Turkey's 'zero problems' policy is a flop
The Turkish government is running into trouble at every
turn in its attempt to be a regional powerbroker
guardian.co.uk, Monday 21 June 2010 16.30 BST
Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is seeking influence and
markets for Turkey's expanding economy across the Middle East.
Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images
A surge in violence pitting Turkish forces against Kurdish separatists
along Turkey's south-eastern border with Iraq has underscored how far the
Ankara government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan still has to go in resolving the
But the renewed fighting also poses a larger question: to what extent the
policy espoused by Erdogan and his high-profile foreign minister, Ahmet
Davutoglu, of "zero problems with neighbours" is producing tangible, lasting
results. On a range of fronts, high ambitions are colliding with intractable
realities on the ground.
Erdogan's fierce condemnation of the killing on Saturday of 11 soldiers by
Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) fighters possibly reflected frustration that
Ankara's pursuit of non-military solutions has produced little that is concrete
in the eight years since his Justice and Development party (AKP) first came
"Today we will not make the traitors happy," Erdogan said during a visit to
Van. "We will defend this ground heroically ... "I say here very clearly, they
will not win. They will gain nothing. They will melt
away in their own darkness ... they will drown in their own blood."
Such rhetoric, echoing Erdogan's full-blooded attacks on Israel over Gaza,
could not disguise widely felt dismay that a conflict that has claimed an
estimated 40,000 lives since 1984 may be reviving, partly due to political
Citing continuing Turkish military attacks, the PKK announced this month
it was ending a unilateral ceasefire. The decision followed the banning by
Turkey's constitutional court of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society party
(DTP), a ruling strongly criticised by Massoud Barzani, president of Iraqi
Kurdistan, and the EU.
Concern is now growing that further clashes could lead to a repeat of the
2008 Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq, where some PKK fighters
are based. Such an outcome could strain Ankara's relations with Baghdad,
where its efforts to encourage a role in government for Iraq's Sunni Muslim
minority are already viewed as unwelcome meddling by some Shia politicians.
Turkey's "zero problems" has also run into trouble around Azerbaijan's
disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, where four ethnic Armenian and
one Azeri soldier were killed in a skirmish on Saturday. Turkey and Armenia
struck a supposedly historic peace accord last year but the deal backfired
when close Turkish ally Azerbaijan angrily insisted the Nagorno-Karabakh
stand-off be settled first. Instead of easing tensions, Erdogan's initiative
Despite its aspirations to act as a regional powerbroker, Turkish talk has not been
matched by persuasive actions in another troublespot – Cyprus. Elections earlier
this year saw Turkish Cypriots vote in a new president who appears to favour the
permanent partition of the island, notwithstanding the ongoing UN-sponsored
reunification talks backed by Greece and the EU.
Erdogan has certainly improved relations with one important neighbour: Iran. His
decision to vote against the latest UN sanctions on Tehran dismayed the US and
European countries while delighting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In contrast,
relations with Israel are at low ebb after the Gaza flotilla debacle, with Turkish media
reporting that diplomatic and military relations will be frozen indefinitely.
Erdogan's regional foreign policy initiatives, his flirtation with Iran, his split with Israel,
and his courting of supposedly suspect countries such as Syria have led western
commentators to speculate about a "strategic realignment" in Turkish policy, away
from the west and Nato and towards the Arab and Muslim worlds, in parallel with the
AKP's pursuit of a neo-Islamist agenda at home.
"Turkey's Islamist government [seems] focused not on joining the European Union
but the Arab League – no, scratch that, on joining the Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran
resistance front against Israel," complainedAmerican columnist Tom Friedman.
Writing in The Australian, Greg Sheridan drew a comparison with the situation in
south-east Turkey: "The Turkish government is expressing maximum outrage over
the Gaza incident, although it has been vastly more brutal in suppressing Kurdish
separatists and suspected terrorists than anything Israel has ever dreamed of."
Strong criticism of the perceived shift has also been voiced in the US Congress,
while the Obama administration has voiced concern at some recent Turkish actions.
Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said one explanation was EU foot-dragging
over Turkey's membership bid.
For his part, Davutoglu says western countries should not worry. Rather, they should
welcome the fact that Turkey was "playing an increasingly central role in promoting
international security and prosperity". Close relations with the EU and Nato were
"main fixtures" of Turkish policy while bilateral ties with the US remained of "vital
importance", he said in Foreign Policy magazine.
Such assurances may miss the point. From a western perspective at least,
the problem is not that Erdogan and Davutoglu want a bigger role for Turkey
and are increasingly ready to go it alone. The problem, more often than not,
is that when they do, they mess up.
ARMENIA SAYS NEW TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY 'REGRETTABLE'
Dalje.com 22 June 2010
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said Tuesday that he thought a
perceived new direction in Turkish foreign policy was undermining
any easing of tensions between the neighbours. "This new path offers
little grounds for optimism and is regrettable," he told reporters
after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
"Current Turkish policy is not contributing to greater openness in
European and US officials have shown growing concern in recent months
over Ankara purportedly turning "eastwards" by no longer reliably
backing US diplomacy and due to its worsening relations with Israel.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were systematically
killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor
of modern Turkey, was falling apart.
Turkey fiercely rejects the genocide label and the dispute has poisoned
relations between the two countries for decades.
Armenia and Turkey signed a landmark deal in October to establish
diplomatic ties and reopen their border.
But ratification of the deal faltered amid mutual recriminations that
the other side was not committed to reconciliation and Armenia in April
announced it was removing the agreement from its parliament's agenda.
