Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkish Israeli Relations No Longer a Crisis Due to Commerical Contract

Last week an Israeli Minister, Ben-Eliezer, headed to Turkey to help mend fences between the two countries which have recently found their relations to be more strained and chilly than they had been in previous times. Outwardly, the meeting seems to have been a success with the Turkish foreign minister declaring the crisis in diplomatic relations to be over and announcing a willingness to pick up where the two countries left off, as opposed to a new beginning.

On the sensitive question of Turkey's role as a mediator in peace talks between Israel and Syria, despite statements by Netanyahu and Leiberman that Turkey could not be trusted as a mediator, the Turkish government acknowledged that Israel had officially requested Turkey to resume this role.

What was not the focus of the Israeli media that reported on this supposed rapprochement but which seems to be front and centre in Turkish media and is perhaps the true key to this "crisis resolution" related to drones. In 2005 Israel signed a contract with Turkey to provide 10 highly advanced Heron unmanned areal vehicles for the Turkish military. Delivery of these vehicles was significantly delayed and had been a source of contention between the two countries. The drones, which were due last year are finally on track to be delivered and according to Turkish media, this breakthrough of a commercial/military dispute has been the catalyst for the removal of many other contentious issues between the two countries.

This may well be the case, that the drones alone were the cause of such tension, but it's difficult to imagine that such a public international dispute would play out merely over a contract. Indeed, it's very possible that the roots of the conflict lie in a more profound ideological position adopted by the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. A quick scan of recent news discussing the Turkish Prime Minister shows an increasing alignment with Islamic and Arab countries, popular support for his rants and outbursts against Israel and a drift away from Europe and the west. If this is the real direction the winds are blowing in Turkey, it's hard to imagine that a contractual dispute being resolved between Israel and Turkey will truly bring relations to where they were.

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