Turkey… bridging the gaps end in a predicament (2/2)

تم نشره في Mon 17 March / Mar 2014. 07:28 PM - آخر تعديل في Mon 17 March / Mar 2014. 07:29 PM

By Fahed Khitan

From their end, Turkish politicians do not feel any responsibility for the outcome of their country's relations with the Arab countries. Before the wave of change that has hit the Arab region, the ambitious Turkish foreign policy bridged the gaps with its neighborhood, east and west.

Turkey has achieved a lot in this regard; it weaved better relations with Egypt, Gulf states, Jordan, and Syria. “Erdoganism” received overwhelming support in the Arab streets, and the Turkish experience in reform and development became a role model.

But the winds of change that blew over the area turned upside down the equation and existing alliances. Turkey supported the revolutions of the Arab peoples in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. In Syria, it tried to play the role of mediator to save the system from falling but their efforts failed, and they moved to the side of the revolution, taking an aggressive stance against the Assad regime.

Subsequent developments in the Turkish position on the Arab revolutions are known to all, there is no need to review it. What is important is how do you see Turkey today against its relations with the Arab countries?

Every politician we met in Turkey asked us about the position of the Arab public on Turkey now. The frequent questions reflect a feeling wary about the division of public opinion about Turkey's role and ambitions in the region, and also its alliances.

Turkish officials do not feel guilty about Syria; they are still convinced of the validity of their position on the Assad regime, and that they "did not let down the Syrian people".

It is true that Turkey is no longer driven behind the slogan of toppling the regime as it was before, and reaffirms its support for a political, democratic solution, but it also — as the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Emrullah İşler said: "Our conscience is relieved. We have done everything we can to spare Syria this situation," but the responsibility lies, primarily, with the Syrian regime, and the international community, which was not serious enough in its resolution.

The Turkish officials are convinced that "whatever the circumstances are, there must be a transition were Bashar al-Assad cannot continue beyond".

Turkey's position on the Syrian crisis was an additional reason for rapprochement with the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia, which has stood firmly against the Assad regime. But the straw that broke the back of the Turkish relations with Saudi Arabia is Egypt. Saudi’s support for the army in its decision to depose elected President Mohamed Morsi caused a deep rift in the relations of the two countries.

Senior officials in the government and the ruling party in Turkey talk wistfully about the position of Saudi Arabia in the coup in Egypt, and they call it a treacherous stab. Someone asks: "Why did you do that Saudi Arabia? Were you unable to buy the Muslim Brotherhood, without the need to construct a coup?"

İşler emphasizes confidently: "Our position from Egypt is honorable, regardless of the identity of the elected president." This is confirmed by all those responsible; "we do not support Morsi because of he’s affiliated with the Islamic movement, but because he is an elected president".

But what Turkey do after the victory of Abdul Fattah El Sisi in the upcoming presidential elections? Will it deal with a fait accompli, or adheres to boycotting Egypt?

We did not get a clear answer to this question. Preferably Turkish official prefers to answer the question in the future, after he sees whether the presidential elections in Egypt will meet the conditions of democracy or not.

But what worries the Turkish officials more is the "involvement" in of the Arab countries in what is dubbed as a conspiracy currently facing Turkey, in addition to that these countries support Turkish groups that seek to create chaos in the country. In the opinion of a senior official in the government, some Arab countries seek to destroy the Turkish experience, because it is a source of inspiration for the Arab people.

With regard to the Jordan’s stance, Turkish officials say "no problems between us and Jordan, and relations are excellent despite differences in views on some issues," in an implicit reference to the dispute over the developments in Egypt.

Bridging the gaps policy did not hold up for long. But Turkey is not the only entity responsible for the existing state of tension; the Arab world is witnessing unprecedented shifts that hit hard its governments, relations, and systems, and the crisis between the Gulf States is the best example for that. 

@fahed_khitan

 

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition.

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