by Karolos Gadis
former Greek Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina
and Deputy-Ambassador in Ankara and Washington D.C.
Classical Economists, from David Ricardo to Paul Samuelson, present the phenomenon of economic protectionism, as an observation of a parade on stands in an amphitheater row : If people in the first row stand up, then the second one will follow, the third, the fourth, and so on.
Unhappily, in politics, the same symptoms characterize the extreme populism, notably when this is merged with ethnic-nationalism.
The case of Turkey, is properly illustrative : When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and AKP Party officials (in the first row) threat on a daily basis Greece that “there are some islands and islets that they need revision in their legal status”, major opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu (in the second row) proving an expected overwhelming “patriotism” in competition with Erdogan, states that “When CHP will come in power, we will take the Greek islands which they “belong” to us”, adding “Just like the unforgettable Bulent Ecevit took Cyprus in 1974”.
All this, happens today, in 2018.
All this is orchestrated against Greece, a NATO and EU country, which supports in statements and in deeds, Turkey’s European perspective, while all European partners are reluctant.
Besides, the statement that they will “take” Greek islands in the same manner “they have “taken” Cyprus in 1974, merits to be raised during the next – whenever – round of negotiations for a viable solution on Cyprus problem. By this statement Turkey directly recognizes that its military presence is illegal on a “taken island”.
But, let’s take the whole story from the beginning.
Turkey’s internal situation
Referendum. On 16 April 2017, Turks voted in a referendum, by a slight majority of almost 51%, on transforming Turkey, from the parliamentary system, into an “executive presidency”.
Which are the innovations of the new system?
As a major change could be considered the abolition of the Ministerial Council as an institution together with the institutional position of Prime Minister.
All the Executive power belongs to one person, the President of the Republic. The latter will nominate and dismiss the Ministers without control. The Ministers will refer exclusively to the President of the Republic, not to the Parliament (Great National Assembly).
The same goes as for the number and choice of the Vice-Presidents who are freely and without control selected by the President of the Republic.
The number of candidate Presidents is limited since only the two bigger parties can nominate candidates or 100.000 citizens.
President’s and National Assembly’s tenure is for five years and one of the main goals of the provisions of the new Constitution is the “ideological alignment” between President and National Assembly’s majority, provisions which have received a strong criticism by experts on Constitutional Law.
The President has the right to dissolve the Assembly. Nevertheless the same right belongs to the Assembly too, if a majority of 3/5 is obtained. In such a case, the outgoing President has the right to be candidate for a third time – in Erdogan’s case the tenure could be prolonged until 2029 – and many analysts use their arrows to underscore the possibility of collusion between President and National Assembly.
If the new Constitution is considered by eminent experts in Constitution Law as “Ceasar Law”, it is not less true that in the first seven decades since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, six out of nine Presidents had military backgrounds.
In 2015, Turkish author Mustafa Akyol deplored his country’s “authoritarian drift”.
The well known journalist and prize author Asli Erdogan, who has been imprisoned by the Turkish regime, underscores, inter alia, in an interview :
“Nobody can talk today for Turkey as a Democracy. Turkey today is one man show, whose words are a Law. The whole system is corrupted, mainly Justice. Today 2.500 Judges are in prison. ”
“Living in prison for four months I have understood that the situation is much worst than what I could imagine. There are stories appearing unbelievable, however true. If a man kills a woman, the penalty will be 10-15 years in prison. If a woman has even the minimal relation with the assassination she takes a life sentence”.
Former Ankara’s Mayor, AKP member, dismissed by Erdogan, Melih Goksek was very critical as to the pogrom of Gulen supporters, observing that “Annihilating completely Gulen movement in Turkey, will take more than 10 years”.
Since the failed coup d’ état of 15 July 2016, 200.000 persons have been jailed or arrested, in particular Army and Police officers, Academics and members of the Administration. International media such as the Independent, Der Spiegel, the Guardian, Newsweek, Telegraph, Huffington Post, and others have no doubt to call Erdogan a dictator. Erdogan reply was :”If the West calls someone a dictator, in my view is a good thing” (sic).
Nevertheless, we have not to forget that the person the West media call today “dictator”, has been awarded in 2004 with the prize of “the European of the Year”. It was Erdogan’s first period of reforms and first flirt with EU. Later, when he understood that EU “has a word to say in shaping country’s economic policy”, started to step back.
In the Forbes list of the richest politicians in international level, Erdogan is in the first places with 51 million euros.
Political Islam and Secularism. To which extend Turkey today could be seen as a secular country?
Political analysts focus to the fact that Turkey never was secular in the way Americans perceive secularism, as it is incorporated in the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which prohibits Congress from adopting laws establishing a state religion or restrict the free exercise of one’s faith. In Turkey, the government has a real control in the field of expression of religious beliefs, in a public framework.
Nevertheless, Mrs Eminé Erdogan, spouse of the Turkish leader and one of the most faithful followers of the hijab today, in her biography said that “when her brother announced her at the age of fifteen, that she has to wear a hijab, she was so disappointed that she thought even to suicide”.
International reports characterize current AKP as an Islamist party. When opposition coalitions tried to overpass AKP, as it is the case of the candidacy of former OIC General Secretary Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the outcome was in favor of AKP and Erdogan who, in the eyes of the people is already “a man devoted to Islam”.
In 2004, former U.S. Secretary of State Collin Powell, in one of his statements, referred to Turkey as a “moderate Islamic State”. Turkish protests were so vivid, that Powell himself felt “obliged” to revise his initial formulation, in a kind of “excuse”. But the turn of the Turkish government to “political Islam”, is so clear today, that 2004 seems to be very far.
In parallel, Erdoğan was considered as a progressive interlocutor, reformer in his country, international reports, without prejudice, paid tribute to the – notwithstanding limited – but of a significant importance progress in Human Rights and on 3 October 2005, the negotiations for Turkey’s accession to the EU formally started, thanks’ to EU officials perspicacity, in particular to Greek diplomacy which in an open-minded approach had a long political vision.
In 2005 in one of his speeches, Erdogan underscored that “he sees Democracy only as a vehicle”, in the framework of his policy.
Ten years after, all the control in the State, the Public Administration, Media, Army, and Justice belongs to the Government. Nowhere the Opposition Parties! Furthermore, the most worrying is the repeated phenomenon of hatred speeches against “West” in general, but also against Muslims whose “their Islam does not match to the dimensions and form of AKP’s Islam”!
Media and Justice. Turkish Professor Akdeniz observes that in Turkey, Wikipedia is one of the 127.00 websites which are “forbidden and blocked”. To this number, he has to add another 95.000 sites in the social media.
CHP says that more than 152 Turkish journalists are in prison and about 200 media are forbidden to function.
Criticism in Turkey must be “self-controlled and objective”.
In February 2017 , Deniz Yucel, a Turkish-German journalist working for “Die Welt” was arrested after having written about some hacked emails of Berat Albayrac, Minister of Energy and Erdogan’s son in law. On this occasion, Amnesty International underscored :”Now, Turkey has the peculiar honor to be the country with the greater number of journalists being in jail, whilst free press in the country is dying”.
In November 2016, Cumhuriet – perhaps the “flag” of the opposition press in Turkey – has seen her journalists to be arrested and jailed, without any evidence or “official accusation”.
According to published statistics with latest update August 2017, the Turkish government has arrested 2.431 judges and prosecutors and dismissed 4.424 others after the coup d’ état of July 2016.
