Coup takes toll on Turkey for­eign pol­icy

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

The con­se­quences of the failed July 15 coup in Turkey in­creased Ankara’s in­ter­na­tional iso­la­tion, ex­pos­ing short­com­ings in the govern­ment’s some­times over­am­bi­tious for­eign pol­icy, an­a­lysts say. NATO mem­ber and EU mem­ber­ship hope­ful Turkey had ex­pected an out­pour­ing of sol­i­dar­ity af­ter the coup at­tempt one year ago aimed at oust­ing Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, which Ankara blames on the US-based preacher Fethul­lah Gulen.

But ties with Brus­sels were bruised and Turkey’s long-run­ning EU mem­ber­ship bid set back as the Euro­pean Union re­acted with alarm to the post-coup purge that has seen tens of thou­sands ar­rested. The US pres­i­dency of Don­ald Trump has so far also given no hope that Turkey has seen the end of the ran­cor that marked ties be­tween Washington and Ankara un­der Barack Obama. Mean­while, the diplo­matic cri­sis in the Gulf risks wreck­ing Turkey’s ef­forts to keep a tight strate­gic al­liance with Qatar with­out up­set­ting Saudi Ara­bia.

“Turkey has been some­what iso­lated diplo­mat­i­cally since the July 2016 failed coup, both be­cause NATO partners were taken by sur­prise and be­cause the sub­se­quent purge went far be­yond any­thing that could be ex­pected,” said Marc Pierini, a vis­it­ing scholar at Carnegie Europe. “The cri­sis be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies and Qatar only adds to the host of prob­lems Turkey is fac­ing on the diplo­matic front,” he told AFP.

‘Ever-in­creas­ing dis­putes’

Ankara’s pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion is a far cry from what it en­joyed a decade ago, when Er­do­gan was seen as an essen­tial me­di­a­tor in al­most ev­ery cri­sis and was courted by both the Euro­pean Union and the United States. For for­mer prime min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu, Turkey was a cen­ter of the Is­lamic world and de­served in­flu­ence from Bos­nia to Ara­bia in lands Con­stantino­ple con­trolled un­der the Ot­toman Em­pire. Turkey had high hopes that the Arab Spring up­ris­ings would bring into power Sunni Mus­lim gov­ern­ments that would be un­der Turk­ish in­flu­ence. But the oust­ing of the Mus­lim Brother­hood’s Egyp­tian pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Morsi and fail­ure to un­seat Syria’s Bashar Al-As­sad put paid to these goals. “The pic­ture to­day is a very dif­fer­ent one,” said Ke­mal Kirisci of the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion. “It is char­ac­ter­ize by the ev­er­in­creas­ing dis­putes that Turkey is hav­ing with coun­tries in its neigh­bor­hood and be­yond,” he added.

‘Not even par­tially ful­filled’

Turkey has sought to join the Euro­pean Union for the last half cen­tury, in an ag­o­niz­ingly slow process where Ankara has watched on en­vi­ously as post-Com­mu­nist states join the bloc with far less fuss. Er­do­gan has some­times made Brus­sels seem like a strate­gic en­emy rather than part­ner, with at­tacks bub­bling with venom in the run-up to an April 16 ref­er­en­dum on en­hanc­ing his pow­ers. Vic­tory in that ref­er­en­dum handed Er­do­gan pow­ers that crit­ics fear will cre­ate one-man rule and take Ankara in­ex­orably away from Euro­pean val­ues.

“The bases for a deeper po­lit­i­cal al­liance through EU mem­ber­ship re­main as they have al­ways been. It will be up to Turkey’s lead­ers, at some point in the fu­ture, to re­turn to their ear­lier am­bi­tions,” said Pierini, a for­mer EU am­bas­sador to Ankara. De­spite the con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing Trump’s anti-Mus­lim rhetoric, Turk­ish of­fi­cials fell over them­selves to wel­come the ty­coon as US leader, pre­dict­ing a new page in re­la­tions.

But no progress has ma­te­ri­al­ized on the vexed is­sue of Turkey’s de­sire to se­cure the ex­tra­di­tion of Gulen, who de­nies any link to the coup, or US sup­port for a Kur­dish mili­tia in Syria which Ankara sees as ter­ror­ists. A much-touted visit by Er­do­gan to Washington to iron out these is­sues was over­shad­owed by a fra­cas in­volv­ing his body­guards that led to ar­rest war­rants for 12 mem­bers of his se­cu­rity de­tail. “While Ankara was very op­ti­mistic about the Trump pres­i­dency, none of Turkey’s ex­pec­ta­tions from the new US administration were even par­tially ful­filled,” said Ozgur Un­luhis­ar­cikli, di­rec­tor of the Ankara of­fice of the Ger­man Mar­shall Fund of the United States.

In this con­text, the Saudi-led move to iso­late Qatar over its al­leged sup­port for ter­ror­ism - claims that both Doha and Ankara re­ject - was the last thing Turkey needed. Turkey had to some ex­tent re­paired ties with Saudi Ara­bia af­ter a down­turn in re­la­tions fol­low­ing Riyadh’s sup­port for the oust­ing of the pro-Ankara Morsi in Egypt. But it now finds it­self deal­ing with a new en­vi­ron­ment in the Gulf, es­pe­cially af­ter the sur­prise el­e­va­tion of the hugely pow­er­ful Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man to be Saudi crown prince. — AFP

Turkey’s Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan (sec­ond right) and Turkey’s Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim (third right) at­tend a prayer by the grave of a vic­tim of the July 15, 2016 failed coup at­tempt in Istanbul yes­ter­day. — AP

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