Turkey's southward strategy aims to boost clout in Middle East (2)

15:15, July 22, 2010      

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During his visit, which ended Wednesday, Gul told local newspaper Al-Ahram in an interview that both Turkey and Egypt were important countries on the Mediterranean and that communication between the two never stopped.

Gul denied any kind of competition between Ankara and Cairo over Middle East issues, labeling the rumor as a product of the Cold War mentality.

He said the positions of Turkey and Egypt in the region were complementary, not competitive, and it was important the two countries could cooperate and coordinate even though they had some problems in some areas.


Turkey led the world in condemning Israel after the Israeli navy stormed an aid flotilla heading for the Gaza Strip on May 31, killing eight Turks and a Turkish-American on board.

Ankara immediately recalled its ambassador to Israel, canceled joint military drills and closed airspace to Israeli military flights.

Turkey has also insisted Israel apologize for the incident, pay compensation, agree to a U.N. inquiry and lift the siege of some 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

But Israel has said it has no intention to issue a formal apology to Turkey and has rejected calls for an international inquiry. It has formed a commission headed by a retired Israeli Supreme Court judge and includes two non-voting foreign observers to investigate the raid.

Although once close, ties between Israel and Turkey, both U.S. allies, have been on a downward spiral since Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan spoke out against an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip at the end of 2008.

Since coming to power in 2002, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by Erdogan, has implemented policies to boost economic ties with its neighboring countries.

Seeking EU membership, Turkey, at the same time, has enhanced ties with its Arab neighbors by mediating several conflicts, improving political ties with former rivals such as Syria and Iran, forging free trade zones and gradually lifting mutual visa requirements with Arab nations.

During the fifth Turkish-Arab Economic Forum held in Istanbul on June 10, Erdogan expressed his country's intention to establish close ties with Arab countries, noting that Turkey and Arab nations shared similar history, culture and civilization.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa praised Turkey for challenging Israel on the raid, saying the Arab world was standing together with Turkey and that the two sides would further enhance unity.

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