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Turkish-Israeli normalization no longer a bilateral affair.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- The mere rumor of Turkish-Israeli normalization has been enough to excite many in the region.

This time, the process is truly under the radar as we have encountered rather limited information about any developments. In fact, the fundamentals of the diplomatic normalization between the two parties were pretty much agreed on some time ago. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had apologized to then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoy-an and had agreed to pay compensation to the families of those killed on the Mavi Marmara. The last condition was the lifting of the embargo on Gaza, which is a more problematic issue but not impossible to overcome if the two sides are willing to make a deal. I would not be surprised if some construction material is delivered to Gaza in a manner that is highly publicized in the Turkish media, allowing Erdoy-an to claim that Turkey's third condition was met. However, Turkish-Israeli normalization has become a more complicated issue than the bilateral framework suggests.

For some months now, Riyadh and Doha have been advocating that Ankara bury the hatchet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. In the face of increasing Iranian posturing in the region, the Saudis are eager to strengthen the so-called "Sunni bloc." For that to happen, Turkish-Egyptian normalization is needed, which in turn has an impact on how the Israelis move on diplomatic normalization with Ankara. The Egyptians have made clear to the Netanyahu government that they do not want Turkish influence in Gaza to increase. Perhaps Tel Aviv and Cairo are coordinating on the process -- informally conditioning Turkish-Israeli normalization -- more than we are aware of. That is exactly why we see news in the Turkish press that Ankara is discussing the conditions for prospective Turkish-Egyptian normalization with Cairo. The Turks want to extend an invitation to Sisi for the Islamic Cooperation Organization Summit in April, but all of that is up in the air for now.

Needless to say, this puts pressure on Erdoy-an as he had relentlessly exploited the coup in Egypt for domestic political purposes in the midst of the Gezi Park protests. Scared by millions of Turks on the streets during the Gezi Park protests, he demonized the Sisi regime to such an extent that it will be difficult for him to backtrack unless there are tangible benefits for the Muslim Brotherhood sitting in Egyptian prisons. It is unclear how willing the Egyptians are to cut a deal with Erdoy-an, but it has an impact on the overall constellation of Sunni powers in the region as well as the progress in diplomatic normalization between Ankara and Tel Aviv.

The current diplomatic activity suggests the further entanglement of Turkey's foreign relations with the solidifying polarization in the Middle East. Turkey's willingness to jump on the Saudi train is something that needs to be questioned, especially in view of Turkey's delicate relationship with Iran. Also, the economic dimension of Ankara's Saudi affair is something that requires more transparency. Turkey should pursue diplomatic normalization with Israel without being influenced by its relations with Saudi Arabia. Finally, if Ankara can manage to normalize its ties with Egypt, then such an outcome is certainly desirable, but Ankara should be wary of Saudi facilitating the process for its own regional agenda.

Suat Kynyklyoy-lu (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Jan 23, 2016
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