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MURAT YETKİN

murat.yetkin@hurriyet.com.tr

MURAT YETKİN > Israel-Gaza crisis and rise of Egypt

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It is a fact that Turkey has a role to play in the efforts to stop Israel from launching a wider-scale military operation into Gaza that could lead to more loss of life and worse tragedies. That is why U.S. President Barack Obama has named Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, along with Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi, as the regional leader whom he has asked for help to produce a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is traveling to Gaza as part of international diplomatic efforts that also include other high-level diplomats like U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the secretary generals of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League, as well as a number of European foreign ministers.

There are two other facts in this diplomatic effort. The first is that the United Nations has designated Egypt as the center of diplomacy and asked other countries to help the country. Despite the reality that Turkish officials have made it clear when you ask them that they are assisting Egypt in all efforts regarding the Middle East peace process, the Turkish government is not extremely pleased that its secondary role was made public. Addressing Eurasia-Islamic Assembly delegates in Istanbul, Erdoğan said he did not trust the U.N. to help solve the crisis; he doesn’t trust the U.N. with its current leadership structure anyway. Another detail in Egypt’s leading position is that Egypt is talking to Israel as well as Hamas, but Turkey has not been doing so since 2011 following the collapse of talks with Israel to obtain an apology over the killing in 2010 of nine Turks by Israeli soldiers on board the Mavi Marmara ship, which was trying to break an embargo on Gaza.

Second, the U.S. is expecting Egypt and Turkey to convince Hamas to stop firing rockets on Israeli towns. Obama believes it is in every country’s right to defend itself against rockets fired from outside its borders, and the debate is occurring while Turkey is in talks with NATO to have Patriot missile systems deployed on its soil to defend itself against the probability of a missile attack from Syria. And it is not certain whether Turkey has more powers of influence on Hamas than Egypt has. Despite Erdoğan and Davutoğlu’s unconcealed sympathy for Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, its leader, and his Palestinian rival, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, are communicating through Egyptian channels.

Egypt’s role in the region is back following the Tahrir Revolution, and its government is stronger than before after its government took power in free elections.

Last, the Syrian opposition, which started in refugee camps in Turkey, has said they consider Cairo to be their headquarters. The Arab Spring has worked well for Egypt, and the country is rising from its ashes once again, providing a realistic model to Arab countries. And if Morsi manages to save Gaza from the wrath of Israel, he can be a second Gamal Abdel Nasser, plus an elected one for the Arab world.

November/20/2012

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