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Ankara Forum and ‘realpolitik’ lesson in Ankara… 13 novembre 2007

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.

Turkish Daily News, Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cengiz Çandar

If someone said a few years ago that leaders of Israel and Palestine would address the Turkish Parliament one after the other, this would have been perceived as a “fantasy.” But this is the reality. First Shimon Peres and then Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, will deliver speeches in Turkish Parliament’s general council Tuesday.

The two leaders will attend with President Abdullah Gül a luncheon hosted by Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, head of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB).

This luncheon itself is as valuable as the “symbolic” importance of the speeches guest leaders will deliver. This is the indicator of to what extent non-state actors have a functional role in international relations. The TOBB is exactly the one.

The TOBB is the only solid patent of properly functioning mechanism between Israel and Palestine via Ankara Forum. The project envisages creating new job opportunities for Palestinians in Erez industrial zone by the participation of Israel and Turkish Small Size Enterprises (KOBIs); therefore, eradication of terror on economic-social ground and contributions to the “peace process.” After Hamas entered Gaza, the project was moved to the West Bank.

Ankara Forum backed by “political authority” of Turkey refuses influence of political developments in the axis of Palestine-Israel, insists in meeting the target and today the plan makes a great success to bring the leaders of Turkey, Israel and Palestine together in Ankara.

Perez on his way to Ankara the other day backed Ankara Forum by his remarks to the extent of providing jobs for 150,000 people is more effective than having 15,000 guns.

Besides, Peres strengthened the “political function and image” of Turkey by acknowledging that Turkey is a key player in relations with Palestine, the U.S. and Syria in the Middle East.

With the scenery in Ankara, the role of Turkey in the region, which lately has busied international agenda with a possible military incursion in northern Iraq, is once again proven to be not that of a “military power” but rather of a “softer power.”

A critical diplomatic success

Due to Ankara Forum, the Perez-Abbas meeting in Turkey turns a “diplomatic success” achieved by the help of TOBB. However, one shouldn’t exaggerate Turkey’s role as being a “power” to solve complex political issues in the Middle East.

Because hopes for a solution to the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict or revival of the solution process will be kindled in a U.S.-led Nov. 25 meeting in Annapolis, Maryland.

But instead of pure “symbolic” president Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be beneath the U.S.’ wings in Annapolis. Objective of talks here is to fortify the position of the Palestinian Administration’s leader Abbas who lost Gaza to Hamas this year.

Olmert is calculating to strengthen his own position in Israeli internal politics. Americans on the other side, concerned about a possible trouble due to stagnancy in the Middle East, wish for the launch of a some kind of a “process.”

In fact, Olmert referring to Annapolis talks to take place two weeks later said that he wants to proceed in a prudent and responsible way. Alternative to Annapolis is continuation of the status quo and this is bad for Israel. Whoever believes that the status quo is beneficial for Israel is either in self-deception or living in a dream world, added Olmert.

Whether or not Annapolis will be the remedy is doubtful. Many Israelis and Palestinians think the timing is off and therefore the summit will end with disappointment.

An official close to Ollmert said, if no final agreement is reached in Annapolis, the government will be at risk and Israeli will have to go for early-elections. But it is not smart to put the government at risk for something indefinite. Losing the government by going to Annapolis is not a good idea.

The same official added that the issue is for Olmert and Abbas to reach agreement on a document and to extend their political career.

How will this be possible, or will this be possible?

There is no answer to this question yet and finding an answer in Annapolis is doubtful.

The Palestinian side has almost double load of hardship in the case. Foreign Minister of the Hamas government, Mahmoud Zahar, named Abbas as the “cohort of Israel” and warns that this will cost Abbas losing the West Bank, just as Gaza.

Introduction to the Annapolis scenario is being written

Within this complex “political-diplomatic labyrinth,” a stalemate of Turkey, or rather the Justice and Development Party (AKP), grabs the attention. The AKP is the part had the first contact with the Hamas government following the elections in Palestine, at the cost of upsetting its allies. Apparently, the AKP has a similar way of thinking with Hamas, rather than with al Fatah of Abbas. However, right now, the picture in Ankara shows the AKP has a role in the writing process of the introduction part of a possible agreement in Annapolis, which is to strengthened Israel’s and particularly Abbas’ position against Hamas.

