Last week the All Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues, held an event in Westminster.
BY BARONESS HUSSEIN-ECE OBE | JULY 17, 2012
The meeting introduced a new concept where a network of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot civil society organisations (CSOs) were calling for a shake-up of the Cyprus peace process. They made a strong case to include a more central and active role for civil society, woman and young people to work in tandem with negotiations between the leaders of the two communities.
Their argument is that experience from other conflicts shows that widening the dialogue to include a broader range of opinion, especially from relevant civil society groups, can loosen negotiating log-jams.
Since the beginning of the Cyprus conflict, there have been a large number of direct and indirect negotiations between the two sides to reach a solution.
After 44 long years these have been unsuccessful in formulating an answer to satisfy, or to bring the two sides together in a lasting agreement.
Like many of us from a Cypriot heritage, who have been directly affected by decades of unrest, and conflict, we have gone through the various stages of emotion: fear, despair, loss, hope, and then more despair. There was a time a few years ago, following the failure of the biggest opportunity – the Annan Plan and ensuing Referendum that I effectively gave up, and simply wanted nothing more to do with the ‘Cyprus Problem’.
It would never be resolved, so why expend energy only to be rewarded by more frustration and disappointment?
But on entering the House of Lords in 2010, and observing the various groups who purported to represent the interests of all Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, I changed my mind.
I realised it has become something of an industry. For some factions the Cyprus problem, and political lobbying methods here in the UK, it has become a campaign to preserve the status quo – to keep the focus on the past, so that there is no solution. I must stress these groups are in my view, a minority, but nonetheless, they are a vocal minority, who are adept at lobbying Parliamentarians who usually have little background knowledge and experience of Cyprus, and simply listen to the loudest voices.
This is not helpful, and only seeks to polarise opinion and reinforce divisions. I decided I should use my role and position as a Parliamentarian, being the only person from a Turkish Cypriot background, to attempt to bring about more light and less heat. Like others I have direct experience of the conflict – relatives that are missing; my family’s property lost.
I have endeavoured to bring more equality and justice to the discussions. All Greek and Turkish Cypriot people have suffered in some way. There are victims on all sides.
Cyprus is not currently at the top of any international agenda, since there has been relative peace for a long time. There are more pressing problems in the world.
But at a time when both national and international interest on the Cyprus Problem appears to be waning, in lieu of presumed deadlock ahead of the Cyprus EU Presidency due to start in July, perhaps the time is ripe for the adoption of a more participatory framework to include a wider group of stakeholders in the peace process; an approach which could inform efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement.
The ‘Cypriot-led, Cypriot talks’ have failed. They have resolved nothing. If anything they have retrenched divisions. Since the latest round of UN sponsored talks in January held in Greentrees, the Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has announced the talks are over for the foreseeable future.
The Greek Cypriot Republic of Cyprus, will have a very busy and eventful year, with the end of talks, assuming the EU presidency in July, and the presidential elections in early 2013. The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias said that he would not seek re-election if he cannot bring peace to communities of Cyprus, and recently in a televised address to the nation, he admitted that he "sees no solution to the Cyprus problem in sight”, and since then has announced he will not seek re-election as president.
We are back to the status quo.
With the failure of these latest reunification negotiations, which have been under way since 2008, we are at an impasse. Many of us now believe that dramatic and creative steps are needed. As the stalemate continues, the costs for Greek and Turkish Cypriots, are growing.
Neither Greek Cypriots nor Turkish Cypriots can fulfil their potential on an island whose future is divided, uncertain, militarised and facing new economic difficulties.
Published as TURKEY FOCUS POLICY BRIEF No: 1
On the eve of World War I (WWI), Winston Churchill, as the first lord of the Admiralty, converted the Royal Navy from coal to oil. As a result, a shift emerged in the imported fuel dependency, from Welsh Coal to Iranian oil. Then Churchill declared, “Safety and certainty in oil lie in variety and variety alone”. In modern parlance this attitude denotes diversification of energy supplies.
BY FAIG GALIB ABBASOV | June 2012
Diversification of energy supplies, both in terms of supply sources and transit routes is at the heart of consumers’ energy strategy, as it ensures security of supply, resilience against disruptions and has a downward pressure on the prices by facilitating competitiveness in energy markets. In this sense, multiplicity of energy supplies is the best recipe for a mid-term and even possibly long-term energy security for the consumer states.
From the producers’ perspective energy security holds to a similar principle, but at the opposite end of the spectrum. As the single biggest source of income for the most of the hydrocarbon producers, energy security entails continuous sales of their energy resources at the highest possible prices. Disruptions of energy exports will deprive the governments from substantial national income and destabilize the economy. In modern gas market diplomacy, on the other hand, the best commercial conditions to retain and increase the market share have become a new criterion for the energy security of the producer countries. This is especially important in Europe, where the bulk of the imported natural gas is supplied based on long-term pay or take commercial contracts. Therefore, the revenues of the energy producers, especially, Europe’s non-European gas suppliers are highly dependent upon their ability to acquire as big as possible market share under favorable commercial conditions. In turn, the best market conditions and the continuous flow of energy exports can be assured via, inter alia, security of demand. Thus, security of demand constitutes the bedrock of energy security of hydrocarbon producing states.
