Friday, August 12, 2016

The Russia-Turkey complication in the Syrian civil war

Despite Hillary Clinton's apparent eagerness to get the US more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war, there are lots of complications. One of the latest being a seeming momentary improvement of relations between Russia and Syria.

John Helmer argues in this interview that Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to Russian President Vladmir Putin was actually a failure for Erdoğan, Putin and Erdogan Meeting Leaves All Fronts of Policy Unresolved The Real News 08/11/2016:

Helmer argues that Russia opposed the July coup attempt because of its concerns about stability in Turkey, not because it is looking for a new strategic relationship with Turkey. He notes that Turkey is supporting Muslim extremist groups in numerous places that are inconvenient to Russia.

Dimitar Bechev writes in What's behind the Turkey-Russia reset? Aljazeera 08/09/2016:

It appears that the current rift with the West pushes Turkey closer to Russia. The US is blamed for failing to cooperate with the Turkish authorities for the extradition of Gulen - the alleged mastermind of the coup attempt.

Many in Turkey see the US as the chief culprit. The majority of Turks also berate the EU's reluctance to stand by Erdogan as he faced a life-threatening situation, and criticise Europe's exclusive focus on the clampdown that followed , ostensibly targeted against the "parallel state".

The historical record shows that any time relations with Western allies are strained, Ankara tilts to Moscow. This happened after the 2003 war in Iraq; between 1997 and 1999 when the EU refused to invite Turkey for membership talks; following the invasion of Cyprus in 1974, and so forth.
But, as Helmer's discussion of the public diplomacy this week shows, it''s too early to assume that any drastic change in Turkish-Russian relations.

But Turkish relations with the US and the EU has definitely been disturbed by the July coup attempt and its aftermath. Atilla Yesilada reports (Could Turkey turn its back to the West? Aljazeera 08/08/2016):

A danger lurks around the corner. The Justice and Development Party's (AKP) effort to cleanse the society of Gulenists is causing a deterioration in relations with the United States and the European Union, which might lead to a confidence crisis among investors and creditors.

There is little doubt among Turkish citizens that the Gulenists organised and largely executed the putsch. ...

The EU is deeply concerned about the human rights violations that are occurring with increasing frequency in the process of the purge, such as the arrest of journalists and the alleged mistreatment of coup-plotting officers under custody.

The EU authorities also told Ankara in no uncertain terms that the reintroduction of capital punishment of putschists would trigger immediate suspension of accession talks.
The Gulenists are the Hizmet network composed of followers of the currently US-based Islamist leader Fethullah Gülen.

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