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ISTANBUL - Turkey, seething with anger after an Israeli raid on an aid ship bound for Gaza, hosts leaders from Russia, Iran, the Arab world and beyond this week for a Eurasian security summit that may further isolate Israel.
The guest list for the meeting in Istanbul of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), reads like a "who's who" of leaders from world hot spots, with participants from the Middle East, South Asia and the Korean Peninsula.
Israel is one of 20 members of the forum, but has decided to send a diplomat from its consulate, an Israeli embassy official said at the weekend rather than expose a more senior figure to the fury generated by the killing of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists in the Israeli commando operation last Monday.
Turkey is expected to try to raise pressure on Israel to end the four-year old blockade of 1,5-million Palestinians in Gaza during a conference yesterday, which precedes tomorrow's full summit. The diplomatic momentum will continue on Wednesday, as Arab League foreign ministers gather in Istanbul for the Turkish-Arab Cooperation Forum.
Turkey, Nato's only Muslim member, has sought to raise its international profile in recent years. Positioned next to countries along the Gulf and Caspian sea, Turkey holds geostrategic value in a conflict-prone region.
It wants to join the European Union and become a major regional power, shedding the straitjacket of its Cold War era role as ally of the West.
Plenty of discussion is expected to focus on Israel and the blockade it says is necessary to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of Hamas militants in Gaza. - Reuters