Turkey becoming the strongest democratic force in the Middle East

Israeli-Turkish diplomatic crisis worsens

Ten months after Turkey first protested Israel’s military operation in and around Palestinian Gaza Strip, crisis between Ankara and the Israelis appears to be going from bad to worse.

It became clear on Sunday that Turkey had banned Israel from participating in a NATO-led, international air-force drill over its territory, which led to the entire exercise being postponed.

A day later, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a blistering verbal attack on Israel and its actions in Gaza last winter.

“While in some countries children are provided with comfort, peace, the most advanced education and health opportunities, other children are faced with poverty, destitution, helplessness, war, conflict, weapons of mass destruction and phosphorus bombs,” he told the Turkish Religious Council, cited by media reports in Turkey and Israel. [continued…]

Turkey confident to intensify military ties with Syria

After boosting their political relationship under the high-level strategic cooperation mechanism, Turkey and Syria are now taking steps to intensify defensive ties as well, a development that comes after Ankara’s decision to delay an international military exercise that would have included Israel.

In Gaziantep, Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib announced Ankara and Damascus agreed to expand the scope of military drills that were conducted last spring. “Syria and Turkey held maneuvers in the spring and will hold more exercises to develop our actions on the border,” Habib said, according to local press but not confirmed by Turkish officials.

Turkey’s Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said contact groups would be established between Turkey and Syria later this month to improve defense ties. He did not elaborate further but it has been learned that the contact groups will work on the fight against terrorism, military exercises and logistics. [continued…]

Syria border, once associated with terror, now a path to integration

he Öncüpınar border gate on the Turkish side of the Turkish-Syrian border on Tuesday served as the venue for a symbolic gesture reflecting remarkable progress in bilateral relations between the two countries with the signing of a historic deal by the foreign ministers of the two countries, which came to the brink of war more than a decade ago.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moallem, officially signed an agreement on Tuesday in Gaziantep to end visa requirements between the two countries, a goal announced in mid-September by the two ministers during a visit to İstanbul by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. While announcing the end to visa requirements, Davutoğlu and al-Moallem made an accord last month to end visa requirements and signed a bilateral cooperation agreement under which top ministers from the two countries will meet each year.

The accord, titled the “High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council Agreement,” is similar to a strategic mechanism recently established between Turkey and Iraq. [continued…]

EARLIER IN DAVOS: Barbarianism unmasked

The conceit of every autocratic leader is that power fits comfortably upon his shoulders. Even if he has not been chosen directly by his people, his right to rule reflects a natural order.

The World Economic Forum at Davos, with all its trappings of civility and reflective sophistication, embodies the same conceit. This is the forum of world governance that repeatedly unwittingly exposes the chasm dividing the world from its leaders.

Yesterday’s session, “Gaza: the case for Middle East peace,” was a pivotal moment in political discourse between the West and the rest of the world. The self-righteous hubris of an enraged Israeli president collided with the outrage of those who refused to ignore his bloodied hands.

To fully understand what happened, watch the one-hour eight-minute discussion. (For readers who want to fast forward to the part where Shimon Peres starts venting his rage, drag the play marker across to 45 minutes 50 seconds.)

“Why did they fire at us? What did they want? We didn’t occupy. There was never a day of starvation in Gaza. By the way, Israel is the supplier of water daily to Gaza. Israel is the supplier of fuel to Gaza.”

Right now, the press has much less interest in exposing Peres’ lies than it has in the headline-grabbing moment — the point at which Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan left the stage in reaction to the insulting behavior of the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius. [continued…]

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