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Turkish President Has Lost Faith In Both Israel And Syria

In the interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, Turkish president Abdullah Gül reveals secret talks, which ultimately failed, to resolve the diplomatic dispute with Israel. He also said days are numbered for the Syrian regime. Gül added that Turkey still wants

Turkish president Abdullah Gül
Turkish president Abdullah Gül
Christiane Schlötzer and Kai Strittmatter


President Abdullah Gül says Turkey no longer trusts Benjamin Netanyahu's government. Recent relations between Ankara and Jerusalem have gone from bad to worse, as Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador because of his government's refusal to apologize for the death of nine Turkish activists on the Gaza aid ship Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

In an exclusive interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, Gül also revealed that there had been several rounds of secret talks between Ankara and Jerusalem to try and settle the issue. But, he said, every time some sort of agreement looked as if it might be reached, Israel switched positions. Gül stressed that Turkey "has no problem with the Israeli people," only with the government.

With regard to the violence in Syria, Gül stated that Turkey had given up hope that President Bashar al-Assad would tackle reforms. The days of the authoritarian regime are numbered, he added, and it pained him that so many people in Syria were killed. Concerning the successful overthrows in the Arab world and in North Africa, Gül said: "We enthusiastically support these revolutions." The president said that Turkey's democratic standards could also serve as a source of inspiration for states in transition.

Making Europe a front runner again

Gül gave assurances that Turkey, despite its commitment to the Middle Eastern countries in transition, wished now as before to become an EU member. He hoped that more Europeans would see that "Turkey would not be a burden on the Union." On the contrary: with its strong economy, Turkey could help make "Europe a front runner again." Gül stressed that Turkey "could offer a positive contribution."

Gül expressed disquiet at the serious crisis in neighboring Greece. Turkish tourists visiting Greece were helping Greece's economy, and Turkey was willing to do more to help Greece, Gül said.

On his state visit to Germany, which begins Sunday, Gül said that he didn't want to limit his visit to Berlin -- visits to high tech companies in Baden-Württemberg have also been planned. "When we look at Europe today," said Gül, "we see that there are actually only two upward-striving countries: Germany and Turkey." The two countries should thus work closely together in research, technology and economically in the future, he said.

"No longer appropriate"

Gül was critical of the fact that Turks visiting Germany still need a visa, while Germans traveling to Turkey do not. "In view of close ties between our countries, that's no longer appropriate," he said. A number of Balkan countries had recently secured EU visa waivers, he pointed out.

According to the Turkish president, if Germany wants to hold on to its strong economy and prosperity it has to continue to open up. "It's a fact that the population in Germany is shrinking." Meanwhile, increasing numbers of young Turks who've received good educations in Germany are returning to the country of their parents and grandparents -- and that trend could continue. The visa issue was damaging the economies of both countries, Gül said.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Settlers, Prisoners, Resistance: How Israeli Occupation Ties Gaza To The West Bank

The fate of the West Bank is inevitably linked to the conflict in Gaza; and indeed Israeli crackdowns and settler expansion and violence in the West Bank is a sign of an explicit strategy.

Israeli soldiers take their positions during a military operation in the Balata refugee camp, West Bank.

Riham Al Maqdama


CAIRO — Since “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” began on October 7 , the question has been asked: What will happen in the West Bank?

A review of Israel’s positions and rhetoric since 1967 has always referred to the Gaza Strip as a “problem,” while the West Bank was the “opportunity,” so that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to withdraw Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005 was even referred to as an attempt to invest state resources in Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.

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This separation between Gaza and the West Bank in the military and political doctrine of the occupation creates major challenges, repercussions of which have intensified over the last three years.

Settlement expansion in the West Bank and the continued restrictions of the occupation there constitute the “land” and Gaza is the “siege” of the challenge Palestinians face. The opposition to the West Bank expansion is inseparable from the resistance in Gaza , including those who are in Israeli prisons, and some who have turned to take up arms through new resistance groups.

“What happened in Gaza is never separated from the West Bank, but is related to it in cause and effect,” said Ahmed Azem, professor of international relations at Qatar University. “The name of the October 7 operation is the Al-Aqsa Flood, referring to what is happening in Jerusalem, which is part of the West Bank.”

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