March 31, 2017
The third Astana meeting on Syria ended two weeks ago, without any progress after the opposition boycotted the meeting. Russia, Turkey and Iran, guarantors of the ceasefire regime, issued a joint statement in which they underlined the interlinkage between the Geneva and Astana processes and expressed their support for the fifth round of Geneva talks to start on March 23, 2017. They also said that the fourth round of the Astana talks would be held on May 3-4 with preliminary expert consultations on April 18-19, in Tehran.
The Geneva talks started as scheduled on March 23. At the end of the day, UN Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura said that he was expecting neither breakthroughs nor breakdowns. He added that agreement on the agenda was in itself a mark of progress. In brief, rounds of talks are following one another in Astana and Geneva but making little headway. Okumaya devam et
March 27, 2017
Turkish government’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy was nothing but a public relations stunt. Its “regime change Syria” project has turned into a major foreign and security policy disaster, as predicted.
At present, Ankara’s relations with Washington are under clouds of uncertainty because of differences over Fethullah Gülen’s extradition and YPG’s role in combating ISIS. Secretary Tillerson, addressing the Ministerial Plenary for the Global Coalition Working to Defeat ISIS on March 22, said: “Turkey has pushed ISIS off the Turkey-Syria border through Operation Euphrates Shield. This entire border is now inaccessible to ISIS, and we will ensure that it stays that way…” What that means exactly will no doubt be high on the agenda of the talks Secretary Tillerson will have in Ankara at the end of the month. Criticism directed by Ankara at the gone Obama administration continues and is probably seen as an indirect way of sending messages to its successor. Okumaya devam et
March 20, 2017
Years ago, the political director of the ministry asked me to draft a “Turkish foreign policy” speech for the minister. I prepared a draft, he went over it and we took it to the minister who read it and was pleased. Some months later, we received a similar request from the private office. Again, I prepared a draft which was an updated version of the previous one and we took it to the minister. He read it and said “it’s fine but no different than the last one”. The political director, a good friend of the minister, laughed and said “because in foreign policy we don’t sing a different tune every day”. Okumaya devam et
March 14, 2017
First, it was “zero problems with neighbors”. Then, it was regime change in Syria. Ankara was so determined that it shot down a Russian fighter-jet provoking a major crisis with Moscow. In May 2016, following an unavoidable government reshuffle, the motto became “more friends and fewer enemies” and that appeared to make sense. Reconciliation with Russia thus started to move forward, at a cost of course. The future of relations with the Trump administration remain uncertain because of the question of Fethullah Gülen’s extradition as well as America’s collaboration with the YPG. And now, Ankara is burning bridges with its traditional European allies who are also Turkey’s major economic partners and home to millions of Turks. The first was Germany (*) only to be followed by the Netherlands not to mention the others. Okumaya devam et
March 6, 2017
With three million Turks, Germany is home to more Turks than any other country. There are also fifteen thousand Germans who have settled in Turkey’s coastal regions. In 2015, before the fallout of the Syrian conflict dealt a crippling blow to Turkey’s tourism sector, over 5.5 million Germans visited Turkey. To put it briefly, the human bridge joining the two countries is huge. Moreover, Germany is Turkey’s leading trade partner and also the largest export market for Turkish products. Last but not least, Turkey and Germany are NATO allies and Germany remains the strongman of the European Union with a key role to play in Turkey’s accession process. This is not to say that Ankara and Berlin should agree on every problem that confronts them. However, in view of their converging broad interests, they should be able to show a capacity to contain and resolve their differences and avoid inflammatory language. Okumaya devam et