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Turkey and the Arab Spring

ANKARA – As the Arab Spring enters its fourth month, it faces challenges but also presents opportunities. Despite setbacks in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, the democratic wave has already begun to change the Middle East’s political landscape.

The national reconciliation agreement in Palestine between Fatah and Hamas, signed in Egypt on May 3, is one of the major results of this sea change. Other substantial developments are certain to follow – and Turkey stands to gain from them. Indeed, the Arab Spring strengthens rather than weakens Turkey’s position in the Arab world, and vindicates the new strategic thrust of Turkish foreign policy.

Turkey’s policy of engaging different governments and political groups in the Arab world has transformed Middle Eastern politics. Turkish officials have stated on various occasions that change in the Arab world is inevitable and must reflect people’s legitimate demands for justice, freedom, and prosperity. Moreover, change must occur without violence, and a peaceful transition to a pluralist democracy should be ensured.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sought to achieve this in Libya before the ongoing fighting in that country broke out. Erdoğan’s quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy sought to ensure a peaceful transition to a post-Qaddafi era. This gradualist approach complements Turkey’s principled position on the need for reform in the Arab world, including Syria, with which Turkey shares a 900-kilometer border.