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Turkey is critical to a more moderate Islam

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This new relationship was certainly accelerated by the opposition of some European countries to Turkey’s admission to the EU.

But in major part, the new realignment is because Turkey’s new foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, a former professor of international relations, believes in a policy of “zero problems with neighbors.”

As an example of this philosophy: Turkey ended a 16-year freeze in relations with Armenia. Turkey has also granted more cultural and political rights to its 14 million-strong Kurdish minority in a bid to erase tensions not only with them but with Kurds in Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

Relations between Turkey and the US dipped in 2003 when the Turkish parliament refused to permit transit of American troops through Turkey to open a second front in the war with Iraq.

With the election of Mr. Obama, and his early visit to Turkey for a key outreach speech to the Muslim world, the US-Turkey relationship regained warmth.

Obama termed Turkey a “critical” ally, declared that the US was “not at war with Islam” and concluded his speech in parliament by kissing Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on both cheeks – a sign of friendship. US support for Turkey’s bid for membership in the EU also did not hurt. Turkish officials were careful to explain at that time that their renewed interest in the Muslim East did not mean a chill toward the West.

Since then things have changed remarkably. Israeli military actions in Gaza, and the recent questionably organized Israeli commando action against a Turkish-flagged flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, have threatened Turkey’s diplomatic relations with Israel, and strained Turkish relations with the US.

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