Accordingly, the security of demand is contingent upon the producers’ ability to increase the number of their buyers and access various markets simultaneously. Branching out of energy exports safeguards producers from disruptions in a particular market, whether it is caused by technical difficulties or as a result of diminished demand.
Secondly, security of demand necessitates diversification of export routes, as over-dependence upon a single route/infrastructure and disruptions thereof will stymie their exports reaching the necessary markets. This, in turn, will have deleterious effect on their revenues, as well as a blow on their reputation as a reliable supplier. In this sense, from suppliers’ perspective happiness in energy security lies in multiple pipelines and multiple clients.
The third facet of energy security is the concept of affordability. However, affordability entails different assumptions for producer and consumer states. If from an importer’s perspective, affordability equals to continuous supply of energy resources at lowest possible prices, from a producer perspective it means continuous demand at the highest possible price. ii Therefore, the diverging perceptions of energy security by consumers and producers lead to everyone expanding their energy relations and partners. Efforts by consumers, but also producers to diversify their energy supplies and markets, have given rise to what Luft and Korin call “a new breed of countries”, i.e. transit countries of energy relations and trade.
In what seems to be an extraordinary shift in its involvement in Africa, Turkey is fast becoming an ally – and international actor – in Somalia’s theater.
BY ABDIHAKIM AYNTE | APRIL 10, 2012
Lately, Ankara has shown an increasing interest and willingness to intervene to the devastating situation caused by the acute drought, complicated by terrorism and statelessness in Somalia. In the midst of biblical famine that starved millions of Somalis to death, Turkey was the first country to unilaterally respond to the drought, while traditional donors for Somalia were unable and unwilling to provide more than a fleeting aid package. There are, perhaps, three essential factors that can be attributed to Ankara’s principled approach to Somalia: Moral authority that defines Ankara’s Islamic values; business opportunity that makes Turkey a raising global economic competitor and geo-strategic vision that is part of Ankara’s global roundabout ambition – a roundabout of different ideas, cultural, business, people and innovation.
For two decades, Somalia has been plagued by continuous warfare, recurrent humanitarian disasters, terrorism, and statelessness. The international community, for its discredit, has been reconfiguring Somalia’s solution for the last two decades, but never succeeded one. The latest pact of such an attempt was just concluded in London, where 50 head of international states, including Turkey, assembled in a one day conference orchestrated by British government, to reset a fresh tone on Somalia. To top it off, Somalia is fragmented into a multitude of ethnic lines with plenty of transitional governments that are internally paralyzed by stalemates and political bickering. The country is lacking strong central government since the fall of Siyad Barre regime, and the infrastructure is almost totally collapsed.
In a polemic essay by Erdoğan at Foreign Policy after his trip to Mogadishu, he mildly slammed the international community for their mortal failure in Somalia, letting the country become its own drama that is going to nowhere. Contrast to that view, Turkey has strenuously – and more modestly – approached the crisis in Somalia, rather than promises and plans as other donors did, and made significant inroads that were not seen before. Turkey, at the crossroad of civilizations between East and West, has put itself forward as a fellow Muslim nation who, unlike other Muslim countries, cares about what happens in Somalia partly because of the religious and historical ties.
Historic Visit, Galvanizing Somalia
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was visiting Mogadishu on Friday 19 August 2011 in a well remembered visit, most of the cheering crowds who waited for him at the airport barely knew who Erdoğan was, but recognized his face through the posters of Erdoğan that were pitched all over the Adden Airport. This is a gentle reminder of how ordinary Somalis are alienated towards foreign leaders and disconnected from technology.
The visit marked an important mission as Erdoğan was the first leader to brave into Mogadishu, arguably among the most dangerous cities over the past two decades, whilst most of the international donors are on the periphery capably unable to make more than a fleeting visit. Erdoğan’s visit also marked an awkward position within the so called “international community.” Ankara is unilaterally taking a risk in Somalia, a country that has been dismally bungled by outsiders, and driven upon its moral authority rather than its superior mighty.
Moreover, after his meeting with President Shiekh Sharif at Villa Somalia, Erdoğan immediately instructed the Turkish embassy in Mogadishu for the first time in 20 years, to assign a new ambassador who submitted his credentials on the same day as a subtle proof of Ankara’s urgency on its local representative. In the days that followed Erdoğan’s visit, Turkey alone pledged 250 million USD in humanitarian relief assistance. The magnitude of the Somalian tragedy – that the UN estimated as 3.2 million people who are in a dire situation – deserved an enormous international consolidation appeal.
Prior to his visit, Erdoğan’s picture – or Turkish’s flag – became commonly visible throughout Mogadishu. By most measures, the visit was symbolically historic: it coincided with holy Ramadan, red carpet and honor guards and gun sluts were set out for Erdoğan – the first gesture in 20 years seen by Somalis. Erdoğan defied the UN categorization of Mogadishu as an unsafe and no-go-zone. In nutshell, his visit warmed the hearts and the minds of many proud Somalis, both inside and outside, who infatuated Erdoğan’s trip as, in their own words, “Somali’s only true Muslim friend”.
