Davos-Like Political Forum in Istanbul Highlights Turkey's Growing Clout

Last week became remarkable for Turkey as its capital hosted the second annual World Political Forum where global political issues were discussed by delegations from 56 countries. By creating a Davos-like event, Istanbul aims to be the world's newest financial and political center.

Democratization process in Arab countries, international security issues, regional powers and conflict resolutions were discussed in a two-day forum. A member of the British Parliament, Denis MacShane, while speaking at the forum’s opening ceremony, mentioned Turkey’s geostrategic importance. He said that the world is "moving east" and that Istanbul will be a new center of the world.

Ahmed Harara, a blind hero of Egyptian revolution, and Time magazine Person of the Year talked about the current situation of Egypt and democracy in the Arab World. Harara said, “Mubarak held on to fear for 30 years, and his reach continues into today. We want freedom, as we always have. But the military and other powers continue to work against that.”

As the forum was held in Istanbul, speakers and organizers sought to underline Turkey’s growing importance in economic and political issues around the globe. One of the most heated debates was the conflict between Iran and Israel and interestingly there was not an official delegation from Iran. Professor of International Relations at Harvard University, Stephen Walt, suggested that if the U.S. wants to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon first of all they should stop threatening Iran with "regime change."

He also added that the U.S. and Israel are bluffing and they are not going to attack Iran, although he said that we all had witnessed some “quite inadequate” decisions by leaders such as the invasion of Iraq. Former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim and journalist Stephen Kinzer admitted that the problem is getting worse and Turkey as a regional power and mediator could be the country that can make efforts to bring the two sides together.

Other regional problems also were discussed during the forum, and one of them was a Nagorno-Karabakh problem between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the competition for supremacy in the Caucasus.

Oil-rich Azerbaijan is playing an important role for the West, but a frozen conflict of over 20% of Azerbaijani territories occupied by Armenia has remained unresolved for more than 20 years. Chief of the Political Analysis and Information Department of Administration of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Elnur Aslanov, mentioned neighboring Iran’s "attempts to pursue its ideological policies” and a deterioration in bilateral relations between Iran and Azerbaijan due to Iran’s religious propaganda in Azerbaijan.

He also spoke about Russia’s responsibilities in the issue and mentioned that in recent years Russia has initiated numerous trilateral meetings between Armenia and Azerbaijan. On the other hand Yossef Bodansky, director of the International Strategic Studies Association in the U.S., said that Azerbaijan is the country which can both gain lose the most out of this political game, therefore Azerbaijan should seek for alternative solutions and in this case it should find ways to negotiate with Russia and should not wait for the support from the United States.

The idea to bring together politicians and scholars was successfully conducted in the second World Political Forum. As the head of the forum, Ahmet Eyup Ezguch mentioned that in a few years they could easily compete with the main economical annual event of the The World Economic Forum in Davos.