In December 2016 the European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) suspended the observer status of Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).
In June 2017, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks expressed concern about the new composition of HSYK, based on amendments which have been approved in the referendum of April 2016, observing that “they not offer adequate safeguards for the independence of the judiciary”.
The European Court of Human Rights has issued 485 decisions during the period 2012-2016 condemning Turkey to indemnisations of a total amount of 61.4 mil. euros, while 8.308 petitions have been filed in 2016. These data rank Turkey in the first place of violations of Human Rights. The relevant statistics have been released by the Turkish Minister of Justice, in reply to a CHP parliamentary question.
In the light of the above, veteran Swedish writer and Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature Per Wastberg, did not resisted to characterize Turkey, in 2017, as “the largest jailer of intellectuals and journalists in the world”.
In the same direction, Turkish Nobel laureate novelist Orhan Pamuk added : “All the time one feels guilty when he is just happy with books and films and when one’s writing when so much horror is happening in one’s country. So many guiltless people put into prison in an arbitrary way”.
When the U.N. Representative in Ankara, after the July 2016 coup, asked the Turkish government to take into consideration the detainees’ Human Rights, the official reaction of the Turkish Foreign Ministry was to characterize this recommendation as “unacceptable”. And this is, once more, the most important concern : The unprecedented lack of respect vis a vis to international bodies, organizations or law. In brief, vis a vis everything “international”.
Relations with the West
NATO. In a previous article entitled “Turkey’s over-expanded missile defense system”, just before the purchase of the Russian missiles S-400, I have, inter alia, underscored that “ In this context we cannot overpass Erdogan’s last year statement in CBS, as to the prospects of re-evaluation of Turkey ‘s relations with the United States and NATO : «We are not considering this right now. We are moving along with NATO as we have always done».
To which extend the formulation “not right now” could become key-words?”
In early September 2017, a NATO spoke-man stated that “Turkey did not informed NATO on the S-400 missiles purchase”, adding that “In present circumstances no NATO member uses S-400 missiles. NATO member states decide themselves on which weapon systems they will purchase. For NATO the essential is the possibility of common use of the weapon systems which will be purchased, by the Allies”.
With this system, Turkey will be in an advanced military position against all its neighboring countries, but S-400 are in a kind “incompatible” for co-operation with NATO weapon systems.
If the missiles will be installed close to Aegean Sea, then it will be clear that their potential use will not be “defensive” but “offensive”, since Greece never threatened Turkey’s territorial integrity.
It seems that the S-400 missiles purchase, was a crucial – not to say fatal – turning point in Turkey-West relations.
Before that, in July 2017 the Turkish State News Agency Anadolu has divulged the locations of 10 U.S. military bases and outposts in northern Syria, while U.S. led an operation against the Islamic State! Despite Erdogan’s anger for the U.S. having chosen Turds instead of Turkey, as U.S. partners in the fight against ISIS, as political analysts remark “it is highly unusual for a NATO ally to reveal details of a U.S. military deployment during active operations in a war zone”.
In September 2017, the German military air-force in Incirlik air-base, moved in a new air base in Jordan (in Al Ashrak area, close to the borders with Syria), on a decision of the German government, after a protracted denial of Turkish government to allow Members of Bundestag to pay visit to the German troops. It is the same base the use of which has been denied by Turkish authorities during the war in Iraq, 2003, costing thousands of lives to the Allies.
In November 2017, after a mistake in a NATO exercise depicting Erdogan as “enemy”, Erdogan did not accepted the “excuse” of NATO officials, and his chief Counselor Yalcin Topcu advanced the idea that “Turkey must review its participation to NATO”.
In the light of the latter reference, Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund Washington think tank, underlined that “When our major European ally pulls its forces out of Incirlik because it couldn’t be guaranteed access, it should warn you what happened to Germany, could happen to us”.
It is an open secret that Turkey is among the five NATO countries to have U.S. nukes on its soil. Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, said that the U.S. keeps about 50 B-61 nuclear gravity bombs at Turkey’s Incirlik base, each with a maximum yield of 170 kilotons, or 10 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Political analysts, have already started thinking that “there are many arguments for pulling U.S. nuclear weapons out of Turkey before something goes wrong”.
E.U. Between NATO-Turkey and E.U.-Turkey relations, it is difficult to distinguish which of them is currently in a lower level.
In June 2017, the European Parliament, in its resolution on the situation in Turkey, addresses harsh criticism for the situation of rule of law in the country, the Human Rights, the freedom of media, and the corruption. Moreover, the European Parliament invites Turkey to prove an active support for a successful and speedy solution on Cyprus.
When immigrants and refugees are used as a “hostages” and as an “instrument of blackmailing E.U.” by the Turkish government, how one could imagine a kind of progress in the negotiations?
In September 2017, European Commission President Jean Claude Junker stated for Turkey that “It is unconceivable the leader of a state to call the EU “fascists” and “nazi” and wishing to become a member state of it”, adding that “Europe is a continent of mature Democracies and those who insult us burn bridges”.
A very worrying point is that Erdogan wishes to make political interventions “inside the E.U.”, for questions which belong exclusively to the competence of E.U member states or European institutions.
In March 2017, after the celebration of 60 years from the Treaty of Rome signature, the “27” Heads of Government or State, had the “unfortunate” idea to meet with Pope Francis, in Vatican, without having the previous “consent” of Erdogan! The latter’s anger had no precedent: “It is not your business to be gathered around the Pope! Vatican is not an EU member! You don’t make Turkey an EU member because it is an Islamic country…” characterizing them as “Crusaders”!
In the same period, Erdogan in a message to “his compatriots brothers and sisters living in Europe”, urged them, inter alia, “to use the best schools, drive the best cars, live in the best houses and have five children not only three” (sic), adding “This is the best answer you can give to the rudeness and hostility you face”.
In the context of E.U.-Turkey relations we are witnesses of a “contradictory” Turkish approach: From one side Turkish policy – at least the official one until now – is in favor of accession, while from the other side, statements of Turkish officials reveal a detestation, hatred or anger for the International Organization they wish to enter!
Destabilizing role in the Balkans
Some months after the assumption of his duties as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, in the opening of the event “Ottoman legacy and Balkan Muslim Communities Today”, Sarajevo, 16.09.2009, characterized the Balkans as “geo-political buffer zone, which overcame this position to become a center of world politics during Ottoman rule in the 16th century”. Preaching the neo-ottoman doctrine, he added “Turkey would reinvent and re-establish this golden age of the Balkans”.
Saying to the peoples of the Balkans, who consider the Ottoman age as “occupation”, that this “golden age” has to be re-established, if it is not a lack of respect, then it is a real threat for a “new occupation”.
In October 2013, a very delicate period for Kosovo, during his visit to Prizren in southern Kosovo, Erdogan said that “Turkey is Kosovo, and Kosovo is Turkey”. To which extend, someone could support that this kind of statements contribute to the creation of a climate of stability, co-existence and cooperation, amongst Balkan peoples?
Who could deny that the pro-Turkish political parties in Bulgaria receive support together with guidelines from Ankara, being unable to follow their own policy?
Some years ago, in a Balkan-wide poll, to the question “in which extend do you consider Turkey as a friendly country”, the positive results in Croatia was 24%, in Serbia15%, in Albania 73%, in Kosovo 85% and in FYROM 80%.
In April 2009 Greece and Albania signed an Agreement on respective Exclusive Economic Zones’ delimitation.