What made Erdoğan’s visit to Somalia particularly a groundbreaking is that, unlike other visitors, who routinely make brief appearances on the ground, typically confined to military bases; Erdoğan drove into the city, toured around refugee camps, took pictures with underfed kids, – a motion even Ban ki Moon, UN’s Secretary who visited Somalia after Erdoğan, failed to show, and galvanized the whole plight of Somalia.
Historic Ties, Fellow Muslim Nation
Practically, Turkey’s most recent involvement in Somalia can be linked to its 2010′s conference on Somali business communities in Istanbul. Before the summit, Ankara’s interest in Somalia was quite marginal. Turkish interest in Somalia, however, is not new. Both countries have historic relations that dates way back to the Ottoman Empire. Somalia had an extensive relationship with the Ottoman Empire during the Sultan Selim rule in 1517. In the most recent history, Turkey helped Somalia during the US led operation called Operation Restore Hope, also infamously known as Black Hawk Down Operation, and had sent battalion of Turkish army under the auspices of the UN and reestablished cultural and educational facilities in Mogadishu. Turkey’s contingent used to distribute milks, food and beverages to schools and madrasas in Somalia, a sign of maintaining its old relations with Somalis. Through the years, Turkey, the only Muslim member in NATO, and Somalia has maintained a cozy relationship.
Prime Minister Erdoğan’s decision to bring his wife Emine, and five key ministries with limited security detail to visit Mogadishu, days after al-Shabab was driven out of Mogadishu city, gave unprecedented validity to the Turkish efforts and reinforced the popular theory that Turkey is distinctly – and uniquely – a reliable fellow Muslim nation that can elevate global awareness on Somali’s plight. Turkey’s principled approached helped to create an atmosphere of mutual confidence between Somalis and Turkish as whole.
Not everyone is happy about Turkey’s new engagement in Somalia as critics differ on Turkey’s involvement. In one camp’s view is that Ankara’s modern engagement in Africa amounts to reviving the “neo-Ottoman” heritage that has profound root in Somalia. Another critic, but perhaps more incendiary, accuses Turkish government for naively pumping direct cash to Somalia government, who is widely considered as a bunch of syndicate corrupted officials. Ankara, for its own good, has undermined this allegation and extensively nurtured its relations with Mogadishu.
The policies towards Somalia have focused on alleviating the situation for those affected by the drought. But with thousands of IDPs (please indicate the long version) coming to Mogadishu and with a will to reflect more than the short term possibilities of saving lives, Turkey has also noticed “that you cannot sustain Somalia by simply providing food and medicine.” To this end, Turkey has expressed desire to participate and contribute to initiatives that are aimed at rebuilding the country. In this commitment, Turkey has launched a bilateral support for Somali by providing aid in critical sectors like health, education, roads, garbage storage facilities, sanitary system, airports and more importantly, building Somali national army. “The ultimate aim of these projects are institutional building and make Somalia self-sufficient”, said Mr. Bekir Bozdağ, Turkish deputy prime minister who was also visiting Mogadishu last week to announce Turkish flights. More compassionately, Turkey is available for free medical support to those effected October 4, 2011, heinous attack in Mogadishu which sadly claimed the lives of some 100 students, lined up for scholarship exams to Turkey. Shortly after the attack, Turkey dispatched an emergency plane to carry the victims to Turkey for specialized medical treatment.
The Turkish role in Somalia has grown consistently since last Augusts’ visit. A development office was established in Mogadishu, with the effect that both the Turkish government and its non-governmental organizations can fearlessly arrive in Mogadishu – a city that even the Nairobi crowed UN agencies have categorized as no-go-zone since the civil war. Moreover, two new offices, one in Puntland and one in Somaliland, are to be opened within a short period of time. Furthermore, Turkish Airlines have introduced a regular flight – twice a week – to Mogadishu via Sudan, a clear indication that Turkey is open for business opportunities. From Turkey’s perspective, a stable, viable and reliable ally in the Horn of Africa, preferably Muslim nation, is critically important with economic calculations.
In Somalia, Turkey is rebuilding the social fabrics by reconstructing roads, airports, hospitals for Somali peoples’ wellbeing and paving the way for political resettlement. The list of some projects that Turkey is doing in Somalia is encouraging: up to 1000 students have been granted full scholarships in different fields in Turkey, schools that teaches Turkish language have open up, Turkish Red Crescent feeds up to 15,000 IDPs, a major hospital and outpatient clinic have been reconstructed which benefiting nearly three million Somalis coming from Mogadishu and other remote areas. The net effect of Turkey’s contribution to the impoverished country of Somalia is mind-boggling. For the first time in two decades, Somalia is receiving global attention that might make a difference for the better.
New Ally and Mediator
Lately, there have also been reports that Turkey has been clandestinely establishing some line of communication between al-Shabaab, an Islamist organization that paid allegiance to al-Qeada, and Transitional Federal Government (TFG). This underscores Turkey’s ability to play a larger diplomatic role in the mediation process. To be sure, Turkey has notable advantages in mediation, including its historical connection to Somalia, notwithstanding its shared Islamic values and its lack of local proxies or other incentives to meddle in the internal politics. In addition, Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkish foreign minister recently outlined Turkey’s interest in meditating between the conflicting parties in Somalia and asserted that “despite our advantage and special relation with Somalis of all stripes, Turkey would play a role in mediating conflicting parties in Somalia.”