Sarkisian said in Berlin that Turkish-Armenian relations "will not
be able to evolve unless a great political will is there and we have
not seen that will on the Turkish side." (...)
SERZH SARGSYAN: ARMENIA KNOWS FIRSTHAND WHAT IS BLOCKADE
ArmInfo. Armenia knows firsthand what is to live in blockade,
President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan said in the Tavrichesky Hall of
St.Petersburg over the reception dedicated to the 300th anniversary
of the Armenian community in this city.
'We have recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of our great victory
over fascism. It is impossible to remember without shudder what
Leningrad passed through in 1941-44. Thousands of Armenian-soldiers
took part in the Leningrad battle and died for the better future...
But Leningrad did not capitulate to the enemy...Moreover, though all
the horrors it carried the touching care about the spiritual heritage,
it preserved priceless monuments and masterpieces of architecture
and art, but the most important is that it carried special Petersburg
culture of human communication', - Sargsyan said.
'Despite cease-fire established as a result of the heroic fight of
the people of Karabakh, Armenia continues living in the conditions
of illegal blockade from the side of Azerbaijan and Turkey. Despite
this and thanks to our hard-working nation and priceless support of
our allies and friends we have managed to stabilize the economy of
Armenia and ensure its growth. But the blockade is still preserved,
and in the 21-st century our children continue growing surrounded by
the dividing lines and mine fields'- Serzh Sargsyan said.
PRIZED FOR PEACE, PUNISHED FOR WAR
18 June 2010
Translated By Garabet Moumdjian
Edited by Harley Jackson
Is there anything that can be reversed to such a degree in a matter
of three months?
Unfortunately, there is, and it did!
I will come back to the reasons later.
This is the story of that reversal. ...
Until three months ago, the Woodrow Wilson Center, one of America's
most important think tanks, made it public that it was eagerly awaiting
to give its annual prize for Community Service to Ahmet Davutoglu,
the foreign minister of Turkey, for "his contributions in improving
Turkey's external credibility."
The prize was given in the past to such respected personalities as
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva; A.P.J. Abdul Kalam,
the president of India; American politicians Henry Kissinger and
John McCain, architect Frank Gehry; and prominent journalists such
as Barbara Walters.
Moreover, in March, the Wilson Center announced that it would grant
its "Corporate Citizenship Award" to the Chairman of the DoguÅ~_
Group, Ferit Å~^ahenk, for bringing "modern business practices and
management styles to Turkey."
Until today, no Turks had been nominated for such prestigious prizes.
But this year, two awards came to Turkey. ...
In a ceremony held in Istanbul last night, Sahenk and Davutoglu did
get the aforementioned prestigious awards.
They got the prizes. However, the situation in America was a mess.
The Public Service Award, which the Wilson Center had announced it
would give to Ahmet Davutoglu three months ago and which was praised
at the time by many American politicians, has since been undermined
by Turkey's stance regarding Israel and Iran during the same period,
as these issues had brought Turkey face-to-face with America. This
in turn brought the center's director, Lee Hamilton, under fire.
It so happened that Gary Ackerman, member of the New York State House
of Representatives, stressed the importance of cancelling the awarding
of the prizes in an extremely harsh letter to Hamilton.
The monetary section of the prize, which bears the name of an
intellectual American president who had contributed to world peace,
comes from the United States Congress. This put the Wilson Center in
an awkward position.
This is more so, since the center had nominated Davutoglu for the
prize for his contributions to peace in the Balkans, the Caucasus
and the Middle East and for his diplomatic role in those events.
Indeed, in those days, many politicians in America and Europe had a
real appreciation for Turkey's shuttle role between Russia and Georgia,
for its ability to bring unwavering Iraqi sides to the same discussion
table, for its ability to bring the Serbs and the Boshnaks to the
dialogue table and for Davutoglu's role in and up to the signing of
the protocols with longtime-enemy Armenia.
Yet it so happened that at the moment the prize was to be delivered
on June 17, Turkey had created a big problem and almost went to war
with America's most trusted ally in the Middle East, Israel.
Also, in a very critical moment, and coming out of its "noncommittal"
stance, Turkey even preferred Iran over America.
In the eyes of the Wilson Center, Davutoglu was, up to three months
ago, a promising government functionary who was transforming his
country into a pivotal peace broker in the area within the framework of
"creative" and "constructive" suggestions.
This is why there was no opposition at the time for granting the
center's public service award to him.
But today Davutoglu, and his ruling AK Party's image, is exactly the
opposite in America.
Preferring friendship with Iran, and siding not with Abbas but
his opponent, Hamas, against America's 60-year-old ally, Israel;
repeatedly putting Israel in the criminal's seat; officially inviting
Sudan's criminal president to Turkey; accusing Netanyahu's government
of the heaviest crimes and taking no vengeance against Ahmadinejad,
who has perplexed the West and America, makes Davutoglu and Turkey
So how was it that three months ago, America had no qualms in bestowing
its Nobel Prize for peace, otherwise known as the Wilson Center's
Public Service Award, to Davutoglu, yet all hell broke loose and
American congressmen vehemently opposed the bestowal of the prize on
the very day it was to be presented?
Unfortunately, everything was reversed in three months.
Yesterday's "Man of Peace" was suddenly declared a "Lord of War."
It seems that a war penalty was mixed with the peace prize.
I will explain this more thoroughly tomorrow.
Saturday, 26 June 2010
Turkey's 'zero problems' policy is a flop