End Times News Update
Sign: Gog Alliance (Turkey is turning)
Scripture: Ezekiel 38:2-9
News Source: BBC News
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Turkey FM Davutoglu embraces mediation role

By Jonny Dymond
BBC News, Brussels

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu may not use the phrase
“regional power”, but nearly everyone else does to describe his
country’s new influence in the Middle East, Balkans and Caucasus.

Some go so far as to describe the policy as “neo-Ottoman” – a nod back
to the times when the Caliphate’s writ ran from the Balkans to North
Africa. Mr Davutoglu bats away such a label.

But the range of his direct concerns at the ongoing Nato foreign
ministers’ meeting in Brussels is an indicator of how critical Turkey
has become to the western alliance’s security architecture.

Afghanistan comes first. He rejects criticism that, given the
500,000-strong standing army at Turkey’s command, its contribution of
700 non-combat troops is a little thin.

“Turkey is one of the biggest contributors to peacekeeping efforts in
a military sense, everywhere, all around the world,” said Mr
Davutoglu, in an interview squeezed between meetings in Brussels hotel
rooms.

In Afghanistan, he said Ankara had pledged to increase its
contribution by 1,000 troops in the last month.

Turkey has taken over military command in Kabul; it has spent more
than $200m in the past five years on reconstruction, building 50
schools and hospitals that have treated a million Afghans.

Mr Davutoglu called for a comprehensive military, political and social
strategy in Afghanistan.

“We shouldn’t use the term foreign troops,” he said. “We are there as
the international community to help Afghan people.”

There will, he promises, be more help for the Afghan military from
Turkey – help that has been forthcoming since the early days of the
Turkish Republic.

‘Zero-problem’ policy

Bosnia, too, is a concern for the minister, and it is clear that
Turkey will press hard for the country to be given a nod towards Nato
entry.

Bosnians, he says, feel left out by the EU, which has recently
extended visa-free travel to Serbia and Montenegro.

“Now if they feel isolated from the support of Nato, it will be a big
problem,” said Mr Davutoglu.

“We want Bosnia-Hercegovina to feel that the international community
cares for them. We cannot forget that we watched three years of
massacres in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Now we can’t just leave them alone.”

Mr Davutoglu describes Turkey’s new regional vision as “zero-problem”
with its neighbours; its relations in particular with Iran, Iraq and
Syria have improved dramatically compared to a decade ago.

Turkey is also reaching out to Kurdish-run northern Iraq, and offering
itself as a mediator in several conflicts.

Criticism rejected

But criticism of Turkey has increased too – that it is sacrificing its
longstanding closeness with Israel because of an Islamist agenda due
to the governing AK party’s roots in political Islam; that it is too
close to the Iranian government; that links with the Sudanese
government of President Omar al-Bashir are too cosy.

The foreign minister rejects such criticism. This time last year, he
said, Turkey was working with Syria and Israel towards a settlement.
But it felt obliged to speak out after Israel’s military offensive in
Gaza this January.

On Iran, he said: “In a negotiation, 60% is psychological, 20% is
methodological and 20% is more substantive.

“If there is no mutual confidence in the negotiations the substance
becomes less important.”

Turning to Europe, Mr Davutoglu said the Swiss vote on Sunday to ban
the building of minarets had rung an alarm bell.

“There is a rise in Islamophobia, in the concept of ‘the other’, as if
they do not belong to society,” he said. “It may be today Muslims,
tomorrow Jew, the next day blacks, the next Africans.

“In this new global world we will be living together everywhere, so we
need a new spirit of tolerance everywhere.”

EU optimism

And what of the drive to join the EU? With popular support dropping in
Turkey, and political opposition hardening in Europe, is this still
the Turkish government’s priority?

“We want to be a member of the EU,” said the minister. “I am an
academic. Statistics say something. All the countries that start
accession negotiations with the EU, they became members of the EU,
except Norway which didn’t want it.

“Based on this statistical analysis, I can say, Turkey will be a
member of the EU, 100%,” he laughs.

Leaders, opinion formers and intellectuals, he added, now recognise
that Turkish membership would be a strategic asset for the EU.

“There are two ways in front of the EU,” he said. “Either the EU will
be a global power, a dynamic economy and a multicultural global
environment, or a continental power with a less dynamic economy, with
a more inward-looking culture. These are the two options.”

“Turkey is a litmus test for this. With Turkey the EU will be a global
power, much more strategically important, with a much more dynamic
economy, with a strong hinterland with rich economic resources.

“I am optimistic. I believe in the rationality of the EU approach. I’m
sure Turkey will be a member, a contributing member – not a burden,
but a big asset for the EU.”

Source: BBC News
URL:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8393516.stm

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