In light of this unorthodox approach to Somalia, what possibilities does the Turkish engagement show for long term positive development in the country? Could Turkish engagement prove to be the catalyst for nation building that is much needed in this fragmented country? The method with which Ankara is approaching Somalia is undoubtedly one to envy. It screams of pragmatism, of hope, of a country that dares to aim for development before the outcome of the political unrest is settled. If implemented properly, public goods, such as garbage cleaning, may not only help Mogadishu to become a cleaner environment but could also provide a fruitful basis for cooperation between the districts in Mogadishu and their respective leaders. Similar actions have previously shown to provide a good basis for conflict prevention in other parts of the world.
Needless to say, Turkey has aptly proved to be a capable of delivering what many international donors failed to deliver in 20 years – relief, rebuilding and resettlement. A major question in the backdrop of the London conference is what will happen now that many other countries possibly also want to take part in Somali development? While Turkey has a long history of approaching the EU, and is possibly aiming to become a member state in the relative close future, Turkish actions in the recent past shows that it will not bend its position just to satisfy the wishes of major EU powers. In order to avert possible clashes of interests between Turkey and other stakeholders, which is likely, there is a need for donor cooperation. The future of the Somali state building process needs “donor stability”. In this process, Turkey should be the go-to actor for international actors interested in the aspects of development where Turkey has already made significant difference.
It is increasingly apparent that Turkey’s expressed interest in Somalia is far more than mere lip service to score extra credit in relation to a possible EU membership. In the future of Somali’s state building, Turkey should play an active role, benefiting from the trust it has gained amongst Somalis and its exceptional position of being a Muslim fellow. The international community, for its part, should recognize Turkey for its humanitarian model in Somalia. Here it remains to be seen to what degree other nations will be willing and able to cooperate with Turkey’s relentless efforts, and to what degree Turkey will feel that other nations intervene in their territory.
Abdihakim Aynte is currently the president of Somali Forum for Progress, an independent think-tank initiative based in Mogadishu, Somalia.
This article first published by "CHANGING TURKEY IN A CHANGING WORLD"
U.S.-Turkish relations entered into a tumultuous period with the Iraq War in 2003. This difficult phase in bilateral ties appears to have ended with the beginning of the Arab Spring.
BY DR. SONER ÇAĞAPTAY | JANUARY 31, 2012
Until recently, disagreements on a number of issues — such as how to deal with Iran's nuclearization — undermined Washington's historical bond with Ankara.
Today, however, the United States and Turkey are closely cooperating, with President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan having formed what is probably the strongest relationship between a U.S. president and a Turkish prime minister in decades. The shifting political winds across the Middle East are also bringing Turkey and the United States closer than they have been since their falling-out in 2003 over the Iraq war.
Washington Opens a Direct Line with Ankara
President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan have developed a close relationship and this personal rapport is the foundation of the new U.S.-Turkish relationship. Until last year, Turkey's relationship with Washington was wavering: Ankara's Iran policy was oscillating, which often challenged Washington's efforts to impose internationally backed sanctions on Tehran.
In June 2010, for example, Turkey voted at the U.N. Security Council against a proposal for U.S.-imposed sanctions. For about two months, it looked as though this vote would sever U.S.-Turkish ties. But the straightforward conversation President Obama had with Prime Minister Erdogan on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Toronto in July 2010 prevented that scenario.
The U.S. President chose to simply tell the Turkish prime minister how upsetting Turkey's U.N. vote had been to Washington. Such candor helped clear the air between the two. And Turkey's policy soon changed: Ankara stopped defending Tehran and began working more closely with Washington.
Since then, the relationship has been on the upswing. The two leaders speak often — at least a dozen times in 2011 alone — and frequently agree on policy. Turkey's statements in support of the Arab Spring led President Obama to appreciate Turkey, a Muslim NATO member that uniquely satisfies Washington’s quest to find powerful allies that have a majority-Muslim population and are happy to work with the United States.
Ankara Reconsiders its Middle East Policy after the Arab Spring
Whereas the personal relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan helped prepare the hypothetical groundwork for rebuilding U.S.-Turkish ties, the Arab Spring has unexpectedly made this a reality by aligning U.S. and Turkish interests in the Middle East.
In 2002, when Turkey's newly elected Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by Mr. Erdogan, began a policy of rapprochement with the country's Middle Eastern neighbors, including Syria, the hope was that this would start integration between Turkey and its neighbors, creating something similar to the 1950s "Benelux" bloc of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Ankara also hoped to benefit from this process by building soft power across the Muslim Middle East, in hope of rising up as a regional leader.
Until the Arab Spring, this policy seemed to be largely inconclusive because of the hard reality on the ground: Turkey's counterparts in rapprochement were not its neighboring peoples, but rather their undemocratic regimes.
Syria is a case in point: whereas Ankara hoped to reach out to the Syrian people, the Bashar al-Assad regime took advantage of its close ties with Turkey, a member of NATO, to gain legitimacy while oppressing its people.
