Analysis: Erdogan’s D.C. visit underscores Turkey’s enhanced role in Islamic and Arabic relations

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the United States has come at a very important time, when official Ankara for the first time in recent decades is making efforts to become the center of not only the Turkic, but also the Islamic world and is building close ties with Arab states.

Such policy is accompanied by an unprecedented and continuously increasing tensions between Turkey and Israel, to an extent when Ankara is officially accusing Tel-Aviv in the “genocide of the Arabs in Palestine”.

The importance of the Erdogan visit is emphasized also by the recent active developments in the Armenian-Turkish relations, namely the protocols on diplomatic relations signed on October 10 in Zurich.

The Karabakh issue settlement, in its turn, is entering a new stage, and in this process, too, Turkey has assigned itself an important part.

Consequently, the middle-eastern region is in a repartition stage, which cannot but affect America’s interests: the region has been officially declared ‘zone of vital interests’ to the United States.

The delicacy of the situation at hand connected to Erdogan’s visit is also conditioned by the tension between Turkey and Israel, taking into consideration the presence of a powerful Jewish community in the United States.

Often, the Jewish lobby in the United States has opposed passing of a Genocide Recognition Resolution in the US Congress. . (In April 2007, for example, one of the most influential Jewish organizations in the United States - Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – sent official letters to the democratic and republican party representatives in the Congress calling to not pass the resolutions condemning the Armenian Genocide.)

Today, in the highlight of Turkey-Israel relations, the situation is apt to change.

Will their relations improve after Erdogan’s visit to the States?

This is the key question asked by experts and political observers.

Erdogan himself answered the question – negatively – during his speech at Johns Hopkins University in Washington:

“Israel’s security is, certainly, important for the region, however, we are not happy with the methods that country uses to ensure its security”

The term ‘genocide of the Arab population’ was not voiced in the USA, however, the Turkish Prime-Minister found a new definition: “open-air prison”.

“If children are killed in Gaza with phosphor bombs – that can in no way be called ensuring security, that’s a real tragedy,” he stated. “Gaza today is like an open-air prison – we have to put an end to that outrage happening in the 21st century”.

To some extent, he also spoke for Iran (which is again interpreted in terms of Turkey’s new role in the Islamic world):

“We are against Iran having nuclear weapons, at the same time, we are against any other country of that region to have such weapons,” he states, obviously referring to Israel.

As for the perspectives of possible solidarity of the Armenian and Jewish lobbies in the issue of putting the Armenian Genocide resolution on the Congress agenda for discussion, international mass media report that “Ankara will have a strong response to the attempts to pass the genocide resolution and will resort to diplomatic, political and economic means”.

The Turkish Prime-Minister avoided answering the Armenian genocide-related question during his meeting with US President Barack Obama.

As reported by Turkish newspaper Sabah, Erdogan made a statement saying: “During the conversation Obama asked me to quicken the process of normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations and persuade Azerbaijan not to speak against that normalization”.

“But I, once more, voiced Ankara’s standpoint to Obama, saying that the progress in the Armenian-Turkish relations depends on the settlement of the Karabakh issue,” said Erdogan.