Israeli MP: Turkish initiative to establish 'Schengen Zone' in Middle East to strengthen country's position in region
Azerbaijan, Baku, Nov.29 / Trend G. Hamzayev /
Ankara's initiative to establish a visa-free regime with Arab countries will further strengthen the country's position in the region, an Israeli MP told Trend today.
"Ankara's desire to create a 'Schengen Zone' with Arab countries will strengthen its position in the Middle East," Israeli MP Hanin Zoabi told Trend over the phone from Guds.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke about introducing a unified visa regime with Arab countries during his recent visit to Lebanon.
Erdogan, recalling Turkey's signing of a protocol annulling the visa regime with Syria, Lebanon, Libya and Jordan, was quoted by the Lebanese El-Rey news agency as saying: "Why not create a 'Schengen Zone' in the Middle East?"
According to Zoabi, Ankara's initiative aims to improve relations between Turkey and Arab countries.
Delaying the process of Turkey's EU membership has pushed Ankara to review its foreign policy, particularly in relation to the Arab world.
The relations and cooperation between Turkey and the EU began with the signing of the Ankara agreement in 1964. From 2005, the sides began formal discussions on Turkey's membership in the EU. They are currently at an impasse due to the unwillingness of many European countries to accept the country into the EU due to human rights issues and the unresolved conflict between Turkey and Cyprus.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said earlier in an interview with Turkish media that Turkey may refuse EU accession and follow Norway's example.
"Turkey, like Norway, which meets all European standards, may refuse EU membership," he said.
Zoabi also said Turkey has much greater cultural and religious ties with the Middle East than with Europe.
"Turkey, in terms of culture and traditions, is closer to the Arab world," the MP said. "Ankara, using this factor, deepens its political and economic interests in the region."
According to Zoabi, Turkey's leading role in the Middle East will sooner or later positively affect Ankara's EU membership bid.