The last round of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan started on July 12, 2020. During the war between 1988-1994, Armenian forces had occupied not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also the seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan before a Russian-brokered ceasefire was declared. Thereafter peace talks were mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States. Since all three co-chairs are long-time supporters of Armenia, the Group only served to preserve the status quo. i.e. continued occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, and the seven Azerbaijani districts.
On February 29, 2020, “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America” was signed in Doha. Throughout the text, one party is referred to as “the United States” and the other party as “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban”. Because Washington “only recognizes” the Kabul government.
President-elect Joe Biden will assume office on January 20, 2021. Exactly twelve years ago he assumed office as Vice President. Three months later, on April 6, 2009 President Obama visited Ankara on his first trip abroad as US President. His address to the Turkish Parliament was full of praise for Turkey’s “strong, vibrant, secular democracy”. In May 2013, Prime Minister Erdogan visited Washington. Remarks made by the two leaders at their joint press conference reflected a strong relationship. Twelve years on, the US-Turkey relationship is at its lowest point in decades.
Four years ago, in a post titled “Middle East in the Grip of Polarization” I said:
“The Middle East, in the grip of polarization, is going through a most violent period… Throughout the region the mentality continues to be “winner-take-all. This is what we witness in Syria where coming to the table to stop the bloodshed is seen as a concession whereas it should be clear to all the parties, at least by now, that there is not going to be a military solution to the conflict. Differences are of course diverse and extreme. They extend from religion, ethnicity, world outlook and politics to culture. Furthermore, they are increasingly characterized by an element of hate. Worst of all, Syrians seem to have lost sense of direction. The silent or silenced majority may regret what they have been going through but those who appear to be in charge see no further than the tip of the gun barrel… Some Syrians may think it is too late; that they would not be allowed to change course even if they wanted to. Others may still be determined to fight to the bitter end. And sadly, the latter may prove to be right because there is little hope of a happy end to this tragedy. Such is the disease of polarization. If it does not kill you, it leaves you maimed…”
On 7 January 2015, two brothers, French citizens born in Paris to Algerian immigrants, forced their way into the offices Charlie Hebdo where they killed 12 people and injured 11 others. Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility. The attack was called the 9/11 of France. Four days later the Unity Rally, a remarkable display of national and international solidarity was held in Paris.
On October 16, 2020 Samuel Paty, a French middle-school teacher, was beheaded a suburb of Paris. The perpetrator of this atrocious crime was an 18-year-old Russian immigrant of Chechen origin, born in Moscow. A tide of outrage swept through France.
As the US braces for November 3 presidential election, countries remain divided in their expectations. Europe having enjoyed excellent relations with the Obama White House no doubt wishes to see Mr. Biden there. Because, although this would not be a replica of the Obama White House there would be parallels. The same goes for Iran, whereas Gulf states have been getting along extremely well with Mr. Trump. Israel would probably prefer a Trump victory but move on regardless of who is in the White House, happy with the balance sheet of the past four years.
The fundamental reality of foreign relations is that a country’s international standing is largely a reflection of its internal strength. And this invariably depends on respect for the rule of law, strong institutions, and national consensus on where the country should be heading. And geographic location largely impacts a country’s foreign policy. This is a given which can constitute a challenge.
At present, tension characterizes Turkey’s relationship with the EU. Ankara’s relationship with Washington is a rollercoaster. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put Turkey in the same category with North Korea, Russia, and Saudi Arabia as Ankara is holding its breath on the result of the upcoming US presidential election. Moscow is putting up with Ankara because it has far-reaching policy objectives which obscure its frustration in Syria and Libya. Our relations with NATO lack mutual confidence. Our relations with Middle East countries are at their lowest point ever. We are dangerously involved in regional conflicts. We are diplomatically isolated. Most importantly, we are a polarized nation.