Real reason behind Biden’s visit to Turkey
The real motivation behind United States Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Turkey is not to discuss the level of cooperation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
It is true that Biden has spoken in detail with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek yesterday about levels of cooperation surrounding the issue with Iraqi authorities; it seems Biden has told political leaders both in Baghdad and Arbil there should be no obstacles sourcing from them on U.S. assistance to Turkey against the PKK. But neither the PKK, nor Syria, nor Iran-Israel tension is the main motivation for Biden’s visit.
The main motivation of Biden’s visit is something more strategic: It is the three day Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) starting today in Istanbul.
Biden is in Turkey mainly because of this meeting, under the auspices of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan will not be able to attend the summit in person due to his extended recovery from intestinal surgery last weekend. And President Barack Obama, who was supposed to be in Istanbul for this meeting, could not come because of his election campaign; Biden represents Obama in Istanbul with the addition of a home visit to Erdoğan.
The idea of GES goes back to 2009 when Professor Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), wrote a letter to Obama underling the growing reaction in the Islamic world, with great root causes in growing economic inequalities as well as political and social ones. Some two months later he received an invitation from Obama for his June 2009 Cairo speech.
In his speech at Cairo University, Obama mentioned the importance of economic development hand in hand with political and social development. The Partners for a New Beginning (PNB) project was proposed in reference to that speech. National chapters in the U.S., Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia were established to encourage entrepreneurship in the Muslim world, not only in order to create new jobs, but to help the building of a new pluralistic society in parallel to that. PNB was supposed to be the acting body of the GES principles.
The first GES was held in Washington and was hosted by Obama in May 2010, followed by the first PNB Steering Committee meeting in September.
The PNB had its Istanbul meeting yesterday. It was hosted by the head of the Turkish chapter Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, who is also the chairman of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB). He told some 140 PNB delegates from nine countries that inequalities in current income levels were the greatest threat to stability and must be fought with. Toni Verstandig of the Aspen Institute’s Middle East Programs summed the purpose up in a very articulate way. She said strengthening the private sector in the Islamic geography would help democratic life to flourish as well.
Perhaps that is why Biden lists two basic qualities of Turkey to set an example for the rest of the Islamic world: its secular state in a mostly Muslim society and its open economy.