James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: Erdogan Visits Obama, Israelis Celebrate Statehood, Palestinians Mark al-Nakba Day, the Arctic Council Convenes, and the Cannes Film Festival Begins

by James M. Lindsay
May 10, 2013

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). President Barack Obama shakes hands with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s trip to Washington, Israel’s National Day, Palestine’s al-Nakba, the Arctic Council meeting, and the Cannes Film Festival.

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The highlights:

  • Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meets with President Obama in Washington on May 16. During his visit to Israel two months ago, Obama helped broker an Israeli apology for the 2010 Israeli military raid on a Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza. That raid killed nine Turks and one American. Obama has long urged renewed cooperation between Turkey and Israel—both important U.S. allies—and he will undoubtedly make that pitch again when he meets with Erdoğan. But the two men will have plenty of other things to talk about as well, including Syria’s civil war, Iran’s nuclear program, and Iraq’s renewed sectarian violence. For Washington, all three issues are pressing geo-strategic problems; for Ankara they are all immediate neighborhood dangers.
  • Israelis will celebrate the sixty-fifth anniversary of statehood on Tuesday, May 14. The very next day Palestinians will mark al-Nakba, literally “the Day of the Catastrophe,” to commemorate the exodus of Palestinians following Israel’s independence. Those dueling narratives are what Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to bridge when he returns to the Middle East later this month for his fourth trip to the region this year. Kerry has warned that “we are working with a short timespan” in the bid to rejuvenate the peace process. It is far from clear, however, that the conditions on the ground are ripe for a diplomatic breakthrough.
  • The Arctic Council’s biennial ministerial meeting convenes next week in an appropriate setting, north of the Arctic Circle in Kiruna, Sweden. Some three hundred people are expected to attend, including ministers from the eight Arctic states (Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States), indigenous peoples, and delegates from the six official observer countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom). You might think that the Arctic Council is a sleepy group, but it is taking on increased prominence as the loss of Arctic ice accelerates. The European Union, China, and India are all seeking to attain official observer status. It is easy to see why. The Arctic will likely soon be open to commercial shipping, the target of oil and gas exploration, and a potential source of bitter territorial disputes about which countries own what. The stakes for the United States are high.
  • The Cannes Film Festival kicks off next week. Famed American director Steven Spielberg will chair the jury that will award the festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or prize. This year’s line-up is truly international, with films from Chad, China, Mexico, and Iran among the nineteen movies competing for top honors. The competition will not only enable some little known film makers to gain a bigger audience, it will also help protect and promote freedom of expression in countries that all too often squash it.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is 900. My Figure of the Week is Park Geun-hye. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

Erdoğan visits Washington: Steven Cook writes that there are significant differences between Erdoğan and Obama’s interests in Iraq and Syria. Al-Monitor predicts that Erdoğan will pressure Obama to arm Syrian rebels. The Associated Press reports that the United States is committing $100 million in humanitarian aid for the Syrian conflict. The New York Times reports on talks between Israel and Turkey to settle a compensation dispute over the 2010 flotilla raid.

Israel National Day and Palestinian al-Nakba: Al-Jazeera reports that Secretary Kerry is seeking to revive peace talks between Israel and Palestine and has a special video series on al-Nakba. Al-Monitor suggests that the Arab League can contribute to the peace process. The Washington Post writes that China’s desire to become involved in the peace process may be a good thing.

Arctic Council meeting: CFR.org provides background on the changes in the Arctic region. Brookings has video of a discussion on energy, indigenous communities, and the Arctic Council. Barents Observer writes that China is seeking observer status with the Arctic Council.

Cannes Film Festival: The official Cannes Film Festival website provides the latest updates on this year’s festival and information on festival history. Forbes explains how the festival works. The Atlantic writes what to expect from the Cannes jury led by Steven Spielberg.

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