The United States and Turkey will co-chair a new global counterterrorism body to be launched on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week, despite Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s declared support for Hamas.
CNS NEWS Eleven of the 30 founding members of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a bloc that says violent attacks by those under “occupation” does not constitute terrorism.
Israel, meanwhile, is not among the GCTF founding members.
The GCTF is a “signature initiative” in what the Obama administration is calling its “smart power approach to counterterrorism.” It was created at a G8 summit last May in Deauville, France, where a declaration by the gathered leaders said the forum would be “aimed at strengthening the international consensus in the fight against terrorism.”
Apart from the co-chairs, the group includes OIC members Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; European nations Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland as well as the European Union; and a cross of section of others – Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and South Africa.
In a speech in New York earlier this month unveiling the “smart power approach to counterterrorism,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the founding group as “traditional allies, emerging powers and Muslim-majority countries.” She said the GCTF would be the first ever “dedicated international venue to regularly convene key counterterrorism policy makers and practitioners from around the world.”
“Together, we will work to identify threats and weaknesses, devise solutions, mobilize resources, share expertise and best practices,” Clinton added. “This will improve international coordination, but it will also help countries address terrorist threats within their own borders and regions.”
A State Department fact sheet says the move “is based on a recognition that the U.S. alone cannot eliminate every terrorist or terrorist organization. Rather, the international community must come together to assist countries as they work to confront the terrorist threat.”
Israel’s exclusion from the founders’ list is glaring, given that it is among the world’s leading targets of terrorism – and arguably leads the world in the policies and practices it has developed in response to the threat.
What is clear is that the Obama administration would have found resistance among some OIC members had the Jewish state been brought into the initiative, particularly from those especially hostile towards Israel, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia – and Turkey.
Furthermore, one of the key elements in the initiative, according to the fact sheet, is “the first-ever multilateral training and research center focused on countering violent extremism, which would be based in the Gulf region.” If Israel was a member, its experts would not be able to contribute to the planned center, as Israeli passport holders are not permitted to visit Gulf states – and in some cases even an Israeli stamp on another country’s passport will preclude entry.
Turkey played an important role in the planning of the GCTF, and one of two preparatory meetings was held in Istanbul (the other was in Washington last January).
Turkey’s prominent role in the initiative comes at a time when its relations with Israel are on ice, after Erdogan’s Islamist-leaning government rejected a U.N. report on a deadly May 2010 Israeli navy raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla led by a Turkish ship and announced a series of sanctions against its former ally.
During a visit to Egypt last week Erdogan railed repeatedly against Israel, accusing it of “illegitimate and unhuman behaviors” and calling it the biggest obstacle to peace in the region. He also has placed Turkey at the forefront of the international effort to seek U.N. recognition for a Palestinian state next week.