February 27, 2020
In the fall of 1966, I took a series of exams to join the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Among other things, we were asked to comment on a widely used metaphor, “Turkey is a bridge between East and West”. I wrote that throughout history Anatolia has been a meeting point of cultures and Turkey’s future lies in creating a successful synthesis. In my later years in diplomatic service, I continuously objected to the use of this metaphor arguing that a bridge belongs to neither of its banks and Turkey had already made her choice. With the launching of EU accession negotiations in October 2005, I came to believe that we had finally crossed the Bosporus Bridge and were travelling irreversibly towards the West. This by no means meant a rupture with the East for obvious reasons including geography and history. Moreover, our good relations with the region were an asset for the EU. Okumaya devam et
(Co-authored with Yusuf Buluç)[i]
February 20, 2020
Ten days ago, President Putin had a telephone conversation with President Erdogan at Turkish side’s initiative. A statement by the Kremlin said that the two leaders noted the importance of the full implementation of the existing Russian-Turkish agreements, including the Sochi Memorandum of September 17, 2018 and additional contacts between the relevant government agencies were planned for these purposes.
A few days later Presidents Erdoğan and Trump had a phone call. “The President expressed concern over the violence in Idlib, Syria and thanked President Erdogan for Turkey’s efforts to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. “President Trump also reiterated that continued foreign interference in Libya would only serve to worsen the situation,” he added, a discouraging reference to Ankara’s support to the Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj. Okumaya devam et
February 6, 2020
The agreement reached in May 2017 by Russia, Iran and Turkey in Astana called for the cessation of hostilities between rebel groups and regime forces in four “de-escalation” zones in the mainly opposition-held areas of Syria with Russia, Turkey and Iran acting as guarantors.
In broad terms, the deal covered four areas:
Zone 1: Idlib province,
Zone 2: The Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in northern Homs province,
Zone 3: Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside,
Zone 4: The rebel-controlled south along the border with Jordan. Okumaya devam et
February 19, 2019
The war in Syria appears to be coming to an end. During the past eight years it was migration which led to internal political challenges for European governments and to divisions within the EU. Now it is ISIS wives and fighters returning home. The prospect has preoccupied Western security services and think tanks for long, but it was Shamima Begum who triggered the public discussion. Since the UK has no diplomatic or consular personnel in Syria security minister Ben Wallace said he would not put officials’ lives at risk to rescue UK citizens who went to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State, adding “actions have consequences”. Many in the UK are said to oppose the return of ISIS fighters. Others believe the UK cannot refuse the return of UK citizens. Okumaya devam et
October 29, 2018
At the end of September 2018, the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States came together in New York and issued a statement. After repeating for the umpteenth time that there is no military solution to the conflict, they called on the UN and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura to convene, as quickly as possible, a credible, inclusive constitutional committee that will begin drafting a new Syrian constitution. They also urged him to report back to the Security Council no later than October 31.
While Mr. de Mistura has said he is not going to lay down the charge until the last hour of the last day of his mandate, this gives him just another month since his resignation will take effect at the end of November.
On 27 October, Presidents Erdoğan, Putin, Macron and Chancellor Merkel met in İstanbul for the Quadrilateral Summit on Syria. Interestingly, the four leaders came together in this format for the first time and concluded their meeting with a joint statement expressing a commitment to working together. Whether such meetings would continue either at heads of State or ministerial level remains to be seen. Okumaya devam et
October 3, 2018
On September 27, 2018, the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States, members of the “Small Group on Syria” issued a statement. After repeating for the umpteenth time that there is no military solution to the conflict they called on the UN and Staffan de Mistura to convene, as quickly as possible, a credible, inclusive constitutional committee that will begin drafting a new Syrian constitution and laying the groundwork for free and fair UN-supervised elections in a safe and neutral environment in which all eligible Syrians – including those in the diaspora – have a right to participate. They urged Mr. Mistura to report back to the Security Council on his progress no later than October 31. The reference to “Syrians including those in the diaspora” covers primarily those in Syria’s neighbors, among them Turkey now home to 3.5 million Syrian refugees. Okumaya devam et
September 18, 2018
On September 17, 2018, Presidents Putin and Erdoğan met in Sochi. On top of their agenda was Idlib. This is what President Putin said at the joint press conference following the talks:
“We reviewed the situation in detail and decided to establish by October 15 a demilitarized area 15–20 km. deep along the contact line between the armed opposition and government troops, with radical militants to be withdrawn from the area, including al-Nusra. Also, by October 10, based on the Turkish President’s proposal, to secure the withdrawal of heavy military equipment, tanks, multiple rocket launchers, cannon and mortars of all opposition groups. Turkish mobile patrol groups and Russian military police units will conduct the monitoring of the demilitarized zone. Also, to restore transit along the Aleppo-Latakia and Aleppo-Hama routes before the end of 2018, also at the suggestion of the Turkish side…” (*)
President Putin’s using the word “also” three times in his description of the deal gives the impression that what was agreed upon in Sochi essentially reflects Ankara’s approach to the problem. The International Crisis Group said in a statement today that it welcomes the announcement which would appear to prevent a new deadly round of conflict with tremendous human cost. It added that implementing the agreement will be difficult, and its collapse cannot be ruled out. Turkey seems as if it may have to shoulder the heavy burden of partially disarming rebels inside the zone and emptying it of jihadists, a step those militants seem inclined to resist (**).
On the surface, the world seems to be united in preventing a humanitarian disaster with an extremely high civilian death toll, destruction, human suffering and grief. Yet, one only has to look at the past eight years of the Syrian war, what is going on in Yemen and Libya to see that this is far from being the case. Okumaya devam et