Being trapped and paying off

The U.S. President Joe Biden’s description of the 1915 incident as a ‘genocide’ in a speech delivered on April 24 is just the tip of the iceberg.

There are demands from Russia to the European Union (EU), from Israel to Egypt to Greece, which put stresses on the ruling AK Party. The whole world seems to be demanding their ‘pound of flesh’ because of the aggressive foreign policy of the AK Party government, especially in the last 10 years. At the same time, the country is grappling with an economic crisis and is struggling against the COVID -19 pandemic. These consequences seem like they can be handled if each is examined in isolation. However, taken as a whole or listed one after the other, they reveal how foreign policy has come to a deadlock.

►The U.S. is turning up the heat on Turkey not to operationalize the S-400. It has imposed sanctions for this. Moreover, it has officially removed Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, in which the country has been involved since the beginning and has invested nearly USD 1.5bn.

►Sanctions also remain in place from other NATO members – albeit for different reasons. Canada has banned sales of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) parts. There are discussions behind the diplomatic scene over news that Italy is dragging its feet on the Surface-to-Air Missile Platform/ Terrian (SAMP/T) air defense system (ADS) for which Turkey has shown interest.

►Russia, on the other hand, opposes Ankara’s armed UAV sales to Ukraine so intensely that Russian officials have gone so far as to threaten Turkey. “If you sell armed UAVs to Ukraine, we’ll review the military and technical cooperation with Turkey,” said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov. Apparently, Russia is testing Ankara over the Ukrainian crisis. If the AK Party government resists military cooperation with Ukraine, Syria and tourism came up as reciprocation, and trade will follow. Flights from Russia to Turkey have been suspended until June – for now. However, Russian officials warned tour companies in the country ‘not to sell tour packages for after June’ as well. It was officially announced that flights have been halted ‘due to the COVID-19 pandemic’, but it’s hard to understand why Russians who made bookings in Turkey have been directed to Egypt, where the pandemic is also spiking badly.

►The ‘pound of flesh’ for Egypt, whose Head of State has been accused of a ‘coup d’etat’ and has been called a ‘murderer-dictator’ in the pro-government press, comes via Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood. Ankara has already started to limit Muslim Brother activities in Turkey. The first reversal in Libya, according to reports in the foreign press, is that the AK Party government has withdrawn Syrian jihadists, who were sent to Libya with money for battle. The withdrawal of Turkish Armed Forces personnel positioned in Libya and trained military forces within the frame of the official agreement is likely to come up next. Egypt is turning up the heat on Turkey for this as well.

►The EU has pointed the ‘sanction’ cannon at the AK Party government as well but has far held of on pulling the trigger, instead demanding Turkey suspend oil and natural gas exploration in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. The Oruc Reis, Fatih and Yavuz research vessels were withdrawn to the Gulf of Antalya or to the Black Sea.

►Israel’s demand, with whom the AK Party government wants to return diplomatic relations to the Ambassador level, is the ejection of high-level figures of HAMAS in Turkey. It’s likely we will see HAMAS members on aircrafts going from Turkey to Qatar.

►Criticism in the Turkey report approved last week by the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the European Parliament was very harsh. Turkey’s state of law was questioned and there were calls to put an end to its EU membership process in the report.

►The situation isn’t much different in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of which Turkey is a member state. Turkey’s refusal to implement decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the lower courts snubbing of constitutional court decisions were criticized harshly. Withdrawal of Turkey from the Istanbul Convention has been included in the category of human rights and democratic ‘backsliding ’.

►Even after strong-arming a seat at the negotiation table with Turkey on its own terms, Greece is continuing to apply pressure. The Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant is on Athens’ agenda nowadays. It was leaked that the Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, reportedly spoke about the Akkuyu issue with his U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken seeking the Americans’ backing for the Greek position on the issue.

►The ‘pound of flesh’ for Qatar, which supports the AK Party government in every respect in the international arena, has already been mentioned by the opposition. It was revealed that Qatar officials, who have their fingers in multiple Turkish pies, from a tank-tread production plant to Borsa Istanbul, purchased a lot of land on the banks of what will be Canal Istanbul.

►Even China, located so far away, is turning up the heat on Turkey through possible loans, investment promises and vaccines. Despite Turkey’s pride as the leader of the world’s Turkic Muslims, it has remained unusually quiet about China’s treatment of the Turkic Muslim population in East Turkestan.

The soft language used by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his speech responding to U.S. President Biden’s use of the word ‘genocide’ should be read through the lens of Turkey multiple foreign policy crises. Foreign policy is made through relations based on self-interest. The strong set the rules in international relations. Countries, that are not managed well will eventually have to pay their pound of flesh.

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