The meeting of foreign affairs ministers for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) will last three days and representatives from 57 countries are expected to attend.
Turkish leaders have been stressing that Muslim countries must embrace democracy and have showcased Turkey as a secular, democratic state that is both part of NATO and the Islamic world. Turkey ‘will try to convince others that the Islamic countries should try to demonstrate change by themselves, otherwise others will force them,’ said Ilter Turan, a political science professor at Istanbul Bilgi University.
Many leaders in the Islamic world oppose Washington’s calls for change, although Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in January: ‘Democracy is universal, and a modern day requirement. Each country should lay out its democratisation perspective that suits local conditions and in so doing benefit from the advice of third countries and international organizations’.
Iraq is set to dominate the meeting, in which conference attendees will debate calls for peacekeepers to Iraq. There is little support among Islamic nations for sending troops.
The meeting is key for Turkey, keen to emphasise Islamic roots to win credibility in the Middle East ahead of a NATO summit which it will host in two weeks’ time. Turkey is expected to push for a Turkish head to the OIC, to play a role as a bridge between Europe and Islamic countries, according to analyst Bulent Aliriza at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.