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Overdone Turkey

Author: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
November 21, 2012
Foreign Policy

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One day before announcing Wednesday, Nov. 21's cease-fire agreement, at a brief news conference prior to talks between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, late on Tuesday night, the secretary announced that her itinerary included Ramallah and Cairo in addition to Jerusalem. The visit to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a head-scratcher -- given how marginal he was to the conflict raging in the Gaza Strip -- as much as talk with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy is a no-brainer. There also seemed to be a glaring omission from Clinton's shuttle: Ankara.

This was a surprise only if one took all the hype about Turkey's aspirations to be a regional power broker and problem solver seriously. For all of Turkey's apparent assets, including its good relations with Hamas and the regional popularity of its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is Egypt that was at the center of diplomatic efforts to find a formula for a cease-fire. As for poor Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose plane is usually first to land in a crisis zone, he was a bit player in this drama. His visit to Gaza on Tuesday seemed late, especially as it came five days after Morsy dispatched the Egyptian prime minister to Gaza to demonstrate his country's solidarity with the Palestinian people. Observers have understood since Hosni Mubarak's fall that Cairo would make a bid to re-establish its regional prestige, but no one knew it would be so fast, performed with such deftness, and at the definitive expense of Turkey -- last year's Middle East's "it" country.

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