BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
The AK Party government has taken surprise steps one after another.
Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women, the closure case against the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the dismissal of HDP’s human rights defender Omer Gergerlioglu from his post, taking him into custody from the parliament (where he had been staying at to avoid custody) at the crack of dawn, giving Gezi Park to an obscure foundation by after taking it away from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB)… But there is still no phone call from Biden…
The U.S. and the European Union (EU) generally responded to these steps taken by President Erdogan’s signature and instructions with expressions like “concern” or “disturbing ”.
In fact, the U.S. President, Joe Biden, who hasn’t called President Erdogan since he officially took the oath of office on January 20, expressed his ‘disappointment’ about Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.
Again, all these have happened prior to the EU Leaders Summit that was held on March 25-26, which has critical importance in terms of Turkey’s relations with EU. EU leaders announced at the summit held in December that they will discuss the sanctions issue on Turkey at this summit. However, despite this backsliding of the Turkish democracy and human rights – women’s rights are human rights – no harsh response is expected from the EU.
The clue of this answer is hidden in the news published by Reuters, which said, “Turkey has become open to compromise…”
Reuters stated that the EU has ‘frozen’ all sanction plans based on the request of the U.S. and European diplomats. The Biden administration’s message delivered to European authorities saying that ‘Turkey, a NATO ally and EU candidate country, appeared more willing to compromise”, is the likely reason for freezing of sanction plans.
The news emphasized the call of the U.S. administration for the EU not to impose new sanctions on Turkey in an environment where it can make more compromises. And this news hasn’t been denied by Turkey.
In fact, Ankara seems quite “comfortable” in terms of the EU’s reactions despite the steps taken by Ankara over which the “EU has made statements one after another”.
There are also clues in the same news about what the “compromise” might be. It has also been addressed by the Biden administration in the news and seems to relate to Turkey’s Eastern Mediterranean policies. These include:
►The fact that the AK Party government has grounded survey vessels for months in the Gulf of Antalya or the Black Sea, where disputes don’t exist.
►“Exploratory”- although heaven knows why Ankara has started to call them “consultative”- talks with Greece.
►Efforts to make peace with Egypt and Israel. The information that the instruction has been delivered to the media leg of the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Turkey to end publishing against the Egypt administration, which has been one of the Sisi administration’s “reconciliation” conditions, has appeared in the international media.
►News that Syrian jihadists in Libya, alleged to be brought to this country by Turkey, have started to withdraw, has also appeared in the international media.
►President Erdogan has started to address his French counterpart Macron as ‘Dear Macron’. Apart from Macron, Erdogan has also made contact with German chancellor Angela Merkel as well as EU Council and EU Commission leaders.
►The Cyprus talks will start again next month.All seem to be parts of a whole. As Turkey shifts to a more moderate policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, it scores points on its compromise scorecard and Ankara is granted new extensions of time, obviously for future compromises.
THE SISI PRECEDENT…
It’s not a secret that the EU ignores backsliding on human rights and democracy in the Middle East for ‘strategic interests’. Everyone remembers the February 2019 Summit Meeting held by President Sisi, who took power in a coup, at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, which was attended by half of the EU’s Leaders . Following news in the European press about the EU “embracing ” the Egyptian dictator, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte said:
“If we only preach the merits of principles and shy away from exercising power in the geopolitical arena, our continent may always be right, but it will seldom be gainful. Sometimes you have to dance with whoever’s on the dance floor.”
Refugees were the main issue whispered in Sisi’s ear while he danced with European leaders. Apparently, there is no political flip-flop that European leaders can’t do when it comes to refugees…