In the normal course of events, the visit to Jeddah of Turkish President Abdullah Gul recently and his talks with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah would raise little attention. Relations between the two countries are excellent and have been for a long time. There is no reason whatsoever to imagine that they will do anything other than continue to grow.

But these are not normal times in the Middle East. Only the Kingdom and most other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council have been untouched by the Arab Spring. To that small list Turkey must be added because, although a European state, it is by reason of history, culture and location firmly part of the Middle East. Regrettably, ever since the Ataturk revolution, Turkey has stood facing uniquely westward, its back turned on the Middle East. For the past 60 years, moreover, its eyes have been fixed resolutely on a future in Europe and, since 1963, specifically a future in what is now the European Union.

That West-only focus began to dissolve with the election nine years ago of the first AKP government led by President Abdullah Gul then as prime minister and, since 2003, under the premiership of Recep Tayyib Erdogan, the party’s founder. It is not that the AKP has dropped Europe from its sights; far from it. It is that it has widened Turkey’s political vision to reflect its geographical position, its history and culture and its strategic interests.

It is Turkey that is now the other main driving force for peace and stability in Middle East, alongside Saudi Arabia.

— Arab News, Riyadh,

Saudi Arabia, Aug. 16

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