BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
The ‘normalization’ policy that Turkey recently undertook with other Middle Eastern countries is in peril.
The AK Party government revealed that it had given up on its isolation policy, which had caused tensions with almost everyone in the region, by reaching out to its neighbors. It held normalization talks with Egypt, hosted the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates at the Palace, and appointed mutual ambassadors with Israel.
However, these “normalization” steps taken by Ankara may not have had their expected effect in the Arab world, as Turkey was actually one of the countries most targets at the Arab League summit held in Algeria.
ARAB LEAGUE OUTCOMES
In the declaration discussed and passed at the summit, Turkey’s name was never directly mentioned. However, in the declaration, an indirect message sent to Turkey. The document made statements on the protection of the territorial integrity of Iraq, Syria and Libya and the withdrawal of foreign forces from these countries.
Tension with Egypt was on display throughout the Arab League summit. Using its influence on other Arab countries, the Egyptian administration did its best to target Turkey directly in the declaration. As a matter of fact, in the draft text leaked to the Arab press, Turkey’s name was mentioned in several places. In the document, published by the Şark Al-Avsat newspaper as “the draft text of the Arab League summit in Algeria,” there was a paragraph that even accused Turkey of “providing a safe space within its territory to extremist groups trying to destabilize Arab countries.”
However, thanks to Ankara’s diplomatic initiatives during the summit and countries like Qatar within the Arab League, which are close to Turkey, these statements were removed from the text.
The final text of the Arab League summit in Algeria can be seen as a success by Turkey’s diplomatic arm, especially when we compare it to the draft statement.
GRAIN AGREEMENT UNCERTAINTY
The second international development that put Turkey in trouble was Russia’s withdrawal from the grain corridor agreement. This meant the collapse of one leg of the system created by Ukraine and Russia, brokered by the UN and Turkey.
However, Moscow’s accusation that “Ukraine is using the grain corridor for military purposes” and its threat that “we will hit the cargo ships if necessary” has rendered the resumption of the deal virtually impossible.
The AK Party government rolled up its sleeves to save the agreement. Erdogan’s statement yesterday shows that the grain corridor seems to be saved for now. But even this small pause shows how sensitive the situation is.
“AGRICULTURE IN SUDAN” IN DIFFICULT STRAITS
These ups and downs in the grain corridor led to a decision that would indirectly affect Turkey negatively in the Arab world.
The AK Party government previously signed an agreement with Sudan to do agriculture on its vast vacant lands. However, at the Arab League summit, it was decided that these lands should be used by the Arab countries themselves. It was decided that land in Sudan should be cultivated with the financing of the rich Arab countries, plus labor and technical support. Arabs expect a grain yield of 40 million tons per year from Sudanese lands. This, of course, renders Turkey’s move to engage in agriculture in this country virtually obsolete.
TENSION AWAITS FOLLOWING ISRAELI ELECTION RESULTS
The news from Israel also seems very distressing in terms of Ankara’s moves to normalize.
The latest election results in Israel show that Binyamin Netanyahu, who did not get along with President Erdogan when he was Prime Minister, is on his way to re-forming a government.
President Erdoğan managed to “reconcile” with the Saudi Crown Prince, whom he had previously implied was the instigator of the Khashoggi murder, and the leader of the United Arab Emirates, who was accused of being the “financier” of the July 15 coup, thanks to the sharp turns in his foreign policy rhetoric. The AK Party government, which has been trying to normalize relations with Egypt’s leader Sisi, who has been called a “putschist/murderer” by Erdogan himself for years, and the Assad administration in Syria, was on its way to normalizing relations with many of its former adversaries.
If we look at it this way, perhaps it would be possible for Erdogan to turn a new page with Netanyahu.
However, the problem with Israel is likely to stem from far-right parties in the ruling coalition, rather than from Netanyahu himself. It is almost certain that Ben Gvir, who managed to get 14 deputies in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, will become Netanyahu’s coalition partner and be appointed to one of the key ministries.
When Ben Gvir took the podium to make a statement on the election results, his party members chanted “Death to the Arabs.” This reveals the gravity of the situation. In Israel, where a party with such racist rhetoric is a coalition partner, it is easy for the Palestinian issue to turn into a point of conflict.
On the path to the 2023 elections, there is also the question of how long the AK Party officials can keep silent, especially on the Palestinian issue, a point conservative voters are very sensitive to.
As Turkey goes to the 2023 elections, Erdogan’s “normalization” strategy and his image as “world leader” seems to have fallen apart. A new isolation awaits.