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The great meeting

Friday 16 November 2007, by Murat Yetkin

President Abdullah Gül hosts the presidents of Israel and Palestine in Ankara today. But this is not an ordinary meeting. Gül will bring the two leaders together at the Çankaya presidential palace for the first time in history, just weeks ahead of talks in the U.S. city of Annapolis to find common ground in the Middle East peace process.

As a matter of fact, this will be the second biggest summit between Israeli and Palestinian top-level state officers since the Camp David summit orchestrated by the U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000 that failed.

Following a tri-partite meeting on the morning of Nov. 13 at Çankaya, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres will pay a visit to the TOBB University and have lunch together hosted by Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, head of the Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB).

The next stop is in fact more important than these two meetings. The Israeli and Palestinian state leaders will delivers speeches one after the other at the same place; that is, they will listen to each other. That place is the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Turkish Parliament, thus proving Turkey’s leading role in regional politics.

If any of the previous visits, almost like an official parade, by Syrian President Bashar Assad or Saudi King Abdullah has not proven Turkey’s role in the region, the Peres-Abbas rendezvous in Ankara should prove this.

People betting that Turkey will be isolated in the Middle East due to on-and-off relations with the European Union are mistaken. Turkey has achieved a jump in relations with the Middle East as well, while insisting on its EU bid and continues to struggle against anti-EU cliques inside.

Still, the power bringing Peres and Abbas together in Ankara is the face of politics with solid steps, not one full of promises, we should see.

The Ankara Forum

Peres and Abbas are visiting Ankara as part of a project titled “Ankara Forum for Economic Cooperation” launched for “Industry for peace” in 2005 through the initiative of the Manufacturers Association of Israel and TOBB for the revitalization of the Palestinian economy, and the “Erez” Industrial Zone, which was ruined by skirmishes in Gaza. Approximately 6,000 Palestinians will have jobs as a resource will be created for the Palestinian economy in a bid to ease the political tension.

The Ankara Forum is the only solid and feasible project in the hands of the Middle East Peace Quartet consisting of the U.S., Russia, EU and the United Nations led by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Politics and abstract concepts can only find body by solid steps. Therefore, this is a solid example for Turkey’s power in the region. Comparing the trouble Turkey faces with the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) plague in Iraq with its efforts for the Ankara Forum is not right and is underestimating the country.

International politics resembles communication vessels, a well-known experiment that most persons have conducted in school: Sometimes to raise the liquid level in a tube, you have to add some more to the other column in an inter-connected system so as to have liquid level out.

Without Gül’s encouragement and without Hisarcıklıoğlu’s dedication, this project would have not been put into practice. But the project was given flesh and bone by primarily Güven Sak, director of TOBB’s think tank organization TEPAV.

Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary and former Ambassador to Tel Aviv Feridun Sinirlioğlu, former Foreign Ministry spokesman and current Turkish Ambassador to Israel Namık Tan, Turkish Economic Assistance Coordinator for Palestine Vehbi Dinçerler, Palestinian Ambassador to Ankara Nabil Mahluz, former Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Pinhas Avivi and current Israeli Ambassador to Ankara Gaby Levy made this project possible.

Our appreciation goes to all…

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Source : Turkish Daily News, Tuesday, November 12, 2007

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