A very difficult time for Turkish foreign policy

Published 09.10.2014 02:18

The war in Kobani is intensifying. Kurdish fighters who are trying to hold the city and ISIS forces, supported by armored vehicles, tanks and artillery, give a very hard time to the defenders. All of this is happening a few hundred meters from the Turkish border where armored divisions and artillery have taken position and wait for international legitimacy to intervene. This kind of legitimacy will probably never come as the U.N. Security Council system will not allow a major scale intervention in Syria and Iraq. This is unfortunately what is presently needed. The Turkish government does not want to step into a war without its NATO allies and it is out of question to send in ground troops for NATO countries, as declared by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Kurdish nationalist movements in Turkey have decided to wage a very large protest movement across Turkey, initiated by the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). There have been very violent clashes between security forces and protesters - which is not new. There have also been clashes between different protest movements where whole districts have been attacked by people coming from other districts - this is new and very dangerous. A curfew has been declared in some southeastern cities of Turkey, including Diyarbakır, not to give security forces a better control of the situation, but to prevent civilians from attacking each other. Ankara has to try to appease this situation, which is basically unheard of in Turkish political history. Instead, a very challenging and threatening discourse has been used by the interior minister, and that may be a very bad idea for the time being.

The EU has also made public its yearly Regular Report on Turkey concerning the EU accession negotiations. A document that was essential to the Turkish political agenda a few years ago goes perfectly unnoticed today. This is mainly because the "preventing Turkey's accession at all costs" strategy adopted by the EU has been successful enough and nobody believes anymore that accession negotiations can ultimately end up with full membership for Turkey. But besides that, the Greek Cypriot administration has become a useful tool in the hands of international actors to destabilize Turkish foreign policy. If read carefully, the new Regular Report in its preamble gives a very detailed set of conditions regarding the possibility for Greek Cypriot planes and vessels to circulate freely in Turkish ports and airports - basically establishing a sine qua non condition for a semblance of normalization in the negotiations. The Greek Cypriot authorities have been very favorably impressed by this unexpected support and have sent an exploration vessel for deep sea extraction of natural gas, contrary to the gentleman's agreement between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot governments. In retaliation, Turkey has sent two medium sized warships to the region, which allowed Greek Cypriot authorities to slam the door and leave the negotiating table. Greece has also vehemently protested against Turkey through diplomatic channels and all of a sudden, a very promising stability and peace process in the Aegean and the Mediterranean has been severely sabotaged. The Russian Federation, main funder and mentor of Greek Cyprus does not seem overly chagrined over these developments.

These are really difficult times for Turkish foreign policy and a very good idea would be to organize perhaps a summit to establish at least a loosely defined strategy for bringing peace to the region with major actors of Western democracies. The relations between the U.S. and Turkey have been rather confusing over the last few days but there is an urgency to settle the differences and speak with one voice. Leon Panetta, who served in the Barack Obama administration as director of the CIA from 2009 to 2011 and as secretary of defense from 2011 to 2013, recently expressed the same opinion. What is needed is decisiveness on the part of the U.S., this will help all the democratic countries in the region, not least Turkey.

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