Merkel: Turkey’s behavior is “unacceptable”
NATO ally Turkey seems intent on alienating its western allies from the United States to Germany and the UK. Turkey has arrested German citizens at London-based Amnesty International and released the locations of American military bases and assets.
Additionally, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is stepping up his anti-Israel rhetoric, a stance that will put him at further odds with the U.S. in light of President Trump’s vocal support for Israel.
In less than a week, Turkey’s relations with its Western allies, the U.S., the U.K., and Germany, plunged into an abyss, raising the specter of a reassessment of the nature of the relationship with Ankara as sustaining healthy dialogue increasingly appears untenable.
Earlier this week, Turkey has arrested six members of London-based Amnesty International, including German national Peter Steudtner, prompting a swift rebuke from Berlin and London. It also sparked international uproar over the crackdown on human rights groups operating in Turkey.
Turkey’s ties with the U.S. also suffered a tremendous loss of trust after state-run Anadolu news agency’s report that showed maps of locations of two U.S. bases and eight military points in Kurdish-held parts of northern Syria.
Though Anadolu removed parts of the report from its website, it has left a debilitating damage on bilateral relations already tested by clashing interests and competing agendas in Syria. Turkey’s efforts to repair the damage may prove more difficult than ever.
“Erdogan has declared many times that he views the US arming of the YPG a hostile act by the United States. This is one more indication that he opposes US policy,” Joshua Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told The Globe Post.
“It falls short of actually attacking US soldiers, but the publication of base locations indicates that Turkey will not stand idly by,” he said. “It is a clear threat of possible action in the future.”
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated that Turkey’s behavior with regard to the arrest of German citizens (a civil rights activist and a journalist) on the heels of the removal of German troops from a Turkish airbase is “unacceptable.”
Turkey’s behavior is “unacceptable” and Germany has a duty to protect its citizens and companies but also wants to maintain strong ties with Ankara, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff said on Sunday.
Relations between the NATO allies have deteriorated since Turkey arrested six rights activists, including one German, two weeks ago as part of a wider crackdown since last year’s failed coup against President Tayyip Erdogan.
“We want to have good relations with this big and important country but that’s only possible if Turkey is and remains a state under the rule of law,” Peter Altmaier told newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
“Turkey’s behavior is unacceptable,” Altmaier said when asked about Turkey barring German lawmakers from visiting soldiers at a base in Turkey, the arrest of Germans and Erdogan’s recent comments on Germany.
Tensions are already high between the two countries following the arrest of a Turkish-German journalist and a pullout of German troops from a Turkish air base.
It’s not clear what, if any, action Germany will take, but Merkel’s public frustration may result in sanctions should Turkey ignore efforts to bring it back in line with its Western allies.
The German government is monitoring developments in Turkey closely and will decide on sanctions if necessary, he said.
Germany has increased pressure on Turkey in the past few days, threatening measures that could hinder German investment there and saying it is reviewing Turkish applications for arms projects.
On Saturday, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel sought to reassure the three million people in Germany of Turkish descent in a letter published in the Bild newspaper that they belonged and were not the target of changes to policy on Turkey.
Additionally, Turkey is working to mend its ties with Qatar but is condemning Israel.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Sunday for a multi-day visit to the Gulf that will also take him to Kuwait and Qatar. He announced that he sought to help find a way out of the crisis that began in June when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other states sought to isolate Qatar.
However there is another dimension to the trip that should concern Jerusalem, Erdogan wants to talk about the region, and he has been outspoken on the issue of Jerusalem and the current violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
In May Erdogan spoke about the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims around the world and urged more Turks and others to visit the city and show support for “our Palestinian brothers.”
On July 22nd his office issued a statement condemning Israel. “It is unacceptable that Israel shut down Haram al-Sharif for three days and imposed new restrictions, including metal detectors, on Muslims’ entry to the area.”He described the July 14 terror attack as “an incident, which is not approved and is regretted by us that took place on July 14 in East Quds which Israel has been occupying since 1967.” The terror attack took place on the Temple Mount.
The dynamics of the international economy and regional geopolitics place both Turkey and its Western allies in an awkward position, land them in an unavoidable strategic dilemma. Whatever the discord that currently characterizes the relations, both sides still need each other, a factor that makes any dramatic break a remote option given the interconnectedness and mutual economic interdependence.
“Germany’s rebukes are dramatic but remain grounded in a limited number of grievances. In the medium and long-term, Turkey’s allies in Europe and North America do not have blueprint for engagement with Turkey, let alone a realistic vision of where the relationship is headed with Turkey,” Ryan Gingeras, an Assistant Professor at Naval Postgraduate School, who is an expert on Turkey and Balkans, told The Globe Post.
“It may be said that Turkey does not have a plan either. For whatever alternatives Ankara may tout regarding alliances with Moscow or Beijing, Turkey’s deep economic, military and political ties with the EU and the United States cannot simply be ignored or abandoned,” he said, pointing to strong bonds that serve as a shield against strategic re-alignment or re-positioning.
Mr. Hakura raised the same point in his CNN analysis, citing Europe, whatever Erdogan’s mistrust, will be Turkey’s main source of trade, flow of foreign direct investment and technology.
“That reality and their geographic proximity will keep them bound together in a challenging relationship — increasingly tilting to Turkey’s disadvantage,” he wrote.
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