BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
President Erdogan gave critical messages to the whole world regarding Turkey’s future foreign policy with the two visits he paid abroad at the start of his third term.
Erdogan’s speeches during both visits, initially to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and then to Azerbaijan, attracted a lot of attention from the international community.
Erdogan showed in the TRNC that he will not give up the policy on the recognition of the TRNC, which was set out by the AK Party governments recently. In Azerbaijan, Erdogan took the first step to open a Turkish Consulate General in Shusha, which was retaken from Armenia.
MESSAGES WERE BOTH DIPLOMATIC AND ECONOMIC
The Turkish Consulate General in Shusha means a lot. Thus, Turkey will officially approve that Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory with a concrete step taken. The diplomatic mission of Turkey there will be the diplomatic assurance of the city’s being Azerbaijani territory against a possible new Armenian invasion attempt against Shusha, which was liberated two years ago.
Turkey’s step will obviously create a political fluctuation in Yerevan. It is inevitable for Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Vovayi Pashinyan, who signed the normalization talks with Turkey, to get into trouble with his political opponents. However, the fact that Pashinyan is also holding normalization talks with Azerbaijan under the facilitation of Russia is a situation that will relieve Ankara.
Another aspect of opening a Turkish mission in Shusha is economic. Azerbaijan has entered a very serious reconstruction effort in Shusha, which was liberated from the Armenian occupation. Turkey is also planning to get a share of this construction initiative. A gesture of new construction contracts from Azerbaijan to Turkish companies should be expected in return for Turkey’s Consulate General to Shusha gesture. Moreover, the consulate general to be established in Shusha will facilitate the work of Turkish companies that potentially take jobs in the region. Two birds with one stone!
WHAT ABOUT THE RECOGNITION OF TRNC?
The fact that Erdogan went to Azerbaijan from the TRNC, moreover gave the message that TRNC should be recognized in Nicosia, naturally resulted in an expectation of a recognition gesture from Baku to Turkey. No statements were made on whether Erdogan and Aliyev discussed this issue in the bilateral meeting. However, neither Erdogan called for the recognition of the TRNC, nor did Aliyev raise this issue in their public speeches.
Similarly, there was no statement regarding the recognition of the TRNC during Erdogan’s first bilateral contact with the President of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed Bin Zayed, during his third term as president. Obviously, the diplomatic expectations of a day Erdogan spent in Istanbul with the Emir of the UAE were different.
THE LIBYA DETAIL
This expectation was revealed in the Manchester United-Milan Champions League final, which Erdogan watched with the Emir of the UAE. Libyan Prime Minister Dibeybe was also invited to the match.
Turkey and the UAE supported different fronts during the most devastating period of the civil war in Libya. However, changes of sides were seen both in the political actors within Libya and in the international powers that support them from outside when the ceasefire was achieved and replaced by political power plays. For example, Fathi Bashagha, one of the politicians supported by Turkey, sided with Haftar, whom Ankara describes as a coup plotter, and declared his prime ministry in Sirte.
The hosting of Dibeybe, the head of Libya’s Tripoli-based government, in the Champions League final showed that Ankara preferred Dibeybe more in the divided Libyan politics. Moreover, the fact that Erdogan brought Dibeybe together with the Emir of the UAE during the game was interpreted as Ankara’s effort to lure the UAE, which was closer to the opposite front, to the side of the Tripoli government.
Indeed, football is not always just football!