22nd Oct 2020

EU hopes for Turkey to build bridges in cartoon conflict

The current Austrian EU presidency has invited Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul to present ideas at an informal so-called "Gymnich" meeting in Salzburg next month on how to improve relations after the Mohammed cartoon conflict, which has sharpened tensions between Europe and the muslim world.

"The Turkish foreign minister has been invited to open a discussion on this theme at a meeting of foreign ministers on 11 March," Austrian presidency spokesman Nikola Johannes Donig said, according to Danish daily Politiken.

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  • Turkey - to play new role as conflict mediator? (Photo: EUobserver)

Mr Gul is also expected to shed light on the so-called "Alliance of Civilisations" plan.

The initiative for an "Alliance of Civilisations" was launched by UN secretary general Kofi Annan in July 2005 to bridge divides and overcome prejudice that potentially threatens world peace.

The call for an alliance was initiated by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, and co-sponsored by prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

The group is expected to present a report with recommendations and a practical plan of action in late 2006 including a trust fund set up to finance the initiative and a high-level group of eminent persons to guide the scheme.

Turkey in new role

Turkish interest in helping solve the Middle East conflict and other disputes between the west and the muslim world has lately been on the rise.

Ankara last week accepted a visit from Palestinian Hamas leaders, who are still on the EU's list of terror suspects.

"Turkey's importance was better understood by the world after the cartoon row, but several circles in Turkey failed to perceive this importance," Mr Gul recently told a party rally, reported by Turkish daily Zaman.

He accused those criticising the Hamas visit of "ignoring their country's power and being oblivious to history."

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