Diplomatic rift won’t last long, says liberal Turkish editor

‘Our two countries will definitely be reconciled,’ says ‘Milliyet’s Cinar Oskay

July 7, 2010 04:27
2 minute read.
Masked Palestinian Hamas members hold up a Turkish

Turkey Flag 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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Turkey and Israel will manage to patch up relations, and sooner rather than later, the managing editor of a leading liberal Turkish newspaper predicted during a visit to Israel this week.

The rare upbeat assessment was issued by Cinar Oskay, of the Milliyet daily, hours after Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had been quoted in Turkish media on Monday warning that Ankara would sever ties with Israel altogether if no Israeli apology was forthcoming for last month’s fatal flotilla raid, or if Israel did not accept the findings of an international investigation into the incident.

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Turkish officials subsequently claimed the minister had been misrepresented, telling Reuters that he had not threatened to sever ties, but had said relations would not improve unless Turkey’s demands were met.

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“Our two countries will definitely be reconciled,” Oskay said, “because it is in both countries’ interests to make up… There is no risk that the rift will be continued for a long time.”

He described Turkey’s demands of Israel over the flotilla as “symbolic” and “not an obstacle that can’t be overcome.

“I don’t think it will get worse,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party were ultimately “pragmatic” and predicting that Israel would “soften a little” to help alleviate the crisis in relations.

Oskay, making a first visit to Israel, took pains to stress that “a lot of people” in Turkey are as troubled by Erdogan’s positions as Israel is, and that “Turkey is not homogeneous...”

He noted, incidentally, that he had been struck by “how many religious people there are” in Jerusalem – by which he meant haredi Jerusalemites – and said there was “nowhere” like that in Turkey.

“I want people to understand: Turkey is not Erdogan,” he said.

Oskay’s Milliyet, indeed, is part of the pro-secularist Dogan media group, whose newspapers have been among the Erdogan government’s fiercest critics.

Turkey is a democracy and prime ministers come and go, Oskay added, although he conceded that it was likely that Erdogan "will probably be prime minister for a while to come."

He also pointed out that Erdogan had been in power for a long time ­ since March 2003 ­ and that his shift to open hostility against Israel had been relatively recent. "He wasn't always like this. He's very influenced by public opinion," said Oskay. "If there's pressure from the public and the international community, his policy will change."

In assessing some of the factors in the prime minister's shift, Oskay noted that Erdogan had felt let down by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who didn't tell him in advance about Operation Cast Lead - the IDF assault on Hamas in Gaza that erupted in winter 2008 precisely as Erdogan was trying to mediate a breakthrough in Israeli-Syrian peace efforts. Oskay added that Turkey was also now competing with Israel as a regional power, and that "it doesn't want to completely antagonize neighboring Iran."

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