POLL: Both sides can benefit from Turkish-Arab dialogue

Politics Materials 23 April 2010 15:49 (UTC +04:00)
Both sides can benefit from the Turkish-Arab dialogue.
POLL: Both sides can benefit from Turkish-Arab dialogue

Azerbaijan, Baku, April 22 /Trend, R.Hafizoglu/

Unlike previous governments, after coming to power in 2002, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) began a rapprochement with the Arab and Islamic worlds. In a statement to the Arab press, Secretary General of the League of Arab States Amre Moussa said he positively assesses Turkey's rapprochement with Arab states.

While many political experts estimate the move as the beginning of a Turkish-Arab dialogue, some argue that such a dialogue is unnecessary.

International and local experts responded to questions by Trend on the subject.

Trend: Is there a need for dialogue between Turkey and Arab countries? How would the dialogue enable the parties?

Abdurrahman Kurt (Turkish MP, Turkish-Lebanese Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group Chairman):

- Currently, we are witnessing positive changes in many spheres between Turkey and the Arab world. This is due to the policy of "zero problems" pursued by Turkey in regards to neighboring countries. In addition, Turkey and the Arab world, which have a common culture and traditions, are in need of rapprochement.

This rapprochement would benefit not only the Arab world. It has many useful points for Turkey as well. I think this will be not one-sided, but rather a mutual dialogue. But it is difficult to say what political movement in Turkey will be integrated into the Arab world.  

We must look at the dialogue not from Turkish-Arab position, but rather through the prism of the Islamic world. Today Turkey is a country that heads projects for a union of cultures.

Today, some forces want a union of cultures, and others want inter-cultural confrontation. Turkey, of course, wants a union of cultures.

Turkey's role in the region is obvious as a country with a pro-Western position and also a respect for values. Given all of this, I can say that forces drawing Turkey to the East and its values will make the country stronger in the West. In one word, a dialogue is necessary, and both sides can benefit from such a dialogue.

Kamal Halbevi (Director of the Center for Terrorism Studies, England):

- In fact, the Arab-Turkish dialogue started not during the governance of AKP, but rather under former Turkish Prime Minister Necmeddin Erbakan. But the political changes in Turkey itself inhibited the dialogue. The Turkish-Arab dialogue updated after the AKP came to power in Turkey. I believe that Turkish-Arab dialogue is necessary. It is necessary to take certain steps to strengthen it. I believe that the dialogue should be conducted not only in the political arena, but also at the level of NGOs and peoples. Dialogue can promote the joint solution of problems of countries that are part of Islamic culture. But we must not forget that in today's globalizing world, the dialogue should be conducted not only between the Arab world and Turkey, but also between the unfamiliar communities.

Asma Abdulhamid (Expert on Muslim Minorities in Europe, Denmark):

- I believe there is a need for a Turkish-Arab dialogue. The reason is that today it is clear that many of the political interests of Turkey and the Arab world coincide in the Middle East. In addition, I want to note that a dialogue should be conducted not only at the political level, but also at the level of the people. The Turkish government has come a long way in the issue of dialogue with the Arab world. The Turkish government's criticism toward Israel in connection with the Palestinian events helped to dispel the negative view of Ankara. But, it would be wrong to stop only with Turkish-Arab dialogue. Dialogue should also be conducted between societies, which, for various political reasons, have been isolated from each other.

Akram Khuzam (Arabic Political Scientist):

- Dialogue is needed to strengthen multilateral relations. Important decisions to strengthen the political and economic relations between Arab countries and Turkey were taken after the Arab League Summit held in Libya. Thus, Turkey could become a mediator in resolving Middle East problems. Ankara, basically, can act as a mediator in resolving Syrian-Israeli issues, as well as contradictions between Iran and the UAE. These factors are issue to which the Arabs and Turks should be pay special attention. Despite their differences in the Libyan summit, Arab countries confirmed their stance on Turkey unanimously.

Today, one of the important factors for the Arab world is to strengthen economic relations with Turkey. The trade exchange between Turkey and Syria, and Lebanon's desire to cooperate with Ankara in energy and transport, as well as good economic relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, are good examples. One of the most important political factors may be Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's successful attempt to solve the problems caused by the construction of Israeli settlements, which will accelerate the peace process.

The Arab world is far from a democracy. I do not think that Turkey's democratic development can easily be assimilated by Arab countries. The problem is within the Arab world. That is why I believe one should not expect democratic development in the Arab world in the near future.

Fikret Sadikhov Political Scientist, Azerbaijan):

- The "Arab world" is actually a broad term and every Arab state has its own hand in politics and foreign policy. They are different and do not always agree in terms of priorities. The reality is that a change can be seen in Ankara's foreign policy in recent years toward Arab countries. Turkey's decision to annul the visa regime with Lebanon, Syria and several Arab countries is an example.

Despite previous scandals, the Turkish government benefits from closer relations with several Arab countries. Turkey takes this step not in vain, but rather this is part of its "zero problems" policy with neighbors.

It is too early to assert that Ankara's relations with all Arab countries will be good.

However, each of the sides needs dialogue and each side has to benefit from this dialogue within the framework of its interests. It is also important to note that the recent policy of the Arab world and Turkey against the great powers has changed. If during the Cold War Turkey was a tacit ally of NATO, today Turkey and Arab countries have adopted policies of independence from superpowers.

I think that the inadequate U.S. policy in the Middle East, its unequivocal support for Israel, their blind eye to the suffering of the Palestinian people, and their disregard for the interests of Arab countries, are reasons for the existence of such a dialogue.

Ramil Vekilov (Theologian, Azerbaijan):

- In today's world, there is a need not only for Turkish-Arab dialogue, but also for dialogue in many other areas. If we consider that Arabs and Turks for a long time lived in the same state (Ottoman Empire) and, despite their differences, share a common culture, then we can say with certainty that the existence of a dialogue is vital to ensure their respective interests.

In addition, this dialogue can serve the interests of the entire world. Currently, the Arab community is facing a big problem, such as Palestine, and Turkey's leading position in the processes in the region could have a positive impact on this issue.

In contrast to the Arab and Muslim East that have serious problems with democracy and human rights, Turkey has systematized democratic traditions.

I believe some Arab political circles are concerned over Turkish democratic integration into the Arab world with the help of Arab-Turkish dialogue, but sooner or later Arabs will take advantage of Turkey's democratic experience.

Hugh Pope (Expert, International Crisis Group, Turkey)

The dialogue exists on many levels. I would like to note that Turkish films and sitcoms have created an entirely new image of Turkey in the Arab world in the past few years. Economically, Turkey's commercial prestige in the Arab world has reached unprecedented highs, and Turkey has signed many agreements on free trade areas (with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Libya so far), and has lifted visas with these countries too (and is seeking to do so with Azerbaijan as well).

Politically, this is not a strong multilateral process between Turks and Arabs, in general, but it could become so. Turkey has been invited to meetings of the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, and a Turk was elected to head the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Turkey is trying to bring stability and prosperity to its neighborhoods through these new agreements with Arab countries, something like European states did with each other after the Second World War. In the long term, these positive initiatives are more likely to bring more pluralistic government (or 'democracy') to the Middle East than any other initiatives seen in recent years.

U.Sadikhova contributed to the article.

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