With the end of the cold war, and particularly following the Gulf War, Turkey abandoned its low-profile posture in the Middle East for a more activist regional role. The Kurdish issue, the single most important item on the country's domestic and foreign policy agendas, has also had important implications for Turkey's Middle East policy, further exacerbating longstanding problems with Syria that in turn contributed to Ankara's decision to sign a military agreement with Israel. The rise to power of the Islamist Refah party in July 1996 in a coalition government is likely to have significant implications for the country's identity and relations both with the West and the Islamic world.

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