Palestine asks Turkey and Egypt to send troops to Gaza

Palestine asks Turkey and Egypt to send troops to Gaza

Palestinian Ambassador to Turkey Nabil Maarouf. (Photo: AA)

November 20, 2012, Tuesday/ 13:39:00/ SİNEM CENGİZ

Turkey and Egypt, two heavyweights in the Middle East, should send troops to monitor a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip that is likely to happen in the near future, a top Palestinian envoy in Ankara has said.

Palestinian Ambassador to Turkey Nabil Maarouf told Today's Zaman on Tuesday that in order to maintain a possible cease-fire in Gaza, which has been under Israeli attacks since Wednesday, Turkey and Egypt should send in troops immediately.

"The best solution for the future of Palestine would be the presence of Turkish and Egyptian forces in Gaza as they are two important and close countries in the region. Israel would never dare to attack Gaza in the presence of Turkish and Egyptian forces. This would help to ease the conditions. This is the solution," Maarouf said. The envoy underlined that the presence of these troops should definitely be under a UN umbrella.

“We do not want any more statements coming from regional and global powers. We want immediate action that will save the lives of Palestinians on the ground. Turkey and Egypt should immediately send troops to Gaza and other Palestinian territories to save the lives of the Palestinian people. This is not an official request made by the Palestinian authority, rather it is my own personal request,” said the envoy.

Israel escalated its aerial campaign over the weekend, hitting civilian homes and areas, while Hamas responded by firing rockets into populated areas in Israeli cities. Egypt has unsuccessfully been trying to strike a deal between Hamas and Israel to halt attacks as both sides seem to be far from reconciling their demands.

However, diplomats believe that it would not be in Turkey's interest to take action in Gaza by sending in its troops.

“If Turkey and Egypt take action on their own by sending troops to Gaza, this may escalate the situation, and these two countries could be blamed for escalating the tension. In such an event, Turkey may go through a very difficult period. It would be against Turkey's benefit as well as long-term interests to take such a step without international support,” Nüzhet Kandemir, Turkey's former ambassador to Washington and a prominent foreign policy commentator, told Today's Zaman.

“Turkey should contribute in the form of a force that would maintain peace with international support,” said Kandemir, adding that it would be in Turkey's own interest to send troops within the framework of an international platform rather than sending a force in cooperation with another country, such as Egypt.

Agreeing with Kandemir, Özdem Sanberk, a former diplomat and foreign policy commentator who now heads the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), told Today's Zaman that it would not be appropriate for Turkey to take action on its own by sending its troops to the Gaza Strip.

“If Turkey plans to send its troops to Gaza, this force should be sent within the framework of international support, which is the UN. Throughout history, Turkey has always sent its forces as part of the UN or NATO. When a force is sent with the approval of the UN, this force receives legitimacy from the international community,” said Sanberk.

Turkey contributed to peace keeping operations conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia's territorial waters.

According to Sanberk, Turkey should solve the conflict in Gaza through diplomatic means. The former envoy believes that interference by Turkish troops in the conflict in Gaza may drag Turkey into the conflict. “We don't have such a policy to take action on our own or, in other words, to send troops to a country. Turkey is a country that prefers to solve issues in the region through diplomacy rather than sending troops,” said Sanberk.

Israel's operation so far has drawn Western support for what US and European leaders have called its right to self-defense, but there was also a growing number of appeals from them to seek an end to the hostilities.

Sanberk also maintained that it was out of the question for Turkey to take action on its own as Turkey had never done it before. “This is against Turkey's diplomatic traditions, and I don't believe Turkey will take such a step alone,” said Sanberk.

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