The Arab Spring has ended the political mirage. Even though Ankara repeatedly asked President Assad to stop killing civilians, he chose to ignore these calls — demonstrating that there was never true rapprochement between Turkey and Syria, and that Ankara had been unsuccessful in establishing effective soft power over Damascus.
Subsequently, Ankara has slammed Assad, emerging instead as the chief regional opponent of his policies. This is Ankara's new policy toward the Arab Middle East: leading the world in dropping dictators in favor of the pro-democracy movements, from Egypt to Libya to Syria.
After Ankara concluded that dictators such as Libya's Muammar Qaddafi and Syria’s Assad would fall — sooner or later — once they are challenged by the masses, Washington and Ankara began coordinating their policies on the Arab Spring.
Cooperation has been especially deep toward Syria. Turkey has emerged as the region's key opponent of the Assad regime's crackdown on demonstrators, which also is approved by Washington, which hopes for a "soft landing" in Syria — an end to Assad's rule without the country descending into chaos. Washington appreciates that Ankara is willing to bear the burden of policy toward Syria, from imposing sanctions against Assad to supporting the opposition, following a strategy led by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
While Iran Drives Turkey Closer to Washington
The upswing in U.S.-Turkish ties is likely to last also because of increasing tensions between Ankara and Tehran.
In 2002, when Mr. Erdogan took office, Ankara decided to warm up its ties with Tehran. Then, with the start of the Iraq War in 2003, Turkey and Iran became, in a sense, friends. Alarmed by the U.S. military presence to its east in Afghanistan and to its west in Iraq, Tehran concluded that it needed to win its neighbour Turkey to break the grip of the U.S.-led ring of isolation forming around it. Iranian support for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) ended the day U.S. troops started landing in Iraq.
Eight years later, Tehran is re-evaluating its strategic environment. With U.S. troops leaving Iraq and Iran gaining more influence there, Tehran feels that it can act differently towards Turkey.
What is more, Turkey 's return as a major player in the Middle East has stirred competition with the region’s other country seeking hegemony, Iran. A soft rivalry started between the two countries when they supported opposing factions in Iraq's 2010 elections. This struggle has given way to outright competition over Syria, with Tehran supporting and funding the Assad regime and Ankara supporting and hosting members of the opposition.
Turkey has emerged as the key opponent of the Syrian regime's crackdown. It has threatened action against Assad if the killing does not stop. In response, Damascus has decided to make things difficult for Turkey. U.S. and Turkish officials suggest that the Syrian regime might, once again, be allowing PKK activity in its territory.
Since Damascus is aware that it would likely face a Turkish invasion if it were to allow PKK attacks from its territory into Turkey, it has turned to its ally Tehran for assistance.
Tehran, already annoyed that Turkey is trying to diminish Iranian influence in Iraq, has been glad to help. Iran desperately needs to end Turkey's policy of confronting Assad. If not countered, this policy will usher in the end of the Assad regime in Syria, costing Iran its precious Levantine client state. Hence, Iran's age-old strategy against Turkey has been resuscitated: using the PKK to attack Ankara from another country in order to pressure Turkey.
Accordingly, since the beginning of summer 2010, the PKK has attacked Turkey from Iraq, killing almost 150 Turks as well as kidnapping dozens of people.
Thus forms the Middle Eastern "PKK circle": the more people Assad kills, the more hard-line Turkey's policies will become against Syria. This will, in turn, drive Iranian-Syrian action against Turkey through PKK attacks from Iraq.
Turkey, Iran and the Assad regime are locked in a power game over Syria's future. Either Ankara will win and Assad will fall, or Tehran will win and Ankara, hurt by PKK attacks, will quit and let Syria be.
In the long term, the Turkish-Iranian rivalry will bring Ankara closer to Washington, and perhaps even to Israel, or at least halt further deterioration of Turkish-Israeli ties.
Events in Iraq already provide the basis for further cooperation between Washington and Ankara. With the United States having withdrawn its troops from Iraq, Turkey and Iran will be competing economically and politically to gain influence in Iraq, and this issue is already bringing Ankara closer to Washington.
Accordingly, not a day goes by that yet another Iranian official threatens Turkey. Take for instance, Iranian supreme leader Khamenei’s military adviser Major-General Yahya Rahim-Safavi’s October 2010 warning: “Turkey must radically rethink its policies on Syria, the NATO missile shield and promoting Muslim secularism in the Arab world or face trouble from its own people and neighbors.”
Such threats have driven, at least in part, Ankara’s 2011 decision to take part in NATO’s missile defense project. In fact, this decision can be seen as the sharpest Turkish rebuke to Iran over the past decade.
Today’s Middle East-oriented Turkey, anchored in NATO, is a greater threat to Iranian interests than the merely pro-Western Turkey of the past. Accordingly, there is a chance that Iran might become even more aggressive towards Ankara. Some analysts suggest that the Iran’s Quds Force, the special-operations unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, might be connecting with the PKK in northern Iraq to target Turkey and also the Iraqi Kurds.
There are still some tensions between Washington and Ankara, including the future of Turkish-Israeli relations. However when a flotilla sailed from Turkey to Gaza in early November 2011, the White House asked Ankara to allow no Turks on board the ships, in order to avoid a repeat of the May 2010 incident in which nine Turks on Gaza-bound ships were killed by the Israelis. Ankara obliged, and a crisis was averted.
