Can Turkey help bridge East and West?

20/03/2009 06:00:00 PM GMT   Comments (show_art_comments_count(‘221890’);42)     Add a comment     Print     E-mail to friend
(AFP) It was no surprise when Erdogan played a pivotal role in the negotiations between Israel and Syria

By Dallas Darling

In the early 20th Century when Mustafa Kemal-who was given the grand title Ghazi or Fighter of the Islamic Faith, led an uprising and Turkish
national army against the Western Powers and Russia’s attempt to
dismember the Anatolia Peninsula, he probably never envisioned that
someday Turkey would help bridge East and West. Nor did he realize that
in creating the nation of Turkey, he was subverting an empire. (1)

Therefore, it was no surprise when Turkey’s Prime Minister (PM) Recep Tayyip
Erdogan of the Islamist Justice and Development Party played a pivotal
role in the negotiations between Israel and Syria over Israel’s
occupation of the Golan Heights. Neither was the disclosure of Turkish
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan’s statement that Turkey would like to
bridge the differences between the United States and Iran a major
revelation. (Note: Syrian’s president just announced that Israel will
return the Golan Heights.)

When Turkey’s PM Erdogan recently walked off the stage at the World Economic
Forum in Switzerland, he did so to protest and admonish those who
applauded Israel’s justification of its invasion of Gaza which killed
1,300 civilians. He said he was very saddened so many people had been
killed and thought it was wrong and “not very humanitarian.” In a
follow-up interview, PM Erdogan condemned the brutal Israeli invasion
and Israel’s punitive economic blockade against Gaza.

While challenging Israel to listen more intently to surrounding Arab nations,
he is also working to bring Hamas’ conditions for a permanent ceasefire
to the United Nations. Can Turkey intervene and help free Israeli
soldier Gilad Shalit and hundreds of Palestinians wrongly
imprisoned-who have no name? A plan for Turkish peace keeping forces in
and along Gaza and the Israeli border is also being considered. Mr.
Erdogan has also called on the U.S. and the world to initiate a new
round of Middle East peace talks on behalf of Palestinian Statehood.

When President Barack Obama telephoned Turkish President Abdullah Gul and PM
Erdogan, both agreed to strengthen U.S. support for Turkish-Iraqi
relations and address the Kurdish Question. At the same time, they
encouraged the newly elected president to review America’s military
policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Western Powers, especially the
U.S., can learn from the Turkish-Ottoman Empire and how armies and
massive rearmament programs unfortunately create empires by subverting

While visiting the U.S., Turkish PM Erdogan cautioned that “All countries are
passengers on the same ship” and “if we sink, we will all go down
together.” PM Erdogan then challenged U.S. and European leaders to turn
their attentions to other “ticking time bombs” like the unsettled
border disputes between Turkey’s neighbors Russia and Georgia and
Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the hypocrisy of America’s nuclear policies
in relation to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

Turkey’s PM Erdogan warned that “Nuclear weapons are being harbored in many
countries” and “taking a stand against one country and forcing them to
disarm is not an honest approach.” He challenged all nations, including
the U.S., to eradicate nuclear weapons once and for all. Back at home,
PM Erdogan has called for lifting a ban on Muslim women wearing head
scarves in universities. He also plans a future meeting with Armenian
President Serzh Sargsyan to discuss the Armenian Diaspora.

It appears the “sick man of Europe” (as Britain and Czar Nicholaus I
referred to the declining Turkish-Ottoman Empire) is today the “strong
man of Eurasia” and is becoming a vital bridge between East and West.
Due to disastrous wars in the Middle East and a tarnished human rights
record, the U.S. has currently forfeited its bridge in the 21st
Century. Russia, Turkey’s powerful neighbor to the north, also too
experienced trouble.

This power vacuum has left Turkey as being a vital link between East and
West. NATO‘s predominantly secularist and Christian forces could
improve its peace keeping operations by using more Turkish Muslim
soldiers. Since the European Union (EU) has accepted Turkey as a
potential candidate and if admitted, Islamic economic values could help
improve wasteful and fledgling Western capitalist societies.

Turkey’s proximity to Europe in the West and Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria in
the East, makes it an important bridge for peace and understanding. As
Turkey revaluates the impact of secular institutions on religion,
extreme individualism on the ummah, globalization on economic
stability, and modernization on Islam, it would be well to remember the
words of Ataturk Mustafa Kemal: “Surviving in the world of modern
tion depends upon changing ourselves.” (2)

This also goes for citizens in other countries around the world and what
type of bridges they are encouraging their governments and leaders to

Dallas Darling is the author of The Other Side Of Christianity:
Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace, and
is a writer for You can read more of his articles at


Archer, Christon I., John R. Feris, Holger H. Herwig, and Timothy H.E.
Travers. World History Of Warfare. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of
Nebraska Press, 2002. p. 475.

Ellis, Elisabeth Gaynor and Anthony Esler. World History Connections To
Today. Needham, Massachusetts: Prentice Hall, 1999. p. 745.

Source: AJP

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