In June 2017, former Prime Minister and President of Albania Sali Berisha accused publicly in a Parliament’s session, Prime Minister Edin Rama that he has been bribed by a “third country” in order to annul the Agreement! The media have decodified Turkey’s “photo”, as a “third country”.
The cooperation Erdogan-Rama has been developed in a so “constructive” way, that in May 2015, Erdogan, during his visit to Tirana, characterized openly the Albanian coasts, as “the borders of the neo-ottomanism in Adriatic Sea” ! In parallel, Erdogan claimed the closure of private Universities and Schools as functioning in a pro-Fetullah Gulen way, while Rama upgraded Turkey as a “strategic partner” with full Turkish economic and commercial penetration.
In January 2018 Erdogan, in an interview to the Arnavud Agency Express tried to shape a new European agenda in the Balkans giving emphasis that “Albanians must in first stage unify their territories and after seeking access to the E.U.”
In late 2017, Erdogan stated that “the borders of our heart are extended until Vienna”. Some days later added that “Ottoman Empire had an area of more that 2.000.000 square km while nowadays Turkey only 783.000 square km.”, advancing publicly the new Turkish expansionist agenda, on the expenses of the stability in the wider region.
Frankly speaking, I have read differences in legal and political texts, on “legal borders”, “terrestrial”, “sea”, “air”, “provisional”, “agreed”, and many other ways to visualize borders. Nevertheless, I have never met the terms “borders of our heart”, even in a TV show.
The cost of the wars in the Balkans during the 90’s is estimated, only for the United States, at more than 30 billions dollars. As Svetlana Broz, Tito’s granddaughter observes, in her article “The name Macedonia cannot work”, “The European Union, the United Nations and the international community have invested considerable political and economic capital and deployed great efforts in terms of peacemaking and peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia and in humanitarian assistance to the Balkans. This was not in vain.
It is obvious that the international community seeks a climate of stability, cooperation and consent in a region where the future is connected with development”.
Nevertheless, a brief look at the websites is good enough in order to form an idea about the Turkey’s divisive role in the Balkans, if not, in some cases Balkan’s borders redrawing.
Turkey’s Economy. Classified by IMF as “emerging/developing economy”, Turkey participates in G20 meetings, in the framework of which, during 2015, assumed the presidency.
Nevertheless, recent surveys realize that at the end of October 2017 – according to official Turkish Statistics – inflation reached 11,9%, level which is more than the double of the goal set up by the Central Bank (5%).
Another worrying phenomenon is that during the last three months of 2017 more than 1 billion investments in Turkey, preferred to abandon the country.
In the same period the devaluation of the Turkish pound vis a vis to U.S. dollar reached the level of 15%. In an extended analysis, the Chatam House Royal Institute of International Affairs, one year ago, observed that “every Turkish pound which will be devaluated will have ramifications in the private sector of economy, which already bears the weight of Turkish debt, reaching 25% of GDP”.
The analysis underscores that Erdogan’s external policy is damaging Turkish economy, the total export volume of which was decreased by 8,7% in 2015. In addition, trade with Iran was decreased from 21,89 U.S. dollars in 2012 to 9,7 in 2015, whilst the Russian Su-24 demolition in November 2015, resulted a loss of more than 20 billion U.S. dollars to Turkish economy.
According to international statistics, Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East, living dispersed in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria and having a diaspora in Europe, a total of around 37 million people.
In past decades, the great success of Turkish diplomacy is the limitation of the “Kurdish problem”, only to the terrorist organization of PKK, leaving “out of the picture”, the problems of the Kurdish people!
The recent imprisonment of Peoples’ Democratic Party Selahattin Demirtas is one more confirmation of the above. Demirtas, known also as “the Kurdish Obama”, in his party congress, May 2017, underscored, inter alia, that “Whatever happens, the HDP will not abandon democratic politics, it will insist on non-violent methods to find a solution to political problems ”, calling to prepare “a plan to fight for Democracy and Peace”.
Nevertheless, Prosecutors proposals foresaw 142 years in jail for Demirtas, because of previous statements “insulting the Turkish people, the government and state institutions”, and also 83 years for the highly party ranking Yuksekdag.
Turkey’s Constitution provides a single nationality designation for all Turks, thus does not recognize ethnic groups as national or ethnic minorities. Citizens of Kurdish origin have constituted a large ethnic and linguistic group.
Citizens of Kurdish origin assimilated in the political, economic and social life of Turkey, they consider themselves as Turks. In politics we have sounding examples of Turkish politicians of Kurdish origin such as Turgut Ozal, Hikmet Cetin, Bulent Ecevit, Mehmet Simsek, Bekir Bozdag and others.
However, citizens who publicly or politically assert their Kurdish nationality or publicly opt for the use of Kurdish, risk a public censure or prosecution. And there are millions of citizens in Turkey identifying them as Kurds.
Some years ago, a group of from Central Europe followed a touristic visit across Turkey: It sounds strange, but nowhere and nobody, whoever was, accepted “the existence of minorities” in Turkey. At the same time the group had meetings with the Kurdish Associations in many areas, who confirmed the considerable percentage of Kurds among the total population of that area.
The Kurds in Iraq in a referendum on 25 September 2017 voted for their independence, in an overwhelming majority of 93% and participation more than 72%.
The non proclamation of independence is interpreted by analysts as a diplomatic victory of Turkey and Iran.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that “the U.S. government does not recognize the referendum”, inviting all interested parties in this case to start a dialogue.
Relations with Syria.
The problems in Turkey-Syria relations dated since 1938, when the Sanjak of Alexandretta became independent from the French mandate and following a referendum in 1939, decided to join Turkey as the Hatay Province. This self-annexation has never been recognized by Syria, which continues to show the Hatay Province as part of Syria in relevant maps.
Turkish control of the water flow of Euphrates, Tigris and Orantes rivers creates additional tensions and disputes, while Turkey blames Syria for supporting PKK, an organization enlisted as terrorist in international level.
In 2008, Turkey has been entrusted by Damascus and Tel Aviv in order to play a role of facilitator between them to solve their dispute over control in the Golan Heights, but these talks had been abandoned following the deterioration of Turkey-Israel relations.
The Syrian conflict was a catalyst in Erdogan’s political behavior and Turkey-Syria relations.
The Arab spring further fueled Erdogan’s ambitions to gain leadership in the Sunni Muslim world. In this context, Erdogan’s formerly “brother Assad” became “enemy number one”. Therefore, it was consecutive that Erdogan actively supported Syrian opposition groups.
In June 2017, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik stated that 690 out of a total 828 planed kilometers wall, in Turkish borders with Syria, have been completed.
After having announced the same plans to the Turkish borders with Armenia and Iran, political analysts in the West focused on what “Turkey’s approach is similar to North Korea’s with an increasing trend of isolationism, not consistent with a NATO member country”.
Relations with Iran
It’s not very distant the time when former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied on camera Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s bid, during his official visit to Tehran, to “mediate” in reaching a dialogue between Iran and U.S.: “If we wish a dialogue with Americans we shall talk directly with them” he replied.
In a 2012 Pew Research Global Attitudes Survey, 54% of Turks oppose Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, 46% consider a nuclear-armed Iran somewhat a “threat” and 26% support the use of military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, the decision of Turkey to site NATO missile shield radar in its south-east area has been seen by the Iranians as a serious break in relations.
In the context of the war in Yemen, Iran and Turkey supported rival, Shia and Sunni, groups, which led Recep Tayyip Erdogan to state that “Iran and the terrorist groups must withdraw” while Mohammad Javad Zarif replied “Turkey makes strategic mistakes”.
