Sometimes, you can never predict where the global atmosphere will lead states.

Before the Arab Spring, some friends and I had organized a trip to Lebanon. On our journey, a friend from Saudi Arabia joined us. Upon arriving at the customs gate, while we, as Turkish citizens, queued for visas, our Saudi companion confidently waved his passport and passed through without needing a visa. I teased our Saudi friend, “One day, we shall combine all these passports.”

When we approached the police for visas, we encountered something interesting. The Lebanese police officer informed us that, on that very day, the visa requirement for Turkish citizens had been abolished in a meeting in Syria, allowing us to pass through without a visa. We, from Türkiye, together with our friend from Saudi Arabia, entered Lebanon without a visa.

During that period, the central topic of discussion, while the relations between Türkiye and Syria were remarkably enhanced, was creating a common market encompassing Türkiye, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, which would potentially integrate an additional 50 million people into the Turkish economy, akin to the expansion witnessed in the European Union.

In time, it seemed probable that other Gulf countries would join this movement. This could potentially lead to the formation of a union similar to the European Union. As older generations might remember, the European Union started as an economic community. Similarly, a regional economic community could emerge in the Middle East, akin to the early European Economic Community, with the participation of Türkiye and other regional countries.

Syrian civil war

For 200 years, those orchestrating political maneuvers in the Middle East have neither ceased their schemes nor ended destructiveness. Today, we find ourselves distanced from the pleasant surprise experienced at the Lebanese border, far from the former Türkiye-Syria relations and the state of mind of regional connections of that era.

The Arab Spring swept through like a powerful wind, leaving destruction in its wake.

Syria was arguably the closest to achieving a democratic climate among the states in the region. Under Bashar Assad, following his father’s rule, the country seemed poised for significant developments, paving the way for rapid progress and potential democratization.

The Syrian civil war has radically altered the geopolitical landscape, pulling countries into new and conflicting positions. It has set Iran and Türkiye against each other, with Russia establishing a significant presence in Syria. Meanwhile, the U.S. entered as an occupier and further complicated the situation by organizing angry youth into a formidable army that came to be known as Daesh, which threatened all states. Subsequently, the territories first seized by Daesh were taken over by the PKK terrorist group. In effect, the U.S. facilitated the replacement of one terrorist organization with another, ultimately aligning itself with the new occupying force.

Since the war in Syria took place almost live in the media and is fresh in our memories, there is no need to give detailed information about the entire history here.

Last week, Assad made a positive statement about Türkiye. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan generously responded positively in a much more positive tone.

Global powers not only wage wars and engage in occupations but also foster animosity among states, creating an atmosphere of perpetual conflict. They go to great lengths to sabotage people’s will in these countries, undermining their aspirations for growth and stability.

East is East, West is West

Recently, out of the blue, a provocative incident took place in the Turkish city of Kayseri. And there was a surprisingly organized reaction. The incident’s taking place in Kayseri, one of the most peaceful and nationalist parts of Türkiye, indicates that this incident was detailly studied and well-organized. The state must conduct sophisticated work, catch the organizers and overcome crises.

The British historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee says: “The East is East, and the West is West.” Yes, if this is the East and we can develop a balanced policy between the West and the East, eventually, a formation will emerge in this region in line with the will of the people in the territory.

Within the last few months, while the search for stability in Iraq resumes, the Development Road project is in progress. Türkiye, having maintained its solidity, has emerged as a stabilizing force in the region over the past decade, gradually improving its relations with its neighbors.

Therefore, the common market of the four countries, which was actually talked about and discussed yesterday, may not be possible today, but it might be likely tomorrow.

There are periods when states are weak. Countries might experience periods of interruptions. But in the end, states find a rational ground and reshape themselves according to the demands of their citizens, just as Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan adopted a rational attitude after the Karabakh war, considering the interests of the Armenian people.

Window of opportunity

In a period where the U.S. is preoccupied with its internal problems, Russia is worn out by the war in Ukraine, Iran is under pressure and has problems in many areas in the region, and there is a risk of a devastating Israel-Hezbollah conflict, the stance of all actors has weakened. In a way, the PKK’s desire to establish a state has also awakened Assad and relations between Türkiye and Syria have been revitalized.

In the coming decade, there should be a revival of the idea of a common market, once known as “Shamgen,” which we lost 10 years ago. Those who have plotted schemes in our region until now have only brought chaos and terror. As nations, we need to overcome this terror, defeat the fascist states that generate chaos and take control of our own future. I think that both the will of the people, the Turkish state, and the will of the Arab states in the long run will be enough for this.

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