At the turn of the 20th century, Turkey was usually portrayed as the “sick man of Europe,” but today it is emerging as the new “middle man of the Middle East.” The Turkish government just concluded an important meeting by bringing together the presidents of Palestine and Israel for an extended get together in which President Gul tried to use his influence in resolving some problems. He also urged in his private sessions with Peres and Abbas that Syria should be invited to the upcoming Annapolis conference. Turkey is already attempting to build an industrial zone on the West Bank in order to stimulate economic activity and create jobs for Palestinians. The Muslim Justice and Development Party of Turkey is among the few Muslim political groups which has excellent relations with Israel and seeks to serve as a go between in fostering peace in the region.
The prospect for significant progress at the Annapolis meeting is doubtful. But, Turkey might well be encouraged by the United States to follow up on the meeting by serving as a middle man in negotiation with both sides. It could well be the site of an Israel-Syria meeting to discuss the Golan Heights. Perhaps, Turkish soldiers could serve as a guardian force to maintain peace in that area and end the current impasse between Israel and Syria. They could also guard the Israel-Lebanon boarder and halt Hizbullah initiated raids on Israel.