Nevertheless, the risk for creation of a Kurdish independent state, in particular after the non- recognized referendum of 25 September 2017, the result of which gave a 92% positive votes, played a catalyst role for a “rapprochement” and a circumstantial alliance between Iran and Turkey and of course Iraq.
Articles and analysis in international level talk about the new (moving) shape, or better “moving sand” in the region.
For Professor Huseyin Bagci (Ankara ‘s Middle East Technical University and unofficial adviser to the Turkish presidency), “A new structure is emerging in the region, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, as one block, Iran, Iraq and Syria the other one. There is a battle for regional hegemony, and Turkey is in the middle”.
At the same time Turkey has announced the construction of 144 km long of a wall, in a total of 500 km Turkish-Iranian border.
During the last three months, bilateral high-level meetings between Iran and Turkey have been increasingly multiplied.
Reporters underscore that in October 2017 Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Erdogan that “the Kurdistan referendum was an attempt by the U.S. to create a second Israel in the region”. The two leaders expressed also their support to boost bilateral trade to reach 30 billion dollars for a year turnover, including Turkey’s import of natural gas.
Nevertheless, two very experienced analysts from RAND corporation, Stephen Larrabee and Alireza Nader, in a previous analysis, 2013, consider this optimism as excessive: “Turkey and Iran have historically been and continue to be rivals rather than close partners”.
Relations with Iraq
Before World War I, contemporary Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire, and this explains many things in Turkish visualization and concept in this case of bilateral relations.
During the Iran-Iraq war, Turkey, despite its official neutral stance, indirectly supported Iraq.
However, the problem over the rights on the waters of Euphrates and Tigris’ rivers, although less acute than the same one with Syria, extends its shadow over the Turkish-Iraqi relations : It concerns the famous Turkish GAP project implementation, since the 70’s, foreseeing the construction of 22 dams, for irrigation and hydroelectric energy purposes.
The “Arab spring” and the war in Syria resulted Turkey’s revision of political approach on Iraq: As former Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis wrote, “Because of the fluidity of developments in the Middle East, almost every actor in regional crises may have opposed another actor at one stage, while having cooperated with them at another stage. This is true of Turkey and Iraq in recent years. Ankara turned a deaf ear when Baghdad expressed reservations about oil exports by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). But the KRG’s independence referendum prepared the ground for Turkey and Iraq to turn a new page; they are now genuinely cooperating”.
“Cooperating” in such a degree, that Turkey maintains some 2.000 troops inside the Iraqi territory (!). On April 25 2017, five Peshmerga fighters were killed during a Turkish attack on Sinjar in Iraq. Turkey claimed to have destroyed “terror hubs”. Iraq denounced the strike as a “violation” of its “sovereignty”.
To which extend current Turkish-Iraqi “cooperation” against Kurds is occasional?
Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution of 2005 foresees a referendum to determine whether Kirkuk’s citizens wish to join the Kurdistan region. Nevertheless, this referendum has never taken place, for various reasons.
On the other hand, some political experts on the region, think that Iran is in a better position than Turkey as for the future of Kirkuk.
In this context, special attention is due to Turkish retired Brig. Gen. Naim Baburoglu observations, who agrees with those who believe that Turkey’s influence on Kirkuk will be limited : “Developments in Iraq are not independent of developments in Syria, where Kurds have also gained ground with U.S. and Russian backing. Turkey supports Iraq’s territorial integrity, which the Kurdish administration endangered. The PKK also used the turmoil to strengthen its position in northern Iraq. It is therefore the lesser evil for Turkey to have the central government controlling Kirkuk, in the name of preserving Iraq’s territorial integrity against Kurdish aspirations, since independence for Kurds, remains the principal threat for Turkey”.
That’s why Iraq’s territorial integrity is the priority number one for Turkey.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan words, since already 2009 – focusing on ramifications of a Kurdish state in Iraq, but avoiding to talk about Turkey – are very clear in that respect: “We defend establishment of an Iraqi state on the basis of Iraq nationality. Common ground is being an Iraqi national. If you set up a Kurdish state, then others will try to set up a Shia state and others an Arab state. There, you divide Iraq into three. This can lead Iraq into a civil war”.
Relations with Armenia
Despite Ahmet Davutoglu’s doctrine as “zero problems with neighbors”, Turkey’s relations with Armenia are “limited” instead to say “frozen”.
Turkey was amongst the first countries to recognize Armenia after the latter’s independence in 1991, but till now formal diplomatic relations have not been established. After Nagorno Karabakh crisis, Turkish borders with Armenia remain closed.
The European Parliament, before its recent resolution of 2015, is the first international body which has recognized, since 1987, the tragic events between 1915-1917 as genocide, on its resolution “on a political solution to the Armenian question” (Vandemeulbroucke Report voted on 18.06.1987).
In July 2001, a Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission was created in Geneva with ten members from Armenia, Turkey, Russia and the United States.
Turkey and Turkish Grand National Assembly advanced the idea of establishing a joint commission composed of historians from Turkey and Armenia “which would examine both countries’ national archives and disclose the findings of their research to the international public”.
Armenia’s position, which is reflected in the official response of President Robert Kocharyan to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 2005, was that “It is the responsibility of governments to develop bilateral relations and we have not the right to delegate this responsibility to historians”.
The assassination of the well known journalist and writer Hrant Dink, January 2007, a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent, aggravated bilateral relations, since Dink was instrumental in promoting a discussion on the Armenian Genocide.
In September 2008, Turkish President Abdullah Gul paid the first – although informal – visit of a Head of Turkish state in Armenia, after invitation of President Serzh Sargsyan, to attend a FIFA World Cup qualifier match between football national teams of the two countries.
Foreign Ministers Eduard Nalbandyan and Ahmet Davutoglu signed an accord, Zurich, 10 October 2009. The signing was attended by the Ministers of France, United States and Russia, Bernard Kouchner, Hillary Clinton and Sergey Lavrov. The Hellenic Presidency, at that time, within OSCE, welcomed by an official statement “the historic agreement to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia”.
For various reasons, the enumeration of which lies outside the present analysis, this accord is considered today as a “dead letter”.
Turkish-Armenian borders being closed, Georgian ports of Batumi and Poti cover at least 70% of cargo shipped to and from Armenia.
The Armenian Genocide is already recognized by 29 states, members of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, American Jewish Organizations and 48 out of 50 of the U.S. states, the European People’s Party (EPP), Latin American International bodies, while Pope Francis I, classified the tragic events of 1915-1917 as “the first genocide of the 20th century”.
Relations with Bulgaria
Both countries are members of NATO, but Bulgaria is a full EU member while Turkey has a candidate status.
Both of them are members of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) with a bilateral economic and commercial turnover which annually reaches 4 billion dollars.
In Bulgaria there are around 700.000 Bulgarians of Turkish origin, that is more or less 9% of the total population, while in Turkey live more than 400.000 Bulgarian Turks.
Political analysts do not hesitate in characterizing the National Liberation Movement of Turks in Bulgaria, which was formed in 1984, as a terrorist organization, the leaders of which created I January 1990 the Movement for Rights and Freedom (MRF Party), headed by Ahmed Dogan.
On April 2016, the “Democrats for Responsibility, Freedom and Tolerance Party” (DOST Party) is created by Lyutvi Mestan, who was “expelled” from the MRF Party, after having “justified” Russian warplane downing by Turkey, in November 2015.