Nonetheless, there is hope for the future of the Turkish-Israeli relationship. Just as Israel appears keen to find a way to build bridges with Ankara, Turkey, too, would be well served to repair its relationship with Israel. Ankara is currently enjoying increased power in the Middle East. To maximize its influence in the region, though, Turkey will need good ties with all the states in the region, including Israel. This means moving past the 2010 flotilla incident to rebuild these relations.
What is more, both Turkey and Israel face a new and challenging regional landscape. Consequently, both countries would be well served to focus on pressing security issues, rather than devoting precious resources to confronting each other.
Israel's current security situation is a prime example of why it should not wish to add another state — especially one as powerful as Turkey — to its "watch list." Iran poses the most serious challenge to Israel by marching toward a nuclear weapons program. In addition, Iran can mobilize Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other radical terror groups to target Israel and the peace process with the Palestinians. Israel also faces new security challenges, such as the Arab Spring's historic transformation of its neighbors. Not only has Egypt become a bigger concern for Israel than in the past, but Israel must also devote resources to watching Syria if and when President Bashar al-Assad falls.
Turkey also stands to benefit from improved relations with Israel. Until recently, Ankara's policy of "zero problems with neighbors" yielded positive results in the Middle East: Turkey's relations with Iran improved and Ankara and Syria became close allies. Turkey also pacified the terror attacks of the PKK, and even mediated peace between Israel and Syria.
Now, Turkey's problems with its neighbors have resurfaced. Ankara's opposition to the Assad regime's crackdown on demonstrators has earned Damascus' hostility once again, and has placed it on a collision course with Tehran, which defends Assad's crackdown. Turkish-Iranian competition, which began with Tehran and Ankara's support of opposing factions in Iraqi elections, will be further exacerbated if Syria descends into even greater chaos. Signs are emerging that Iran may even resort to its past policy of using the PKK against Turkey.
Given the new environment in the Middle East, Israel appears to be thinking of restoring ties with Turkey, and analysts suggest that Ankara seems interested in doing the same. This time, though, the Turkish-Israeli relationship might have a different foundation: whereas Turkey and Israel allied in the past because they needed the other's friendship, they must now ally because they do not need the other's enmity. Fortunately, a solid foundation for renewed relations already exists: despite their political differences, trade between the two countries is booming, having risen by over 30 percent in 2011, and there are reports of back-room diplomacy already happening.
After a decade of discord with the United States, Turkey’s ties with Washington have improved significantly over the course 2011. While the Obama-Erdogan relationship has established a new foundation for U.S.-Turkish ties, it appears that the two countries will be bound by common interests in the Middle East even after these leaders leave office.
Soner Cagaptay is a senior fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
This article first published at Middle East Studies at the Marine Corps University.
Whilst Turkey’s economy is growing at near equal pace with China’s, its eastern half is still not yet reaping the benefits of a prosperous economy to the same degree as the rest of the country. A larger proportion of the populace in that part of the country lives below the poverty line. The region lags far behind the rest of the country, due to the prevalence of a system of social values incompatible with those of the modern world. Most women are forced to stay at home and fulfill their traditional roles instead of being allowed to study or work outside of the home. It is therefore little wonder that the path of development has been a difficult one for the region to follow.
Even though the Turkish economy is among the fastest growing in the world, the development gap between its western and eastern regions has become a serious cause for concern. Solving this problem should become one of Ankara’s main priorities if it wants to fulfill the criteria for entering the European Union (EU) – and achieving the living standards of a developed country. Turkey is geographically divided into 7 regions: Marmara, the Aegean littoral, the Mediterranean littoral, Central Anatolia, South East Anatolia, East Anatolia and the Black Sea littoral. However, this division doesn’t make political sense, as it just creates, rather randomly, an unnecessary – and rather inefficient – provincial administrative level between the national and municipal ones.
Of all Turkish regions, East and Southeast Anatolia are the poorest, having the lowest per capita consumption and revenue, education levels (particularly amongst women), as well as the lowest number of doctors and teachers per capita in the country. Furthermore, these administrative regions have been the most affected by the ongoing conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Since the 1980s, violence and oppression in the education and business sectors have rendered social and economic development initiatives almost redundant, and thus these regions have become a stagnant backwater.
In 1998 alone, approximately 4,400 primary schools in these regions remained closed for the whole year due to security problems and a severe shortage of teachers, most of whom are simply unwilling to work in such inhospitable conditions. The industrial sector is still strained, as most businessmen find it too risky to start up a new business or run an existing one in an area still subject to attacks and population displacement. Before being put behind bars in 1999, the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, made a personal threat to the private sector, warning Turkish citizens and foreigners against making investments in southeastern Turkey.
South East Anatolian Project and other measures
The Turkish state is aware of the situation in East and Southeast and Anatolia but has paid too little attention to it, not even allocating adequate funds to bring about much needed improvements.
The only project Ankara has funded is the Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP, the Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi, in Turkish). GAP is a multi-sector integrated regional development project which aims to reduce regional development disparities and targets the little more than 9 million people living in southeast Anatolia. The project has been ongoing since 1977, but has yet to be completed. It gained speed only after 2002 and is now one of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogans’ priorities, but the payoff at this time is not significant enough to fulfill its initial objectives.
