Erdoğan facing crucial choices on allies – Financial Times

As his country faces the pain of an economic downturn and a highly volatile situation in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is poised to make decisions that will have a momentous impact on his country’s geopolitical future, Financial Times International Affairs Editor David Gardner wrote for the newspaper.

Turkey’s economy has been hard hit this year, with the lira’s drop of nearly 40 per cent partly a result of U.S. sanctions in retaliation for the imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson and other U.S. citizens.

Many had expected Brunson, who is accused of collaborating with outlawed groups in Turkey, to be released on his next hearing on October 12. However, during a “bellicose” speech this week Erdoğan showed no intention to repair ties with the United States, which is preparing further sanctions on Turkey, Gardner said in his article published on Tuesday.

Ankara, meanwhile, is on the hunt for new allies to take Washington’s place, and still furious at the United States for its perceived support of the Gülen religious movement accused of carrying out the failed coup attempt in 2016 and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group seeking Kurdish self-rule through armed struggle.

Turkey’s fight against Syrian-Kurdish groups affiliated with the PKK in northern Syria has widened the rift with the United States, which backs these groups, and simultaneously pushed Turkey closer to Russia, said Gardner.

However, with the recently signed peace deal looking fragile in Idlib, where Turkey and Russia support opposing sides, there can be no guarantee friendly relations between the pair will continue, he added.

“No wonder, then, that Mr Erdogan is trying to rekindle relations with the EU, notably in his recent visit to Germany, a country whose leaders he was denouncing as Nazis only last year. He is hoping for serious investment, as well as additional EU aid for hosting 3.5m Syrian refugees who might otherwise head towards Europe,” Gardner said.

The meeting on Syria Erdoğan is scheduled to host this month with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin shows a desire to create “diplomatic insulation,” he said.

With important decisions to be made, however, the Turkish president stands almost entirely alone, having rid himself of the most experienced cadres in the state, Gardner said.

“Turkey is on the verge of making some critical decisions, including whether to continue with this system or modify it … The people of Turkey must meet again; we cannot tolerate this (division),” Gardner quoted an AKP insider as saying.