“Dost” means in Turkish “closed friend”, while, in this case, its leader is blamed by MRF leader as willing to launch an “Islamist” political party.
Erdogan, in a speech in Ankara, before the elections in Bulgaria, has openly urged Bulgarian voters of Turkish origin to vote “massively” for the DOST Party. The latter “accuses” MRF as having a pro Russian policy.
Bulgarian caretaker Prime Minister during the electoral period Ognyan Gerdzhikov underscored that “Turkey had tried to influence Bulgarian elections since the fall of communism 26 years ago, and now there is nothing that is a way different”.
Turkey’s investments in Bulgaria in the first quarter of 2017 amounted to 24,5 million euros, while in November over 500 representatives from both countries have attended the Sofia Forum.
Turkey advances its capabilities to guarantee Bulgaria’s “energy security”. Nevertheless, a Bulgarian government statement, after Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik, in November 2017, underlines that “The two agreed that Bulgaria’s relations with Turkey are based on the principles of good-neighborliness, mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs”.
Relations with Greece
The Ataturk Society of America, reflecting “Kemalists” mind, in an official declaration underscore that “The Lausanne Treaty should be considered as the Treaty that changed the course of world affairs and set the course for the 20th century’s free and democratic system. A distinguished feature of the Lausanne Treaty is that it was not only a peace instrument, more importantly it was an international recognition of a new state. It was the death certificate of the Ottoman Empire and the birth certificate of the Turkish Republic”.
Indeed, the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 was a “gift” of the international community to the newly established Turkish Republic, minimizing – on expenses of other allies, in particular Greece – the terms of the Treaty of Sevres, 1920, to Turkey as a loser of the World War I.
The historic Greek leader in that period Eleftherios Venizelos developed a true and franc friendship with Kemal Ataturk, in such a degree that on January 12th 1934, by an official letter to the President of Nobel Prize Committee, he has proposed his Turkish counterpart “for the distinguished honor of the Nobel Peace Prize”.
As it is well known the Lausanne Treaty does not refer only to Greek-Turkish relations. It’s an international Treaty of Peace, between the British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania and the Serb-Croat-Slovene State from one side and Turkey from the other.
It regulates, inter alia, borders of Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, Persia (Iran), Iraq,
It stipulates that “Turkey hereby recognizes and accepts the frontiers of Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Serb-Croat-Slovene State and the Czhechoslovak State….”
It confirms “The renunciation by Turkey of all rights and titles over Egypt and over Soudan…”, as well as that “Turkey hereby recognizes the definite abolition of all rights and privileges whatsoever which she enjoyed in Libya…..”, in addition to the rights of Tunisian, Libyan and Moroccans nationals established in Turkey.
Last but not least, the Treaty stipulates that “Turkey hereby recognizes the annexation of Cyprus proclaimed by the British Government…..”. In fact, this formulation does not leave any margin of legal and political basis, for future rights of Turkey in Cyprus.
International Law Experts, including Turkish ones, coincide on the ascertainment that “An international peace treaty does not end unless it is foreseen an expiration date or a new war between the parties has been declared”.
In this context, let’s see some interesting points of reference in the Lausanne Treaty’s trip throughout almost ten past decades.
Until 1973, Turkey has never – at least officially – put in question Greece’s sea and air borders. It was after Greece having found oil reserves in the sea area of Thasos island and, since then the violations of Greece’s territorial waters and airspace take place on a daily basis.
Turkey not having participated in the UNCLOS, 1982, the Greek government of Constantin Karamanlis, already from late 70’s had proposed to Turkey to proceed to the International Court of Justice, Hague, for the solution of the only legal existing difference, that is the delimitation of the continental shelf (plateau continental).
Despite initial positive joint statement, Turkey, in fact, refused and continues to do so.
On 31 May 1995 Greece has ratified the UNCLOS as 167 participant states have up to now done so. The Turkish immediate response was Grand National Assembly’s resolution of 8 June 1995 threatening Greece by “military actions”, if the latter decided to implement the Convention! A “casus belli” (reason for war) policy.
What it is self-evident for all the states in the world, faces Turkish “allergy” against International Law, in this case!
The “Convention regarding the regime of the Straits”, signed at Montreux, 20 July 1936, stipulates that “Desiring to regulate transit and navigation in the Straits of Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus comprised under the general term “Straits”….”. Nevertheless, in direct confrontation with international Conventions, Turkish side uses the term “Turkish Straits”. In addition, in 1993, the Turkish authorities have put in force arbitrary regulations regarding navigation through the Straits, in violation of the Montreux Convention.
In December 2017, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim focused on Suleiman Demirel’s statements, 1998, that “the grey points in Aegean Sea include 132 islands or islets, in the sense that they have not been delimited by the Lausanne Treaty”.
On this basis, Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu stated recently that “There is no alternative: Either diplomatic dialogue, either International Court, or military intervention (!), but we shall “take” the islands” (sic).
However, CHP President and major opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu statements, are even more worrying : “In 2019, when we shall be in power, I shall “take” 18 islands from Greece! In a past period, Greeks advanced also for Cyprus, “Come and take it” (Molon Lave). Which was the reply of the unforgettable Ecevit? He went and he “took“ it”.
If Turkish Foreign Minister’s statement that “There are not sea borders between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean”, is out of any serious framework of discussion, Turkey’s “initiative” to reserve by official NAVTEX three extended areas in the Aegean, for military exercises, during all 2018 long, lies beyond any kind of imagination!
Nevertheless, it is to be noted that UNCLOS constitutes a full part of European Union’s “acquis”, to whish Turkey wishes to enter.
Before the Lausanne Treaty, Greeks in Constantinople (note:I use the term “Constantinople” which is used in the original as well as in the official translation texts of the Lausanne Treaty) reached 279.788 according to the Turkish census of 1920.
At the same time, according to the English-French census, Muslims in Western Thrace were 86.793.
Today in Istanbul remain only less than 4.000 people, while in Western Thrace there is a thriving Muslim population more than 120.000. This is the score : An increase almost 50% in Western Thrace, in comparison to a decrease about 95% in Constantinople/Istanbul.
An orchestrated pogrom against Greek minority in Istanbul in September 1955, published in international press of that period, obliged many Greeks to abandon their homes and leave the country. Nevertheless, in 1964 the pogrom was even harder, since the members of the Greek minority were obliged to leave immediately, leaving all their property in Turkey.
In spring 2004, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, newly established in power, paid visit in Western Thrace together with the then Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, giving the message to his audience “to work and have progress in Greece and love Greece because they live in this country”, receiving their applause.
After thirteen years, in a 180 degrees opposite direction, Erdogan, visiting again Western Thrace – following previous visits of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavusoglu within a period of less that six months! – addressed to Greek citizens of Muslim faith as “Turks”, added that “We (Turks) have four members in the Hellenic Parliament who they have to do many things”, and greeted with the symbolic Muslim way with four fingers, thumb being closed (rabia).
The term “rabia” means in Arabic “four” and has been emerged in 2013 in Egypt by Muslim Brotherhood in order to give support to Mohamed Morsi. It has also a mystical meaning, symbolizing the four steps to power, that is the presence of Islam, the selection of the future Muslim brothers, the clash and the domination.
All these messages confirm a kind of irredentism. But, just a moment: Irredentism for what? In Greece, Greek citizens of the Muslim minority are treated with a positive discrimination, in relation with all other citizens: A special quota in favor of Muslim students to enter Universities is already in force since 1996.