Originally, it was proposed, under the plan, to exploit waters of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers to build Turkey’s largest dam and irrigation system., Since its inception, this gigantic scheme has experienced standstill periods and gone through many revisions. It almost fell into oblivion in the 1980s following the coup d’état and subsequently failed to meet its initial targets and timescales. Today it takes the form of a social and economic development plan covering 75,358 square kilometers of Turkish territory in nine provinces: Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Batman, Gaziantep, Mardin, Kilis, Siirt, Sirnak and Sanlıurfa. Under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, the share of public funds underwritten to the project has increased year on year, reaching 7.1% of the national budget in 2007.
The paradox is that although the southeast of Turkey is the least developed region, it is indisputably the richest in natural resources. For example, it accounts for 99% of the country’s crude oil production and for 100% of its asphalt, phosphate and flint production. Although GAP is supposed to stimulate East Anatolian development and improve access to the natural resources of the territory, the major outcome of the scheme has been that these natural resources continue to be sent to the more industrialized regions, that is, those in Western Turkey. The Turkish authorities’ greatest challenge is to find efficient ways to utilize these resources locally rather than sending them away to be used for value-added production.
Education, economy and migration
The underdevelopment of Anatolia has many underlying causes. Foremost amongst these is the low level and quality of education in that part of the country. Schools, teachers and students are scarce, as most parents believe it is more useful to put young men and women in the fields rather than have them “waste time” in a classroom. Each young Turkish teacher is usually sent to these regions for the first year of his/her career, right after graduation, and finds him/herself in front of a group of children with a quite different socio-economic background and set of linguistic skills from his/her own, and those he/she is used to encountering. In Turkey’s east and southeast rural areas most children who enter primary school have only spoken Kurdish up to that time; they are hearing the Turkish language for the first time in their lives. On their first day at school they are met by an inexperienced teacher, fresh out of the training program, who is not up to such a difficult task. Most often they are clueless about the local culture and language, and will begin the lesson by quoting the famous Turkish national motto: “How happy is the one who says he is a Turk.” The same teacher, after a year of service, will probably relocate to a more developed western region and teach in a better managed and equipped school, thus leaving the same problems behind for the next teacher.
There is a direct link between the low level of education and the level of development in Eastern Turkey. Most of the people living there gain their education, a meager “cultural capital,” from what is passed on to them by their nuclear family. Agriculture remains the most important economic sector, but this too is underdeveloped, as farmers lack experience of, and are resistant to, new technologies and practices. Wise use of natural resources is not common and there are many problems with the supply and proper use of water for agricultural purposes or household.
All these problems combine to create a climate of poor business initiative, stagnation in infrastructure development and widespread social poverty. In 1997 per capita income in southeast Anatolia was half the national average. This region, which accounts for roughly 10% of the country’s territory and population, accounted for only 5.3% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As a result, employment levels are very low and the industrial sector is almost nonexistent.
According to government figures, the percentage of people employed in industry in 2003 was 25% in Marmara (the western region), 7% in Southeast Anatolia and 3.6% in Eastern Anatolia. On the other hand, the percentage of workers employed in agriculture was 25.33% in Marmara, 61.35% in Southeast Anatolia and 66.41% in East Anatolia. Also in 2009, GDP per capita (in dollars) was $1,653 in Marmara, $593 in Southeast Anatolia and $523 in East Anatolia. One can reasonably affirm that these numbers have not been significantly modified by more recent higher growth rates in Turkey.
The parochial mentality of the people of Eastern Anatolia is another factor underlying its underdevelopment. A sort of feudal system still prevails in that region: The 1995 census showed that 82.2% of the local people did not own any piece of land, while a group a Turkish citizens in that region, representing only 17.8% of the regional population, owned large chunks of land.
Traditional family structures are also predominant in domestic life. The level of education among women is still extremely low. Early marriage is very common, as is polygamy, although this practice is forbidden by Turkish law. Overall, the prevalence of social and cultural tradition and the poor quality of education continue to be the greatest obstacles to human development. For that reason, public policies should not be strictly oriented towards economic growth and production but also towards human development.
As a consequence of the traditional lifestyle, Southeast Anatolia has the highest reproduction rate in Turkey. Indeed, its share in the overall population of the country has increased continually since 1945, when it was recorded as 6.24%. By 2007 this figure had reached 10.2%. These numbers are based on place of birth, but migration must also be taken into consideration, since one of the most common phenomena in the region is young people leaving for the major urban centers in search of jobs.
There are few developed cities in East and Southeast Anatolia. One is Gaziantep, which has been undergoing rapid economic development over the last few years, with resulting inward migration. However, this trend has not resulted in the migrants integrating with urban dwellers. Most commonly, Eastern Anatolians who move to major cities live on their outskirts, in their own communities, far from the infrastructures and institutions of everyday urban life. What we see is the “ruralization” of the city, as the incomers continue to live in the rural way, maintaining their traditional culture. Approximately 50% of Anatolian city residents are settled in districts with inadequate or no infrastructure, lacking such basic municipal services as clean and regularly supplied drinking water and adequate drainage and waste disposal equipment.
