Wednesday, 14 September 2011

(Arab) Springtime in Turkey


Turkey takes over the Arab Spring 
Finally. Crystal clear. Someone finally said it - what the whole world, except Washington and Tel Aviv, knows in its collective heart; the recognition of a Palestinian state is "not an option but an obligation". 
It did wonders that the man who said it was Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Cairo, at the Arab League, in front of all Arab foreign ministers and with virtually the whole Arab world glued to satellite networks scrutinizing his every word. 
The current Erdogan Arab Spring tour - as it was billed by the Turkish press - comprising Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, has already rocketed him to the status of a geopolitical cross between U2's Bono and Barcelona's superstar Argentine footballer Lionel Messi.
Erdogan received a rock/soccer star welcome at Cairo's airport - complete with "Hero Erdogan" banners brandished by the Muslim Brotherhood. He even addressed the crowd in Arabic (from "Greetings to the Egyptian youth and people, how are you?" to "Peace be upon you"). 
Erdogan repeatedly stressed, "Egypt and Turkey are hand-in-hand." But it's the subtext that is even more incendiary. While Israel's former good friends Egypt and Turkey are now hand-in-hand, Israel is left isolated facing a wall. There could not be a more earth-shattering development in the Levant - unheard of since the Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt in 1978. 
A model campaigner
Erdogan's tour is a realpolitik master class. He's positioning Turkey as the forefront supporter of the Palestinian cause. He's also positioning Turkey at the core of the Arab Spring - as a supporter and as an inspirational model, even though there have been no full-fledged revolutions so far. He's emphasizing solid Turkish-Arab unity - for instance planning a strategic cooperation council between Egypt and Turkey.

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