Meanwhile, Turkey would purchase Arrow anti-missile system and Ofek intelligence satellite, claimed to increase the ability of collecting information, from Israel. Arrow’s purchase is pending for a U.S. approval, financing 30 percent of the production. Jerusalem Post reported that an Israeli military official said if Turkey buys these two systems, its operational capabilities will skyrocket.

Annapolis is a joint scenario of the U.S., Israel and Abbas. Ankara Forum on the eve of the Annapolis talks is the most remarkable Israeli-Palestinian cooperation project.

Hamas has no place in any of these, but the AKP.

This should be a lesson of “realpolitik” …

The great meeting

Turkish Daily News, Tuesday, November 12, 2007

Murat Yetkin

President Abdullah Gül hosts the presidents of Israel and Palestine in Ankara today. But this is not an ordinary meeting. Gül will bring the two leaders together at the Çankaya presidential palace for the first time in history, just weeks ahead of talks in the U.S. city of Annapolis to find common ground in the Middle East peace process.

As a matter of fact, this will be the second biggest summit between Israeli and Palestinian top-level state officers since the Camp David summit orchestrated by the U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000 that failed.

Following a tri-partite meeting on the morning of Nov. 13 at Çankaya, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres will pay a visit to the TOBB University and have lunch together hosted by Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, head of the Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB).

The next stop is in fact more important than these two meetings. The Israeli and Palestinian state leaders will delivers speeches one after the other at the same place; that is, they will listen to each other. That place is the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Turkish Parliament, thus proving Turkey’s leading role in regional politics.

If any of the previous visits, almost like an official parade, by Syrian President Bashar Assad or Saudi King Abdullah has not proven Turkey’s role in the region, the Peres-Abbas rendezvous in Ankara should prove this.

People betting that Turkey will be isolated in the Middle East due to on-and-off relations with the European Union are mistaken. Turkey has achieved a jump in relations with the Middle East as well, while insisting on its EU bid and continues to struggle against anti-EU cliques inside.

Still, the power bringing Peres and Abbas together in Ankara is the face of politics with solid steps, not one full of promises, we should see.

The Ankara Forum

Peres and Abbas are visiting Ankara as part of a project titled “Ankara Forum for Economic Cooperation” launched for “Industry for peace” in 2005 through the initiative of the Manufacturers Association of Israel and TOBB for the revitalization of the Palestinian economy, and the “Erez” Industrial Zone, which was ruined by skirmishes in Gaza. Approximately 6,000 Palestinians will have jobs as a resource will be created for the Palestinian economy in a bid to ease the political tension.

The Ankara Forum is the only solid and feasible project in the hands of the Middle East Peace Quartet consisting of the U.S., Russia, EU and the United Nations led by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Politics and abstract concepts can only find body by solid steps. Therefore, this is a solid example for Turkey’s power in the region. Comparing the trouble Turkey faces with the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) plague in Iraq with its efforts for the Ankara Forum is not right and is underestimating the country.

International politics resembles communication vessels, a well-known experiment that most persons have conducted in school: Sometimes to raise the liquid level in a tube, you have to add some more to the other column in an inter-connected system so as to have liquid level out.

Without Gül’s encouragement and without Hisarcıklıoğlu’s dedication, this project would have not been put into practice. But the project was given flesh and bone by primarily Güven Sak, director of TOBB’s think tank organization TEPAV.

Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary and former Ambassador to Tel Aviv Feridun Sinirlioğlu, former Foreign Ministry spokesman and current Turkish Ambassador to Israel Namık Tan, Turkish Economic Assistance Coordinator for Palestine Vehbi Dinçerler, Palestinian Ambassador to Ankara Nabil Mahluz, former Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Pinhas Avivi and current Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Gaby Levy made this project possible.

Our appreciation goes to all…


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