Turkish mediation for a more stable Middle East caught in crossfire.hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;}.hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;}The weekend U.S. raid into Syrian territory will hamper Turkey's efforts to create a more stable Middle East through mediating between rival Israel and Syria, according to experts.
Turkey has long been trying to prove itself as a regional power with the ability to solve problems in its neighborhood, a policy that was reinforced with its election as a non-permanent member to the U.N. Security Council.

"The assault will undoubtedly impact the fate of the negotiations already pending over domestic developments in Israel," professor Meliha Altunisik at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, told the Turkish Daily News (TDN) on Tuesday.

Damascus has accused U.S. military helicopters of launching an attack Sunday on Syrian territory close to the border with Iraq, killing eight people. Syria has condemned the raid as "serious aggression".

A U.S. military official in Washington said special forces conducted the raid in Syria to target a network of insurgents linked to al Qaeda moving through Syria to help fight in the war in Iraq. “We are taking matters into our own hands,” the U.S. military official was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

Turkish diplomats had not been informed of the incident, according to those contacted by TDN.

Washington has long complained that Sunni insurgents in Iraq use Syria as a base.

"If the idea that the Syrian government is supporting the insurgents in Iraq against the United States becomes widespread, it will certainly impact the peace negotiations with Israel," Soner Cagaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the director of its Turkish Research Program, told TDN.

He said the new president of the United States, to be decided in elections set for next week, was expected to participate in the peace talks and propose a grand bargain for a final deal between Syria and Israel.

"But under the current circumstances I don't believe that a country accused by Washington of undermining its interests will be offered a grand bargain," he added.

Turkey has so far hosted four rounds of indirect talks between Israel and Syria with the aim of bringing the bitter enemies together for direct talks. The fifth round, originally scheduled for September, was postponed after former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned amid corruption claims.

"The talks were frozen for a long time and the U.S. attack on Syria will further delay them ahead of the presidential elections in the United States," said Altunisik.

The alleged attack comes as the United States is heading toward key elections.

The attack is compatible with the policy of the current president, George W. Bush, said Altuni**** noting the Bush administration does not look warmly on dialogue with Damascus.

However, Washington has remained silent on the Olmert-led Israeli government's initiative to engage in indirect talks with Syria under Turkish auspices. Still, analysts say U.S. politics will play the key role in the future of the talks.

"We'll wait and see," said Altunisik.