Turkey in talks with Israel, Egypt over Gaza

Turkey in talks with Israel, Egypt over Gaza

Yes, although it accuses Israel of committing "genocide" on Palestinians and Egypt of "tyranny," as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an interview with CNN International, Turkey is in talks with both countries as part of efforts to secure an immediate and lasting truce between Hamas and Israel.

It was Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who disclosed this communication with both countries, underlining that when it comes to saving even one Palestinian life, Turkey would not hesitate to talk to them. This is how it should be.

As for talks with Israel, Davutoğlu said Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu was using an already established communication channel with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s advisor Joseph Ciechanover. Davutoğlu did not give details on the Egyptian talks, but simply said there were "contact points." 

In both countries, Turkey’s embassies are open and continue their services. This has become especially crucial for the mobilization of Turkish humanitarian aid agencies to provide for the immediate needs of Palestinians in Gaza, even during the latest Israeli operation. Davutoğlu informed that the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) was actively working in the region to help Palestinians and, while doing so, it was also in close contact with Israeli institutions. With life conditions getting worse in Gaza, TİKA, along with other agencies, has intensified its efforts, Davutoğlu recalled, saying it was now trying to supply fuel to Gaza.

Turkey’s role is not limited to providing humanitarian assistance. Marie Harf, spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State, responding to the the question, “Why is [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry talking to Davutoğlu?” at her daily press briefing, said the following:

“Because the Turks have a role to play; we’ve said that its [recent] comments made it harder for them to play a role, but they do have a role to play and they have a relationship with Hamas. I mean, they can have conversations that we can’t. So obviously, the Turkish foreign minister is a key player in the region and has some leverage he can bring to bear on the situation. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.” 

Harf’s statement is not only an affirmation of Turkey’s strategic importance to the U.S., but also of its potential role in the Middle East. To maximize this role and to turn it into a more efficient fashion is only in the hands of Turkey. However, the current picture does not promise more if Turkey’s policies are not re-calibrated.  

Erdoğan’s admittance last week that he is no longer speaking to U.S. President Barack Obama is the most symbolic evidence of his tarnished image in the international community. Erdoğan is currently not talking to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Israel’s Netanyahu, Egyptian President Abdel Fettah el-Sisi, or Obama. What was strange in his statement was that he said he asked President Abdullah Gül to call Obama directly. But the question here is: Who would Erdoğan ask to call Obama if he is elected Turkish president on Aug. 10?

Dialogue and communication are the best and most useful paths of diplomacy. Turkey cannot get results in foreign policy if it loses its interlocutors. It’s to Turkey’s great advantage to use its leverage in the Middle East, especially when the region is passing through such turbulence. Erdoğan, if elected president, and Davutoğlu, if selected to become prime minister, will have lot to do to reverse this current picture. A re-calibration of Turkish foreign policy seems to be inevitable in what Erdoğan calls the “new Turkey.”