Hunting for peace in the Middle East

Turkey’s performance in the last seven years of its foreign policy has been a success story. Not stopping at addressing problematic relations with its immediate neighbors, the country has transferred its vision of regional peace from the Western Balkans to Afghanistan’s east, from the northern Black Sea region to southern Africa. 

 But these things aren’t easily accomplished. Put yourself in the place of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and take a look around yourself. You’ll see how profoundly difficult it is to at once maintain morality in your work and address the problems faced in the process of your work and untangle the British knot around the region.
A few examples.

You’re trying to integrate a country like Syria into the international system. The next thing you know there’s a bombing and assassination in Beirut (the Hariri assassination) and in a single moment, the international system stands opposed to Damascus. As the only party able to instill confidence in all sides in a country like Iraq, where ethnic and religious issues are closely intertwined, you’re trying to create a culture of peace and accord. But the hard-won atmosphere of trust is demolished by bombs exploding in Basra or Kirkuk.

You put forward a “Mesopotamia Vision” for Syria and Iraq proposing economic and social integration with Turkey but suddenly you notice the bombs exploding in Iraq and the fingers accusing Syria of being the actual perpetrators of the attack behind the scenes, thus Baghdad and Damascus almost come to the verge of conflict.

Later with the motto of “Security for everyone” you achieved the coming together of Syria and Israel around the same table after remarkable efforts. After four rounds, you almost reach an ultimate resolution between the two countries. However, one morning when you wake up, you learn that one side of the conflict began to rain bombs on civilian targets in the Gaza strip. The groundwork for peace you had put great efforts into for months suddenly collapses.

Furthermore, while you were trying to explain to the Western world and convince them that isolationist policies and further sanctions are not the right way to react to Iran’s nuclear policy, the world at large was informed of the country’s hidden underground nuclear plant by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (As this article was being written, Davutoğlu was going to Tabriz after his visit to Afghanistan to try and persuade Ahmadinejad to reach a compromise with the West regarding its nuclear program.)

The truth shown by all these examples is this: Peace in the Middle East is not something which is desired by everyone. At times, those who don’t want peace are from within the region while at other times they are from outside. Everyone accepts that with all things considered, Turkey has skillfully carried on with its active peaceful diplomacy in the region over the past seven years.

These matters are not ones which can be resolved by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose drive and talent are not proportionate to one another. (Bashar al-Assad’s statement to Sarkozy, who tried to steal Turkey’s role in initiating talks between Syria and Israel, saying, “If we are to talk to Israel, we will do so through Turkey,” was demeaning enough. No matter how hard the French press tries, nothing will be able to change France’s undesirable status.)

It is very difficult to conduct peaceful politics in the Middle East, the most troublesome area in the world. Turkey is making these efforts because it wants peace and stability in the region and it feels the need for this, not to show off or win prestige as others do. If Barack Obama’s discourse can win him a Nobel Prize, then Turkey’s efforts to this end should win it 100 Nobel Prizes. We Turks are sure that if Sarkozy had put forth a tenth of Turkey’s performance in foreign politics over the last few years, he would have not lost the Nobel Prize to Obama. We see that much potential in him!

21 November 2009, Saturday