The biggest cities (Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir) account for the largest wave of migration. The largest wave of migration is to the larger cities: Ankara, Istanbul, and Izmir. This social drift – and brain drain – also contributes to the impoverishment of the eastern rural regions and to the challenge of designing and implementing social and economic development policies in Eastern Turkey.
Tourism and economic disparity
Since the 1990s, tourism has been a fast developing sector of the Turkish economy. However, this sector also has its problems, as not only is a tourist income disparity between the regions evident but government policies and investment have helped intensify it. After the 1980 military coup d’état the Turkish government adopted a series of short-term measures to soothe the economic crisis hitting the country. To encourage tourism, the government identified in its Tourism Incentives Act of 1982 some “tourist zones” suitable for infrastructure investment. However, the “zones” that received these investments were the ones that already had the highest level of production, and are still today the most developed and prosperous: the Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Millions of foreign tourists, from all around the globe, visit these historic regions, while a few of them have heard of Samsun, Gaziantep, Van or Diyarbakir, or will enter Turkey with the idea of visiting such places. On the other hand, some tourist attractions in Eastern Turkey have recently opened or been upgraded for domestic tourists. These include the ski resorts of Sanliurfa, Siirt and Mus.
In recent years, and particularly since the AKP has been in power, more attention has been paid to the development of South and Southeast Turkey. The GAP project is expected to be completed within two or three years and, if its work is conducted in an organized and efficient way, it might change the lives of many Anatolian plateau residents.
Eastern Turkey is not solely handicapped by economic problems. The region lacks social and cultural development as well. Narrowing the education gap, integrating local cultures and providing the locals with the knowledge and tools to plan and conduct their own development are the necessary conditions for achieving real integration. Investing in social infrastructure is also imperative, as this will discourage the current pattern of out migration which makes it even harder to achieve stability and sustainable economic growth in the region.
GAP does not address enough of the problems of the socially and economically disadvantaged Turkish regions. The province of Van (which was struck by a violent earthquake in October 2011), like all the other provinces of Eastern Turkey, are still excluded from the project, as they are too far from the Tigris and Euphrates, the original but no longer relevant focus of GAP. No alternative plans have been made for these areas, but it is to be hoped that the earthquake may now awaken some degree of understanding and sense of responsibility towards these people and regions in the Turkish government.
Richard Rousseau is Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Khazar University in Baku, Azerbaijan and a contributor to Global Brief, World Affairs in the 21st Century (www.globalbrief.ca) and the Jamestown Foundation.
From the outset of the ‘Arab Spring’, Turkey has pursued an active foreign policy and supported a number of recent popular uprisings throughout the Arab world.
What is more, Turkey has, as its Western allies, stepped up pressure on neighbouring Syria – a country that Mr. Ergodan once promoted close connections with – by calling on Bashar Al Assad to recognise the will of the Syrian people and step down as president. His view is – somewhat ironically, as the latter part of this article will show – that a future cannot be built on ‘the blood of the oppressed’. Statements such as this one have been warmly received by the Arab streets, as has Turkey’s leading sponsorship of exiled Syrian opposition, whose meetings and events have been facilitated in Istanbul and Ankara.
Just as Turkey’s support for the popular uprisings was welcomed in the Arab world, the country’s (op)position toward the Assad regime has been commended by the United States and the European Union. More generally, the country has received praise from Western and Arab pundits, some of whom have suggested that the seemingly successful political model in which Turkey’s moderate Islamic government coexists with democracy and secularism, be the model that emerging democracies in the region replicate. There is, however, reason to be vigilant about Turkey as a regional political role model. In late December 2011, around the period when Turkish foreign delegates were visiting Arab countries and making strong statements in support of revolutionary uprisings, the Turkish military launched an offensive air strike using highly advanced F-16 warplanes, targeted at Kurdish villages along the Turkish and Iraq-Kurdistan border. The attacks killed 35 villagers. To its major embarrassment, the Turkish government admitted that the dead, originally thought to be fighters from the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were in fact civilians. This episode brings to mind Turkey’s ongoing and longstanding ethnic rights issue towards its Kurdish minority, for which it has yet to find a peaceful solution. This is in spite of what has appeared as goodwill – or perhaps simply good diplomacy – on part of the Turkish Prime Minister who, when taking office in 2003, promised that his government would alter Turkey’s policy of Kurdish suppression. The ethnic minority issue also persists despite Mr. Ergodan being the first Turkish Prime Minister to visit Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq, and opening a Turkish consulate there in March 2011.
Some elements within the Turkish political and military establishment as well as some extremists within the Kurdistan Worker’s Party’s political structure seem to view any Turkish initiatives towards the Kurdish question as disadvantageous for their respective political ambitions. Be that as it may, escalation of ‘domestic’ violence in Turkey begs the question of whether the country in fact merits the praise and role model status that some have granted it. Being a democratic country requires implementation of ethnic minorities’ human rights. In order for the ‘Turkish model’ to be one worth replicating in post-authoritarian Arab states, Turkey must first and foremost pursue coherently within its own borders the pro-democracy rhetoric that it has been promoting throughout the Arab world.
Seyed Ali Alavi is a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies.
This article first published at LSE Ideas.
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