President Erdoğan’s working visit to Germany was critical for Turkey to find a way out of its economic crisis. Germany, the powerful country of the European Union, had many expectations for Turkey’s near-term interests. These expectations can be roughly listed as follows;
* Convincing Germany to modernize the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU and starting negotiations on the renewal and expansion of the Customs Union would create the impression for Western investors that “the EU has vouched for the Turkish economy”.
* The new law passed by the German federal parliament has considerably eased the working conditions for Turkish citizens in this country. This could have opened a channel, a new negotiating position with Berlin on EU visa exemption for Turkish citizens.
* For a long time, Turkey had been engaged in a “futile” F-16 negotiation with the United States in order to fill its fighter jet shortage. It had been announced by Defense Minister Guler himself that Turkey might alternatively turn to the Eurofighter fighter jets of four European countries – the UK, Italy, Spain and Germany. The purchase, however, needed Berlin’s approval.
* A new opening could have been possible in the stalled Syrian refugee deal with the EU. Turkey was even calculating that this new opening might even lead to a new flow of funds from the EU that would provide some relief to the economy.
* There was a chance for Germany and Turkey to launch a joint initiative on the Gaza issue, which the AK Party government has made a top foreign policy priority. Indeed, President Erdoğan used Germany’s influence over Israel and Turkey’s good relations with the Palestinians to call for joint action for a lasting ceasefire in Gaza that would stop civilian deaths.
But it didn’t happen; President Erdoğan’s “Holocaust” remark at the joint press conference with German Chancellor Scholz closed almost all diplomatic doors. Erdoğan’s remarks may have sounded good to some voters in Turkey ahead of the upcoming local elections. However, it may have largely closed critical channels that Turkey could have opened with Berlin for its interests.
CHINA’S QUIET DIPLOMACY IS HAVING AN IMPACT
The function of diplomacy seems to have been forgotten during the trip to Germany;
The real trick is not to tell the interlocutor what everyone already knows, but to persuade the interlocutor to change his/her wrong policies.
When this does not happen, the field is of course left to those who use the power of quiet diplomacy. When it comes to Gaza, China stands out as the country that has been most successful in conducting “quiet diplomacy” these days. In the last week, Beijing has made two very important developments for the Palestinians under Israeli attacks;
* First, China has convinced the entire Arab world of its role as a mediator on the Gaza issue – a role that the AKP government wanted to play but was not accepted. The Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia announced that next week the foreign ministers of the Arab countries will visit China together to discuss the Gaza issue. One must wonder why Arab ministers are going to China, thousands of kilometers away, instead of nearby Turkey, to find a solution to the Gaza issue.
* The second was that after Chinese leader Xi’s meeting with US President Biden in San Francisco, the Washington administration showed signs – however small – of moving in a positive direction on the Palestinian issue. For the first time, Brett McGurk, the White House diplomat in charge of the Middle East, started talking about a serious ceasefire in exchange for the release of hostages taken by Hamas. US President Joe Biden also signaled that a two-state solution could be put in place, with Gaza and the West Bank united under Palestinian rule, and that Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians, especially in the West Bank, could be sanctioned.
All of this shows that quiet diplomacy is always more useful than valor…