Anyone hoping for a turnabout in international policy that would bend Erdogan’s will has received his loud and clear message: Turkey will be everywhere and nobody will stop it.
Turkey’s aggressive oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean areas claimed by Greece and Cyprus is clearly putting teeth in the European Union and the United States. We urge Turkey to end this calculated provocation and immediately begin exploratory talks with Greece, US State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus said in a brief statement last week.
Coercion, threats, intimidation and military activity will not resolve tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, the statement said.
Ankara must end the cycle of detente and provocation if the government is interested in talks, said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency. Maas, who dramatically canceled his planned visit to Turkey, said he was extremely surprised by her recent moves.
US and European responses refer to the announcement by Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will extend the geological study of oil in one of the offshore blocks near Turkey until October 27th. The area in question is in the territorial waters of Greece. In an earlier announcement, Turkey said the poll was supposed to end on Thursday. Indeed, Turkey seemed to be considering international pressure and is ready to return to the table. But Erdogan had other plans.
Talks about imposing economic sanctions or a military embargo on Turkey if it does not stop seeking oil and gas in the disputed areas have grown in recent weeks. But when EU leaders gathered for a summit last Friday, the issue went almost unnoticed and Greece had to put massive pressure on it to put it on the agenda.
The EU summit issued firm and decisive statements, but leaders made it clear to Greece that it had better wait with the discussion of sanctions for the summit scheduled for December. The divide between Germany, Spain, Italy, Malta and Hungary, which oppose sanctions, and France is playing into Erdogan’s hands. The five states fear a new wave of refugees that Erdogan could send if sanctions are imposed.
This is not the first time that millions of Syrian hostages have become a winning negotiating tool for Turkey against the EU. Although Turkey has not received everything it wanted from the refugee agreement it signed with the union, it has threatened to open flood gates several times to block European initiatives to curb Erdogan, such as drilling in the Mediterranean or involving Turkey in the war in Syria.
Postponing discussions on blocking Turkey until December is linked to the US presidential election. Like their counterparts around the world, the leaders of Europe and Turkey can not even begin to think about who will be the next president of the United States. Despite reprimands from the State Department, Erdogan’s personal relationship with Donald Trump is excellent. Trump stopped the congress and NATO plans to impose sanctions on Turkey when it bought Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. Erdogan promised Trump he would not use missiles before the election, but last week Turkey held a drill using missiles. Turkey was excluded from the plan to build F-35 aircraft but will continue to produce parts for them also in part by 2021.
Trump also refrained from clashing with Erdogan over the issue of the Nago-Karabakh war, where Turkish forces are fighting alongside Azerbaijan. The president joined France and the Russians are calling for a ceasefire, but since then he has remained silent and offered only to wait for negotiations between the parties in the United States. Trump can not blame Armenia because he needs 1.5 million Armenian votes of American citizens, concentrated mainly in the democratic cities of New York, Boston and Los Angeles. But he also hates blaming Ankara because he wants to protect his friend. In contrast, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Russia never saw Turkey as a strategic ally, but as a close partner. Putin, unlike Trump, does not see himself bound by his good personal relations with Erdogan when Turkey tramples Russia.
The tense anticipation of the US election may lead the EU to think that if Joe Biden is elected, US policy towards Turkey will change fundamentally and support the union in exerting diplomatic pressure on Erdogan. But the refugee threat will continue to hover over Europe, despite the man sitting in the White House and the EU will have to resolve the Greco-Turkish conflict itself and not allow Washington to set the rules of the game in the eastern Mediterranean.
Anyone hoping for a return to international politics that would bend the will of Erdogan has received a loud and clear message.
All methods, including terrorism, attempts at revolution, economic traps, attempts to isolate us, were intended to remove Turkey from its goals. “We succeeded in thwarting all those attacks and schemes. Most international organizations and states claiming to carry the flag of democracy have displayed their true colors when they applied a double standard in Turkey,” Erdogan said in a speech. a press conference after the cabinet session.
Turkey is getting bigger and stronger and its areas of interest are growing with it, he said. Whether it is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Libya and Nago-Karabakh, the search for oil in the Mediterranean, the Kurds in Syria or the defense pact with Qatar, Erdogan promises that Turkey will be everywhere and no one will stop it.
In his first steps as Prime Minister of Turkey Erdogan achieved his political power thanks to the meteoric economic success towards which he led his country. In recent years, despite the growing economic crisis, Erdogan has built Turkey as a regional and diplomatic power that cannot be ignored or dismissed, one that is ready to face Europe, Russia and the United States.
From a state seeking a warm corner in the Arab Middle East, Turkey became a confrontational state seen by many Arab states as an enemy. This month Saudi Arabia imposed economic sanctions on Turkey following Erdogan’s statements regarding the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia has officially boycotted Turkey for about a year, but now the boycott is enforced by trade offices, importers, traders and civilians. The head of the Saudi Chamber of Commerce, Aylan Al Ajlan, has copied and pasted the slogan of the Boycott Movement for Relocation and Sanctions against Israel in Saudi Arabia, stating that there will be no investment, trade and tourism with Turkey. This boycott is not only on Turkish goods but on brands and products partially produced in Turkey and traded in Saudi Arabia. The estimated damage to the Turkish economy is $ 3 billion, a considerable amount for a country whose currency is falling and suffering from high unemployment, 12 percent inflation and a large budget deficit of 4.9 percent of GDP gross, compared to a 2.9 percent expectation.
Erdogan had a particularly harsh response to this boycott: Remember these (Gulf) states did not exist yesterday and probably will not exist tomorrow, but continue to raise our flag in the region forever, by the will of Allah.
Erdogan is marketing his worldview that Europe and the United States need Turkey more than it needs them. He says the old world order, the traditional coalitions and blocs, the agreements that had been practiced so far are collapsing and paving the way for new balances of power. Turkey is the rising star of these global and regional trends, he says.
This observation is accurate in light of the upheavals that have occurred in the Middle East over the past decade, the United States diminishing power and status in the Trump era and European convergence.
But Erdogan’s megalomaniacal approach, currently defended by allies and rivals who fear his backlash, forces us to carefully consider the dangerous consequences of growing a regional leader who maintains a strong military force and declares that existing arrangements do not tie it. The confrontation with Greece and Europe in general over oil exploration in disputed areas could emerge as an experiment in implementing the new Erdogans strategy and not just an economic conflict between the two countries.