Recip Tayyip Erdogan calls Turkey the heart of the Arab world


Gaza demonstrators carrying pictures of Erdogan, flags of Turkey and Palestine
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Turkey’s prime minister planted himself at the heart of the Arab world’s turbulent politics on Tuesday, when he declared himself a champion of the Palestinian cause during a speech at the headquarters of the League of Arab States.

“Our Palestinian brothers should declare an independent state,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced to an assembly of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. “Now is the time to have the Palestinian flag in Gaza, and the Palestinian flag should go to the United Nations,” Erdogan said to applause from the audience.

“Let us hoist the Palestinian flag to the sky, and this should be a symbol of justice and peace in the Middle East.”

Erdogan put an end to decades of relative Turkish isolation from the Arab world. During a speech that sought to highlight shared history, values and faith, he frequently referred to Arabs as “brothers.” He also addressed the sweeping political changes that are rapidly transforming many Arab countries by repeating his endorsement of the rebel Transitional National Council in Libya, which recently captured the capital of Tripoli…

In a move that is sure to win support on the streets of many Arab cities and towns, the Turkish leader continued his diplomatic offensive against Israel. “They [Israel] should pay the price for these attacks and crimes they committed,” Erdogan said, reminding the audience of the botched May 2010 Israeli commando raid against a Turkish-led humanitarian convoy sailing to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

The Turkish government expelled Israel’s ambassador this month and suspended all bilateral military agreements after the Jewish state refused to apologize or pay compensation for eight Turks and an American who were shot dead by Israeli troops…

Egypt is the first stop on what some are calling the Turkish prime minister’s “Revolution Tour.” He is scheduled to travel next to Tunisia and Libya, two other North African countries that have seen their dictators overthrown during the Arab Spring.

I don’t know enough about Erdogan to have full confidence in his new and dynamic diplomacy. Decades ago, a part of my political heart and lived and died in Turkey’s fight for democracy. He appears to have dedicated one plank of his new career to rejection of military saviors for Turkey. That could just be self-preservation. He says he is willing and ready to be the seed to coalesce all Arabs – and freedom loving sentiment – for Palestinian justice and statehood. That may be opportunism.

All of these currents may be aimed at the simple task of bringing Turkey into the European Union. A goal undiminished by the EU’s erratic and weak fiscal policies – and encouraged by the incompetence and corruption of Turkey’s old Aegean enemy, Greece.

Whatever his eventual harbor, Western nations who have relied on Israel and Arab puppets for so many generations have a new challenge at hand. His nation is Turkey.

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