Regarding Erdogan’s recent visit in Greece, in December 2017, New York Times underscored that “Erdogan wished to have a photo in a NATO and EU country”, taking into consideration the isolation and poorness of invitations to the Turkish leader after the coup of July 2016.
Despite the fact that all the European officials thought that this visit could become a “bridge” between EU and Turkey, Erdogan had no doubt in exploding the climate of a fruitful discussion on cooperation matters, putting the validity of Lausanne Treaty in question (after 94 years!…), advancing irrelevant and unfounded claims for Greek islands, insisting on naming the Muslim minority of Western Thrace as “Turkish” (despite the fact that Lausanne Treaty does not recognize national minorities), and also advancing the claim of extradition ”here and now” of 8 Turkish officers, asylum seekers to Greece after the coup, while the question is a pure competence of Justice.
By a general recognition, the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos is one of the most well known and highly estimated Professor of Law, amongst the “big names” in Law Science in a European level. It sounds, therefore, contradictory (in the best case) to hear Turkish President to address, in a presumptuous way, to his Greek counterpart that “I am not a Law Professor but I know very well the political law (or the law of policy)”.
In fact, in my career, I have run many sectors and classifications of law, but it is the first time that I meet the “political law” or “the law of the policy”. Probably, it should be Mr. Erdogan’s new invention.
The storm of statements from the international community, in particular from USA, Germany, Bulgaria, did not left a margin for optimism to Mr. Erdogan. However, the most catalyst strike against his arguments came “from inside”, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu : “If Turkey’s President does not know History, then he has to invite an historian to explain to him. Lausanne Treaty is a privilege for Turkey, while even Mr. Erdogan himself has stated, in earlier times, that Lausanne Treaty is a privilege for Turkey”. “We defend Lausanne Treaty, AKP defends the Treaty of Sevres. We defend Democracy, they defend the Caliphate. We defend citizens, they defend slavery”.
There is a question of particular sensitivity for the Greek people: After the “successful” operation of the Ottoman regime against Armenians in the period 1915-1917, the new government of Mustafa Kemal, on 19 May 1919 put in force a perfectly organized plan for the extermination of more than 350.000 Greek inhabitants in Pontos region, Turkey.
Within the limits of the present analysis, I don’t mention more than United States President Woodrow Wilson statement :“I am in hearty sympathy with every just effort being made by the people of the United States to alleviate the terrible sufferings of the Greeks of Asia Minor. None have suffered more or more unjustly than they.”, as well as British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, speaking on Greek deportations in the House of Commons : “… tens of thousands of men, women and children have been deported, and tens of thousands have died. It was pure deliberate extermination”, adding that “extermination is not my own term. It is the term which is used in this case by the American Mission in place”.
A recent event confirms the general atmosphere in Turkey against Greeks today, and it is not an “opinion” or “estimation” but a fact : The great Greek cynical philosopher of 5th-4th century B.C. Diogenes was born in Sinopi, a city on the Black Sea. The city’s square was, since many decades, decorated by a statue of this classical philosopher. According to a recent publication of the daily “Hurriet” the municipal authorities, plan to remove the statue “after protests of citizens that the latter diffuses the Greek Philosophy”.
Last but not least: Turkey, with support of Russian technology, has started the construction in Akkuyu, close to sea borders with Greece, in a very vulnerable region to earthquakes, of a nuclear energy production unit. That means that in addition to the environmental pollution effects, in some years Turkey will be a potential nuclear power in the wider South East Mediterranean area.
Relations with Israel
Turkish-Israeli relations faced many fluctuations, during the last seven decades. Turkey, although it had voted against the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, recognized the State of Israel in 1949.
After Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and enunciation of Jerusalem as “its eternal capital”, Turkish representation was downgraded to the level of “Second Secretary” in 1980.
In 1990 a strategic intelligence cooperation agreement was signed between Israel’s Mossad and Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT). However, Israel accuses Turkey for having “betrayed its strategic trust and violated the unwritten rules of international intelligence conduct and relations”, in the war against ISIS.
In early 2006, the Israeli Foreign Ministry described its country’s relations with Turkey as “perfect.”
Further deterioration occurred following the Gaza Flotilla Incident of May 2010, when eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American were killed by Israeli troops while aboard a convoy attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Erdoğan described the raid as “state terrorism” and Turkey immediately recalled its ambassador from Israel and summoned the Israeli ambassador to demand an explanation. The Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that the incident could lead to irreparable consequences in bilateral relations
A reconciliation agreement was announced on 27 June 2016 to end the six-year rift in the relation between both countries.
The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) leaders who held an extraordinary meeting in Constantinople, on Wednesday, December 13, after Donald Trump’s decision to remove U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem decided, Turkey’s included, to declare “East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine”, as was written in the official closing announcement of the summit.
In this context, a factor aggravating in a catalyst way the political atmosphere is Erdogan’s polemic rhetoric against Israel and insulting vocabulary against Jewish people.
Under this scope, it is not a “surprise” that during 2017 more than the third of the of Jewish citizens leave Turkey, either to return in Israel or to start a “new life” in Portugal or in Spain.
It is of particular importance an analysis of the Turkish pro-AKP daily Yeni Safak, during the Islamic Cooperation Meeting in Istanbul, December 2017, which in a hypothetical scenario concludes that “if all OIC countries had a military coalition, they would be able to deploy 5.206.100 soldiers against Israel and their Defense expenses would reach 175 billion dollars”.
The analysis develops a virtual military scenario where in the first phase 250.000 Muslim soldiers will encircle Israel, after having created military support facilities around Israel, which has only 160.000 soldiers and spends in Defense purposes 15.6 billion dollars.
The most impressive emphasis of this analysis is that, in any case, “Turkey alone could crash Israel, since, in numbers, it is the second NATO army with 4.000 tanks, 1.000 aircrafts and 194 vessels”.
The July 15 coup attempt
Only some days after the 15 July 2016 coup, Turkish Minister for Trade Bulent Tufenkci stated that the cost of the latter reached 100 billion dollars to the Turkish economy. He added that “when we take into account all the aircrafts, helicopters, weapons, bombs and buildings, the total initial cost has a 300 billion dollars level, which most probably it will be increased in the future”.
Erdogan accuses Imam Fethullah Gulen as conductor who has orchestrated the coup, blamed “West” that “they have not responded immediately and with the usual sensitivity”, while Gulen accuses Erdogan that “he was the coup executive manager behind the scenes”.
After one year researches, the Stockholm Center for Freedom has published a study which underscores that Erdogan was, in fact, behind the scenes bandmaster, since :
He characterized the coup as a “gift from God”
The Head of MIT Hakan Fidan – who was aware about the coup – has not informed neither the Prime Minister, nor the President and nonetheless is still in his position.
Head of MIT Hakan Fidan has not been summoned neither as accused nor as a witness to the judicial process following the coup.
Head of MIT Hakan Fidan had many contacts with the leadership of the Army some days before the coup, paid visit in the Headquarters the day of the coup, and the coup started just after his departure.
Chief of General Staff, General Hulusi Akar, made contradictory statements, while analysts underscore that the coup could be stopped, even before it appeared. Nevertheless, Akar did not take any measure in that respect.
The study concludes that Turkey is not any more a State on rule of law. Justice is absolutely controlled by the Government, there is no Press Freedom, members of the opposition are in jail, while more than 150.000 civil servants have lost their job. The persecution in the Army, Diplomatic Corps, Administration and Services for Security reach an alarming level and 51.889 persons are in jail.
