Turkey’s President Erdogan led all Moslem states in terms of criticizing Israel for civilian deaths in Gaza. This one-upmanship comes at a very bad time, when Turkey has unfinished business with US, NATO and EU. Foreign policy expert (Mrs) Zeynep Gurcanlı argues that instead of re-engagement Turkish foreign policy is sliding towards isolationism.
Erdogan renews attacks on Israel
According to Reuters, Erdogan said on Saturday that an international peace conference should be convened to find a permanent solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Erdogan was addressing a joint Islamic-Arab summit in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, where leaders gathered to urge Israel to end hostilities in Gaza.
“Israel is taking revenge…on Gazan babies, children and women,” Erdogan said, renewing his call for an immediate ceasefire. “What is urgent in Gaza is not pauses for few hours, rather we need a permanent ceasefire.”
Turkey, which has sharply escalated its criticism of Israel as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has intensified, supports a two-state solution and hosts members of Hamas, which it does not view as a terrorist organisation, unlike the United States, Britain and others in the West.
“We cannot put Hamas resisters defending their homeland in the same category as the occupiers,” Erdogan said.
A permanent solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians depends on the formation of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, Erdogan said.
“We believe that an international peace conference will provide the most suitable basis for this. We are ready to make the necessary efforts, including as a guarantor, to preserve the peace to be established in this context,” he said.
Relations with Gulf states could sour, again
While his criticism of Israel and the proposed solution warrants merit, it is politically very tricky. Egypt and Gulf Arab states don’t like HAMAS and have been very subdued in their criticism of Israel’s assault on Gaza. By starting a bidding war on bashing Israel on Saudi home turf, Erdogan directly appeals to the Arab Street, which has in the past, soured relations between Turkey and Gulf States.
Zeynep Gurcanli: Back to precious isolation?
Foreign policy expert Gurcanli argues that in as much as Erdogan seems to lead the outrage against Israel, his efforts didn’t make him any friends among pro-HAMAS states.
“Erdoğan’s official statement that “We will not cut off relations with Israel” created discomfort among the parties supporting Hamas in the region. For example, in Iran, publications against Türkiye began to appear in government-controlled media”.
In the Iranian state-owned Tasnim news agency, Turkey was described in very harsh terms as “Israel’s partner in the Gaza war”.
Only a few days prior to Erdogan’s outbursts we have witnessed Turkey being left alone in the Organization of Turkic States (TDT), which is a group of Central Asian, Caspian states and Turkey. Turkey hopes to turn this gathering from a talking shop to a serious bloc with special trade relations and a common stance on global issues.
At the previous TDT summit meeting, with Turkey’s pressure and Azerbaijan’s support, TRNC (run-away Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) was officially accepted as an “observer member”, observes Gurcanli.
However, TRNC President Tatar was not invited to the last TDT summit held in Kazakhstan, where President Erdoğan personally represented Turkey. However, the other two observer members of TDT, the leaders of Hungary and Turkmenistan, were able to find a place for themselves in the family photo at the same meeting. If Turkey cannot overcome this loneliness, it can neither overcome the economic crisis nor be effective in world affairs. The way to get out of loneliness is through the country.
Gurcanli finishes with a very good point: Better foreign relations must start at home by bolstering democracy.
Very bad timing
The Israel HAMAS war has forced Erdogan to delay parliamentary ratification of Sweden’s membership to NATO, once again creating doubts about his fidelity to the organization. As a result, it appears extremely unlikely that US Congress will greenlight her $20 bn order for new F-16s and upgrade packs. Turkey’s lone-wolf defense of HSAMAS has also raised eyebrows in EU, which is trying to decide what to do with the unruly neighbor, as accession of Western Balkans proceeds. Erdogan’s advocacy of HAMAS could convince EU leaders that the must-needed upgrading and expansion of the Customs Union Treaty would be giving in to Erdogan’s whims but not necessarily bring him closer to Western Axis.
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