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Opinion: Turkey is playing a dangerous game

Turkey has attempted to play mediator in Middle East, but that was before an Israeli military attack on a Turkish aid ship. Ankara is playing with fire, says Baha Guengoer of Deutsche Welle's Turkish service.

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for Israel to be punished.

The whole world knows that Israel is not squeamish about enforcing its interests. And in light of the latest attacks on Gaza, it is a fact that Israel will not hesitate violating human rights under the pretext of self-defense and attacking people with brute military force without regard for civilian casualties.

The question must be asked: what was the purpose of the actions of this independent Turkish aid organization? The officially stated goals were not achieved; the flotilla could neither break the Israeli naval blockade nor bring relief supplies directly to Gaza. For weeks, Israel had communicated to Turkey through all available diplomatic channels that such aid action would, if necessary, be stopped with violence.

Israel made good on its threats and boarded the largest ship of the maritime aid convoy, contravening international maritime law. In the process there was a shoot-out: at least nine people died and dozens more were injured. And now, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rages unchecked against Israel and is playing a dangerous game.

Turkey has been a NATO member for almost 60 years. As an ally in the Western defense alliance, Turkey has a peace obligation. Recent Turkish diplomacy has succeeded in smoothing the tensions between Iran and the West and mediating between Syria and Israel while remaining credible in the process. But with this week's incident, Turkey has reduced itself to just another member of the anti-Israel front in the Middle East. At the very least, Turkey's credibility regarding future mediation is put in doubt.

The Turkish ship was decorated with giant Turkish and Palestinian flags. The image of the incident was that Israeli soldiers captured a Turkish ship. In Turkey, tens of thousands of demonstrators were mobilized and laid siege to Israel's diplomatic missions. Prime Minister Erdogan raged on against Israel, speaking of "state terrorism," a "regime of lies" and arguing that Israel must now be "punished." According to Erdogan, whoever chooses to ignore the atrocities of Israel makes himself "complicit in the crime against humanity."

The arduous international efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East are important to Turkey, as is the peace process in the Caucasus or the Balkans. Therefore, they should not be harnessed to the cart of discordant states in the Middle East that lack basic democratic structures.

There are very few, barely audible voices in Turkey that warn against a further verbal escalation. In Europe, the Erdogan's arguments fall on stunned ears. Although he condemns anti-Semitism and promises the Jewish community in his country security, the waves of anti-Israeli hatred have reached Turkey.

One of the few sensible voices in Europe came from Ruprecht Polenz, the chairman of the Foreign Committee of the German Bundestag. He called, contrary to the stance of Germany's Christian Democrats, for attempts to further motivate Turkey towards EU membership rather than to reject it on religious and cultural grounds. It's easy to see which camp Turkey will fall into if its bid for EU membership fails. The EU would be acting in their own foreign policy interests by keeping Turkey on the membership track.

Author: Bahaeddin Guengoer (smh)
Editor: Kyle James

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