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Turkey aims for clout as regional mediator

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"Turkey has become one of the pollinators, one of the actors on the circuit. It's hard to think of anyone else who can visit the wide variety of countries, from Israel to Iran, that Turkey can," says Hugh Pope, Turkey analyst for the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based policy and advocacy organization. "I don't think there are many diplomats visiting Tehran who have just visited Israel, and that's a valuable role."

In an April interview with Qatar's al-Watan newspaper, Syrian President Bashar Assad said an Israeli offer to withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for permanent peace was delivered to him through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Israeli officials have confirmed Ankara's role in reaching out to President Assad.

"To a certain extent, [the Turks] have succeeded in increasing their visibility and importance in the region, and people have responded to that. They have achieved something," says Henri Barkey, an expert on Turkey at Pennsylvania's Lehigh University.

Facilitating between Syria and Israel "gives you an idea of how much the [Turkish government] wants to be a player in the region," he adds. "They do see themselves as a major part of the region. That is a big shift from previous governments, which wouldn't have bothered with this."

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