On the 24th of September, Forward Thinking convened a private roundtable workshop to explore how Turkey perceives recent developments in the Middle East. At the meeting we were joined by Mr. Cevdet Yilmaz, a leading figure in Turkey’s governing AK party. Mr. Yilmaz is a Deputy Chairman of the AK party in Turkey, and a member of AK Party Central Decision and Board of Directors.He served as a Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey in the interim election government formed by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu from 28 August to 17 November 2015. He previously served as the Minister of Development from 2011 to 2015 and again from 2015 to 2016.His other roles have included Undersecretary of the Prime Ministry and General Manager of EU Relations. He was a member of the Board of Directors of National Agency, Center for Research and Practice in European Communities (ATAUM).

The meeting provided an opportunity to explore a number of issues in greater depth. Instability and conflict continue to rage across large parts of the Middle East. Renewed fighting in Syria around Idlib is particularly concerning, threatening to deepen an already dire humanitarian crisis. Yet even as Assad makes military gains, the outlines of a sustainable political future in Syria remain as unclear as ever. Elsewhere, significant progress has been made in Iraq but more needs to be done to entrench recent gains and so prevent the re-emergence of violent extremism. Meanwhile, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a festering sore at the heart of the region, that can erupt into renewed violence at any time in the absence of a sustainable and just solution.

Turkey’s approach to these issues, and more, were unpacked in greater depth over the course of the morning. Throughout discussions it was emphasised that Turkey’s relatively good diplomatic ties with key actors in the region and internationally could allow the country to act as a bridge to help find political solutions to ongoing crises.