The Cyprus problem
On 7th July, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, announced after long and difficult talks in Crans Montana, Switzerland, that “…the Conference on Cyprus was closed without an agreement being reached”.
It was amongst the rare cases when the Secretary General was determined to become personally involved, before talks final stage and level. His devotion and persistence to reach a solution merit all our respect.
On January 28th 2017, “the Economist” published a thorough analysis with the eloquent title “Cyprus will be reunified, if Turkey’s president allows it”.
In addition, Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu statet, in cold blood, during the Crans Montana talks, that “Yes, we want the Turkish troops to stay in Cyprus, because it is likely to use them in the future, when need be. We want to have the right of intervention”.
It is obvious that no “normal state” – according the U.N. Secretary General characterization – could have foreign army in its territory and accept “rights of intervention”, by a third country on its territory. On this point all the parties and the international community (U.N., E.U., U.S.A., Greece, Republic of Cyprus, United Kingdom) coincide, except Turkey.
The international community has absolutely and repeatedly condemned, in legal and political terms, the Turkish military invasion and occupation, the mass violation of Human rights, the forcible eviction and displacement of nearly 200.000 Greek Cypriots (40% of the total number of Greek Cypriots in 1974) in form of ethnic cleasning, the expulsion of 20.000 enclaved Greek Cypriots in Karpasia peninsula, the systematic plundering of the Cypriot cultural heritage in the occupied territories (over 500 churches have been destroyed) despite UNESCO, European and International Organizations relevant resolutions, the colonization of the occupied territories with more than 100.000 settlers from Turkey : They are condemned by the U.N. Security Council and Assembly, the EU Council, Commission and Parliament, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the catalogue is so long…
In particular, referring to the tragic fate of over than 1600 Greek Cypriots and Greeks missing persons, as a result of the 1974 Turkish military invasion to Cyprus, Rauf Denktash’ statement in the Turkish TV, 01.03.1996, that “…the missing Greeks and Greek Cypriots had in fact been killed in 1974 in cold blood by Turkish Cypriot irregulars” , does not allow any margin of hope, displaying at the same time his real portrait.
It is very important that, Cyprus rights on its EEZ are purely based on the International Law. Turkey’s “legal argument” was a threat in the form of a letter to the United Nations that “if the Energy program of Cyprus will not stop, then Turkey will proceed with the necessary measures”!
International Law from one side, threats as a reply, from the other.
In 1956, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash stated that “Even if Turkish Cypriots did not exist, Turkey would have to invent them”.
In 1997, Turkish Prime Minister at that time Mesut Yilmaz underlined that “Turkey’s vital interests are not vested only in the Turkish Cypriot community but in Cyprus as a whole”.
Many other statements, with the same content and towards the same direction, by Turkish high officials – including former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu – have enriched Turkey’s permanent rapacious intentions against Cyprus.
Cyprus remains the unique case, where a minor community of 18% wishes to impose – and in a great extend it has succeeded to do so – its will and its “regime” to the majority and finally to the whole population.
That goes far beyond from what we call “political equality”, which is and must be valid and respected erga omnes. Indeed, the quantitative criterion of the population has not been evaluated and taken into account in its own dimensions until now.
Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu has openly talked for a potential future solution “based out of U.N. parameters”, adding that “we will continue efforts for a settlement within different parametres”. In addition, President Erdogan said that Turkey has a Plan B or Plan C for Cyprus, out of the U.N. framework, of course.
The irony of this great insult to the United Nations is that it has been produced in presence of the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Crans Montana!
The international community has to react promptly to this situation. If Crans Montana is “the last chance for Cyprus” according to Jean Claude Juncker, then what after?
Now, more than ever, the dossier of Cyprus must remain in the hands of the international community. It cannot be “turkeyfied” or pulled by Turkish “initiatives out of U.N. framework”. To this end, the words of U,N, Secretary General Antonio Guterres “Crans Montana outcome does not mean that other initiatives cannot be developed ”, constitute a priority to the right direction.
The Reza Zarrab case
In May 2016 a 34 year old Turkish-Iranian businessman, Reza Zarrab has been arrested in Miami during a family trip in Florida. According to the American Justice Zarrab is accused for violation of the American and international sanctions against Iran, bank fraud and money laundering.
Zarrab accepted his guiltiness and in front of tens of journalists stated that the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was aware of that and, in this context, has given “instructions” to two state Banks.
It is to be noted that in 17 December 2013 Turkish Police in an extended operation against corruption has arrested 52 persons, among them the sons of Erdogan’s Ministers Muammer Guler, Erdogan Bayraktar and Zafer Caklayan, while an operation planned for 25 December which presumably included Erdogan’s son, Bilal, has been cancelled.
According to Turkish analyst Mustafa Akyol “this was the biggest political scandal in the history of the Turkish Republic”.
In parallel, after a report on this matter in Today’s Zaman, the daily newspaper has been closed.
In addition, during all 2014 long 40.000 Turkish policemen were re-located while 4.000 Judges and Prosecutors “have assumed other adequate duties”, in an attempt to “put the right person in the right place”.
Although, Reza Zarrab spent two months in jail, after his liberation he boasted that he has “exported” 200 tons of gold in Iran and having earned more that 11 billions dollars succeeding to reduce as per 15% the deficit of Turkish exports. Some months later Zarrab in presence of many Governmental officials and Ministers has been awarded with the prize of the “Best Turkish Exporter of the Year”.
Press publications inform that Zarrab has the intention to cooperate with American Justice’s authorities.
On the other hand, Recep Tayyip Erdogan underscores that “he will not bow his head to U.S. blackmail” (sic).
Excessive militarization and armaments purchase
According to international publicized statistics, in the Military Strength Ranking for 2017, Turkey is in the 8th position, (after U.S.A., Russia, China, India France, U.K. and Japan) overpassing countries such as Germany, Egypt, Italy, South Korea, Pakistan, Indonesia, Israel, Brazil, Iran, Australia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Spain, Greece (which is in the 28th position) Mexico Argentina and many others.
On the contrary, regarding the Defense Spending for 2017, Turkey is in the 25th position with 8,2 billion dollars, while Greece is in the 32nd position spending 6,54 billion dollars. In the military jargon this is “translated” as, Turkey, being in the 8th position in the world from the point of view “Military Strength”, takes advantage of the whole “facilities” of NATO Alliance and of the “West” (which Erdogan does not stop to proclaim that “he hates”) and spends much lesser than it should spend in other case, being in lower (25th position) instead of somewhat “respective” to its 8th Military Strength Ranking.
On the other hand, Greece, despite usual West’s facilities to her as a NATO member, is obliged to spend almost the same amount as Turkey, despite the crisis period and its smaller general State budget, for national defense against Turkish aggressivity on a daily basis by deeds and official direct threats : The almost same position of its Military Strength Ranking (25) and Defense Spending (32) is an undeniable confirmation.
Before proceeding to the purchase of the S-400 missiles system from Russia, Turkish Minister of Defense Fikri Isik, in April 2014, stated : “The production of military and specific armament material in the factories is submitted to MTCR control and, any buyer needs permission from the producing countries in order to acquire this material. Turkey is a signatory part and, therefore, we need permission from every supplier company for covering our needs in heads and bombs. In that respect, we shall fail if any interested country does not allow its company to supply us. We want to put an end in this problem and produce ourselves the material we wish”.
