Friday, 9 November 2012

Turkey’s accumulating problems

Some good pieces I’ve read this week on where Turkey is, with regards to that country’s  relations with Israel and Cyprus; the increasing tension between President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan over Turkey’s constitution; and the ever-deteriorating Kurdish political and security situation.

In this piece, Andrew Finkel suggests that the current trial in absentia of the four Israeli military chiefs Turkey believes responsible for the Mavi Marmara raid that left 10 Turks dead is a ‘show trial’, which indicates Turkey is not yet ready to mend fences with Israel and that, indeed, the breach will continue for the foreseeable future. Finkel makes no mention of the burgeoning relationship between Greece, Israel and Cyprus over gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, which will make it even harder for a rapprochement between Ankara and Tel Aviv. Yesterday, for example, as reported here, ministers from Greece, Cyprus and Israel met for talks on creating an energy corridor linking the three countries. We also note that Egypt’s foreign minister was in Cyprus last week to talk about energy projects between the two countries, which would seem to suggest that Egypt is not going to bow to Turkish pressure to shun Cyprus or tear up the Exclusive Economic Zone agreement it has with the island. Also interesting was this article in Lebanon’s Daily Star, which heaps praise on the way the Cypriot government has handled the gas exploration issue, referring to Cyprus ‘showing the way’, ‘punching above its weight’, its ‘forward-looking diplomacy’, ‘openness’, ‘determination’ and so on. Lebanon is another country Turkey has been leaning on to snub Cypriot energy and EEZ overtures.

On the tension between Gul and Erdogan, it’s worth reading this piece by Gareth Jenkins, which explains how the latter’s desire to transform Turkey into an elected presidential system, with Erdogan as president, is being resisted by the country’s current head of state, Abdullah Gul, who, it appears, according to opinion polls, would defeat Erdogan if the two went head-to-head in a popular contest for the presidency.

Finally, this piece by Bill Parks presents a very disturbing picture for Turkey of its continuing inability to address the Kurdish issue. Parks argues that the security situation is deteriorating in Turkish Kurdistan, while the tentative opening made by Erdogan to find a political solution to Kurdish demands is dead. Parks also observes that apart from enduring violence in the south-east of the country, there is increasing tension between Kurds and Turks in large cities across Turkey, where Kurds suffer ghettoisation, discrimination and poverty. Parks adds that also working against Turkey is demographics, pointing to a study that shows there are currently 22m Kurds in Turkey, amounting to 30 percent of the country’s population, and goes on:
‘[T]he Kurdish birthrate in Turkey is reckoned to be at least twice that of ethnic Turks. Although these figures are fuzzy around the edges, they suggest that within a couple of generations, Kurds could well make up the majority of Turkey’s population. True, many are already assimilated; but can the government really believe that the current campaign of political repression and marginalisation, and violence rather than dialogue, stands any chance of assimilating the remainder of them – ever, let alone before such time as Kurds outnumber Turks?’

No comments: