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Global Viewpoint

Turkey’s emergence as a center power in the Middle East is a game changer

Turkish journalist Soli Ozel says the nature of Turkish-Israeli relations are changed forever, not just because of the deadly flotilla incident.

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The most clearly elucidated vision of Turkey’s new interest-driven activism comes from Ahmet Davutoğlu, the current foreign minister. In his view, Turkey’s location at the center of what he calls the Afro-Eurasian space – where the great empires of history once reigned – enables it to rise to the status of a center power of the whole region. By eliminating conflicts with its neighbors, Turkey will be able to consolidate its regional leadership and play a key global role in the post-cold-war strategic environment.

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According to Mr. Davutoğlu, four principles guide relations with other regional actors:

1. a secure neighborhood based on a common understanding of security;

2. high-level political dialogue with all;

3. economic interdependence in regional relations, making borders irrelevant by creating free-trade zones (Turkey and several of its neighbors lifted visa requirements for travelers and signed a multitude of trade, transportation, and investment agreements);

4. multicultural, multireligious coexistence and harmony.

Turkey’s emergence as an increasingly confident, perhaps overconfident, independent player will have important consequences for the shape of the geopolitical landscape in the decades ahead. Facing apparent rejection as an aspirant to membership in the European Union, Turkish public opinion has more or less decided that it is better for Turkey to go its own way. Ironically, as the disunity of the EU causes it to fade in global influence, Turkey will become even more important as a regional power.

If EU-Turkey relations don’t take a turn for the better soon, Turkey’s transatlantic ties will be increasingly defined by its bilateral relations with the US instead of as part of Europe. Iran on the one hand, and Israel on the other, could present serious obstacles to a new mode of cooperation between the US and Turkey or Turkey could be a key player in helping resolve both conflicts. In either case, the new relationship will stand on a more equal basis than at any time in modern history.

Soli Ozel, a columnist for the national Turkish daily Sabah and editor of the Turkish edition of Foreign Policy magazine, teaches at Istanbul Bilgi University’s Department of International Relations and Political Science.

© 2010 Global Viewpoint Network/ Tribune Media Services. Hosted online by The Christian Science Monitor.

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