Turkey's prime minister had a message Thursday for US President Barack Obama: redefine terror and terrorism in the Middle East and use it as the basis for a new American policy.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country has played a key role in trying to mediate among Israel and Syria and the Palestinians, said Obama's new Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, will be in Turkey for talks Sunday.
"President Obama must redefine terror and terrorist organizations in the Middle East, and based on this new definition, a new American policy must be deployed in the Middle East," Erdogan told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The Turkish leader appeared to be referring to the US Position toward Hamas and Hizbullah, which the United States considers terrorist organizations. While both have military wings, Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 and remains in charge following the recent Israeli invasion. Hizbullah is a major political force in Lebanon.
As a secular Muslim country that belongs to NATO and is seeking membership in the European Union, Turkey has been a bridge to Hamas and Hizbullah.
Alluding to Turkey's unique position, Erdogan prefaced his message to Obama, saying that "Compared to the Western countries, we speak best the language of the Middle East."
Before the Dec. 27 attack on Gaza, Erdogan said Turkey had been deeply involved in mediating between Israel and Syria and was awaiting a response from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when the bombs started falling in the Palestinian territory.
"I saw this as a lack of respect for us and also a shadow cast over peace," Erdogan said. Even though there's now a shaky cease-fire in Gaza, the Israeli-Syria talks appear to be on hold, Erdogan said.
"I see right now that this is shelved," He said. "But if the parties request it, we as Turkey would be willing to take part, to play a role in those discussions."