Turkey draws closer to the East

Turkey's rising interest in the East has led many to think that the aim has been to attract more Arab investment as well as tourists, but this assumption turns out to be wrong, remarked a comment piece for the Lebanese newspaper Assafir.

Turkey's rising interest in the East, mostly the Muslim and Arab world, has led many to think that the aim has been to attract more Arab investment as well as tourists, but this assumption turns out to be wrong, remarked Satea Nourredine in a comment piece for the Lebanese newspaper Assafir. The majority of tourists are Russians, Europeans and Israelis. Arab tourists are irregular visitors and constitute only a small portion if compared with other nationalities. Arabs still prefer the traditional destinations of western Europe, the US, Egypt and Lebanon.

Arab investment in Turkey is still very limited and selective. Investors are active in the service sector, namely tourism, as result of close partnerships and concessions granted to politicians and people of influence.  In this sense, Arabs are far from establishing long-lasting projects that can compete with the Russians and other Europeans in this open and promising economy. Turkey's move to open its market and end entry restrictions for Arabs is a highly appreciated move. It is a good experience at a time when many Arabs are badly treated in the world's airports. Turkey would like to provide an alternative model and establish  a culture of proximity with Arabs, the aim being to restore its historical leading role in the region.

Chadian-Sudanese reconciliation has emerged as the backbone of all efforts to solve the Darfur crisis and close a chapter of deadly conflict, observed the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi. Disagreement between the two neighbouring countries has always played a major role in escalating the conflict in Darfur. It has led to regional as well as international interference, which has fueled the war through proxy militias.

Signing an initial agreement with the Justice and Equality Movement in Chad's capital of Ndjamena last Saturday is very significant as the parties in conflict acknowledged the central position of Chad and expressed  their willingness  to coordinate efforts with groups affiliated Ndjamena. The next meeting is aimed at translating this agreement into a sustainable accord to which all parties involved must comply. "This is a good step so far, but we should be cautious about being too optimistic. This is because the issue is more complicated than many can envisage. There are many Darfur factions of different sizes and under the influence of international powers. All in all, however, the three-party summit in Doha is a bold step towards achieving stability and consolidating Sudan's unity."

"Iranians has always expressed an extreme nationalist view, but to decide, for instance, to expel a Greek steward because he used the phrase 'Arabian Gulf' or to ban Arab airliners entering its airspace if they use this designation means that they aim to deceive Muslims and Arabs to abandon their national loyalties for those of the Islamic revolution," noted Saleh al Qallab in an opinion piece featured in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda.

Iran, as a Muslim, country, came to replace the Shah's regime, long criticised for  being secular and extremist. But Iranians rejected from the very beginning opening a new chapter of relations with neighbouring countries and by extension with the Arab world. In the wake of the revolution, Arab officials visited Tehran and proposed that the Gulf to be named as the "Muslim Gulf". Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini turned down the proposal categorically. Iran's leadership should be aware that extremism is against the very fundamentals of Islam which are, in principle, the basis of rule in the Islamic republic. "Putting restrictions on Arab carriers is in fact a call to boycott normal relations with Muslim countries with which they share a long history, geography and faith."

"That the UAE expressed its concern over the abuse of the privileges granted to passport holders of some friendly foreign countries is justified," wrote Fadheela al Muaeini in a comment article in the UAE daily Al Bayan. "That citizens of these countries are entitled to enter the UAE without visas led to the illegal use of this right to assassinate the Hamas leader Mahmoud al Mabhouh."

It is therefore imperative that the authorities revise many of their procedures, including cancelling this privilege. In fact, this is not a new demand. Entry visas must be applied to all on principles of reciprocity. "As UAE citizens, we face a complex process when applying for an entry visa to a European country. We encounter similar experiences in their airports, and sometimes bad treatment." Many issues mark the assassination and the government will relentlessly deal with them. But what concerns us as citizens and residents is the necessity to review the flexible travel procedures to the country.

Not to generalise, but to impose stricter entry measures on some countries' citizens and to drop some of their travel advantages will push those countries to review their own interests and policies. * Digest compiled by Mostapha Elmouldoudi melmouloudi@thenational.ae