As expected, this approach created strong concerns and severe criticism from international officials who consider this initiative as an attempt to overpass indirectly MTCR rules.
Nevertheless, criticism has been produced also by Turkish analysts. A very well known, in international level, Turkish political analyst, Burak Bekdil, in his article entitled “Does Turkey really need long range missiles?” in the website “Al Monitor”, 07.02.2014, underscores, inter alia :
“In late 2011, likely to the pride of millions of Turks, the state scientific research institute, TUBITAK, announced that its scientists would soon finish a missile with a range of 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) and in 2014 another with a range of 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles). Another missile with an 800-kilometer range was ready for precision tests”.
(NOTE : This has already been realized, 03.12.2016, according to the official press release of the Anadolu News Agency) .
“This is a curious program, not only in terms of military technology but also in regard to international politics and security. With Turkey as the epicenter of a radius of 2,500 kilometers, some of the cities that could in theory experience Turkish missiles overhead include Algiers, Amman, Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Beirut, Berlin, Brussels, Cairo, Copenhagen, Damascus, Geneva, Jeddah, Kiev, London, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Vienna, Warsaw and Zurich. Which of these cities stand to be a future security threat to Turkey?”
In December 2017 Recep Tayyip Erdogan during Kinaliada corvette launching ceremony underscored that “Turkey is amongst only ten countries worldwide which have the capabilities to construct their own submarines”.
In parallel, he announced the plans for constructing Turkey’s first aircraft carrier.
The problematization of many military analysts is not that Turkey’s excessive militarization overpasses its needs. The most worrying is the fact that in a great extend its armament orientation is offensive.
This remains the big risk for the wider region.
In March 2017, Erdogan launched a direct threat to European citizens stating that “If Europe continues on this way, none European and nowhere will be able to walk in the road in security”, phrase which sounds like an “invitation” to terrorist organizations or to any “volunteer”, to “proceed” accordingly.
This phrase made the round of Turkish and international Press.
Last December, US National Security Adviser HR McMaster – in presence of his British counterpart Marc Sedwill – scrutinized Turkey for acquiring a “new role” as main sponsor (together with Qatar) of funding extremist Islamist ideology that targets western interests.
In order to fight Kurds in North Syria, Turkish government had no doubt to support ISIS, against their “common enemy”. When the alliance with ISIS could not progress anymore, Turkey has realized the spectrum of Erdogan’s failed policy.
According to a partially publicized document of the German Government as a reply to a parliamentary question of Die Linke Party, partially publicized by the ARD TV channel, August 2016, “After step by step islamization of its internal and external policy, Turkey has become a central platform for activities of Islamist groups of Near and Middle East. Numerous acts of solidarity and support from President Erdogan and the governing AKP Party to “Muslim Brotherhood”, Hamas and armed groups of Islamistic opposition in Syria, underscore their ideological relation with the “Muslim Brothers”.
In this context, a special focus is needed on the Russian position on the matter in December 2015, before the current development of Russian-Turkish bilateral cooperation : In a press conference, Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Anatoly Antonov, stated, inter alia, that “Turkey is the main oil consumer which has been stolen from Syria and Iraq, the legal owners of that. According our information, Turkey’s highest political leadership, President Erdogan and his Family, are involved in these criminal activities”, adding that “In the West, nobody has raised a question on the fact that President Erdogan’s son is head in one of the biggest energy companies, while Erdogan’s son in law is nominated as Minister of Energy”.
Recent developments in Turkey – U.S. Relations
In 2006, the book of Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes “America Against the World – How we are different and why we are disliked”, presented Turkey as a country having one of the higher degrees of anti-Americanism, 77% of Turkish people having a negative opinion. The most important : The authors observe that “a great percentage of Turkish people believe that “Americans rightly are killed in Iraq”, and this comes from a NATO ally!”.
In parallel, acceptance of a “democracy in American style” was supported only by 33%, while in the question “whether a West democracy is applicable in Turkey”, positive replies reached 43% in 2002 and 48% in 2005.
According to Pew Research Center recent polls, 72% of Turkish people consider U.S.A. as a “threat” for their national security, while the percentage was still 44% in 2013.
During last century, the United States has lavished upon Turkey an unprecedented amount of political and military support and gave in international level its sign of Friendship for Turkey, in such an extent, that in some cases they run the risk to be “misinterpreted” by its Allies.
It’s not only against Trump, Erdogan’s orientation. In October 2017, Erdogan’s advisor Burhan Kuzu, in a public statement underscored that “the arrest of Metin Topuz, employee in the American General Consulate in Istanbul, will shame United States, because the arrested has evidence on U.S. role in the coup of 15 July 2016, during Obama’s tenure”.
When President Trump asked his Turkish counterpart to release American Pastor Andrew Brunson, Erdogan reply was that in order to do so, United States have to extradite Imam Fethullah Gulen to Turkey. On which ground could we avoid to consider that as a blackmail?
Violent aggression of Erdogan’s personal security men against protestors in Washington, in May 2017, goes far beyond of any concept of abolishing “extra-territorial” limits set up by international law and, it was characterized by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as “simply unacceptable”.
Nevertheless, this kind of aggression has been reproduced in September 2017 in New York.
Giving lessons to the American Administration, October 2017, as to “their obligation to dismiss American Ambassador in Ankara, taking into account that he is not any more accepted by Turkish officials”, Erdogan using statements such as “the international alliance under U.S. umbrella supports terrorist in Syria” or “After the warrant of arrest to my security men, I have to say that United States is not a civilized country”, has pulled Turkey in the lowest level of its transatlantic relations.
The Day after Erdogan – The big risk for the West
Is Erdogan’s aggressiveness the single reason of concern in the Balkans and the wider South East Mediterranean area?
Unfortunately the answer is a big “No”.
Major Opposition Party launches its threats even from now on. Other nationalistic parties will become more nationalistic after their re-election.
It is consecutive that one day Erdogan regime will be succeeded by another government. In this point a big risk lurks: The international community, especially the West, disappointed by Erdogan, to give “white card” in the new Turkish government – presumably “secular” and acting within the usual legal framework of political cooperation – in order to support it to develop its initiatives.
The very danger remains that these “initiatives” include an aggressive policy agenda in general, and in particular against a NATO and EU member state, Greece.
Specific attention: The fact that the future Turkish government – after Erdogan, whenever it comes – will not be colorized by “Erdogan’s wild aggressiveness” and will appear “secular”, does in no way mean that its claims and deeds, if illegal, could be covered by legitimacy and conformity with international rules.
A phenomenon of particular importance is that throughout history, Turkish aggressiveness was oriented mainly against targets or territories situated in West to Anatolia, in very rare cases to the East. This phenomenon has an absolute application in the 20th century, after the Lausanne Treaty.
Yes, for one reason or another, Turkey “always looks to its west”.
After years and years, following day by day the developments in Turkey, I have with sadness to say that I am extremely pessimistic.
My generation has been grown up for seven decades under the pressure and the imminent threat of Turkey. It is not possible, on this kind of balance, to build up a cooperation. Any cooperation.
The next strike against Greece “is on the road”. At least it has been publicly and officially announced by both Turkish government and opposition.
It is not a personal feeling, it has been officially announced by the Turks, themselves. To be executed by a certain Turkish government or another, no matter at all. It has been pre-announced.
In this case it would be unavoidable for the international community, not to choose between Turkey and another “alternative”.
Between important and sizable interests but secured from one side, and perhaps bigger interests but uncertain and “in the air”, in the other one.