were in charge things went really well. Since Davatoglu took over we have been involved in threats, slamming insults etc on a weekly basis. Slamming Israel, Germany, UN, etc etc threats of sending warships to Cyprus, etc etc. It is not only here we face a cold shoulder. Also against EU. The world is simply seriously tired of the behaviour of the top polititians of Turkey right now and we have almost no friends, except angry violent young men in Middle East.

Truth Teller

11/24/2012 7:26:47 AM

The short history in the Middle East Israel / Arab conflict prove one thing. Only countries which can speak with both side have a positive importance, the rest are neutral or have only destructive importance. At the moment Turkey is on the destructive side. It can be change but for that Turkey, namely turkish PM, should change his conducting maners, can he do it ???.
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