BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
The foreign policy got knotted while Turkey was in the election process. It is time to untie these knots as the elections are over. It is not hard to estimate that the first issue to be turned a hand to, will be Turkey-U.S. relations, also forced by the international calendar. The Washington administration has highly prioritized Sweden’s inclusion in NATO at the alliance’s summit in July.
The sign of this is that U.S. President Joe Biden, who talked over the phone with President Erdogan to congratulate his re-election as President of Turkey, directly got to the point and said he expected Turkey to lift the veto for Sweden’s NATO membership. The fact that Biden started the dialogue with Erdogan over NATO enlargement also shows that the U.S. continues its pre-election policy of “maintaining relations with Turkey through NATO”. Erdogan, on the other hand, demanded to pave the way for the modernization of the F-16s, which Turkey highly needs for air defense, and remove the obstacle by the American Congress.
Although the Biden administration says the NATO enlargement is not the precondition for the F-16 sale to Turkey, Congress has made this a prerequisite.
The course of this process seems to be determined by the step taken by Ankara until July.
In the meantime, it’s necessary to add to this that Sweden stated that they were resuming talks with Turkey. A few small steps, which can be taken by the Stockholm government in the fight against terrorism, in combination with Washington’s pressure, make it highly likely that Turkey will lift the veto before the July summit. This situation is also critical in terms of showing how the Erdogan government will conduct its relations with the West in the post-election period.
NORMALIZATION WITH SYRIA
Another knot to be untied in Turkish foreign policy seems to be the normalization with Syria after the election. Russia highly pressures Ankara for this. The Putin administration desires to establish political stability in favor of the Assad administration in Syria, where it has heavily invested for years, and shift its forces there to the Ukrainian front as soon as possible. The stance of Turkey, which neighbors Syria, is important at this point. The U.S., on the other hand, maintains its policy against the normalization with Syria as long as the Assad administration is in power. However, the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Egypt with Assad, and the return of the seat in the Arab League to the Damascus regime are the factors that will facilitate Ankara to take a step in this direction, despite Washington’s policy. There are also signs that the Washington administration keeps itself busy. The Americans continue to provide all kinds of military, financial, and logistics assistance to the PYD-YPG, which Turkey defines as the branch of the PKK terrorist organization that controls the Syrian territory to the northeast of the Euphrates.
However, the assistance to the PYD-YPG may not have been enough as the U.S. administration has pursued new games in Syria, according to Russia’s claim. Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya claimed that the U.S. administration has started the work to establish an armed militia with local Arab tribes, ISIS militants, and other terrorist organizations in Raqqa, which was the center of ISIS terrorists in some period. It is quite interesting that Nebenzya uses the “free Syria army” term for this new military formation. The same term was used in a period for the armed militias controlled by Turkey in Syria. Although Ankara changed the name of these armed forces to the “Syrian National Army” later, the same formation is still referred to as the “Free Syrian Army” in the international press.
It is wondered if Russians send a message to Ankara through the statement of their Ambassador at the United Nations…