Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Turkey Supports Israel

"We see Israel as our number one county that we trust, it plays a very important role in our considerations." These words were spoken not by a U.S. official, but by a representative from a Muslim country: Turkey.

In an interview with an Israeli publication, Turkish Ambassador to Israel Namik Tan spoke glowingly of the relationship between the countries. "We will do our best to help our friends in Israel. We will continue to be a real example of democracy in this troubled region, together with Israel."

His comments come as some in the West, including Israelis, have been concerned that the reelection of a religious-oriented party in the Turkish parliament could move the country away from its Western orientation. The Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials "AKP") promotes the legalization of public displays of religion, such as allowing women to wear head-scarves in Turkish public buildings. That practice is currently outlawed as part of strict secular reforms put in place by modern Turkey's founder, Kemal Ataturk.

But the AKP has also been seen as pro-business, opening up the economy and overseeing annual GDP growth of 7%. Further, the AKP has vigorously enacted reforms that will allow a hoped for accession into the European Union.

Concerning questions that Israelis might not be welcome in Turkey after the recent election, Ambassador Tan responded, "Turkey will continue to be a popular destination for Israeli tourists of course, we are honored to host them in our country."

Concerning Iran, Tan stated that military intervention would not bring desired results, but that Turkey is against Iran getting nuclear weapons, and calls on the country to cooperate with the international community.

Tan also said that his country will continue attempts at facilitating talks between Israel and Syria. At this point, Syria has stated that it only wants to talk with Israel if the U.S. is involved, while Israel has stated that it only wants to talk to Syria one-on-one. Turkey would be an excellent compromise.