Turkey’s human rights record makes rapprochement with West ‘impossible’

Turkey’s poor human rights record makes a rapprochement with the West impossible, Simon A. Waldman, an associate fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and a visiting lecturer at King's College London, said on Thursday.

Turkey is at odds with many of its traditional NATO and European Union allies over a range of issues including drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean, the purchase of a Russian-made missile system, and how to resolve the conflicts in Syria and Libya.   

Writing for Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Waldman said that, even if these issues were resolved, there were still significant stumbling blocks for normalising relations.

 “Turkey still has its work cut out in convincing the West that after decades of intransigence, it can suddenly be considered a reliable strategic partner,” he said.

Chief amongst these problems is Ankara’s disregard for fundamental rights and freedoms, Waldman said.

“Quite frankly, if NATO were re-established today, Turkey would not qualify for inclusion”, neither would it be allowed to join a newly formed OECD or the Council of Europe, all of which require a commitment to democracy and human rights, the analyst said.

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a series of democratic and economic reforms aimed at restoring international confidence in the country.

But the measures lack substance, according to critics. And Waldman said positive rhetoric would not be enough to convince the West to bring Turkey back into the fold.

“Action plan or not, Turkey’s democracy and human rights record is abysmal and make the possibility of a meaningful rapprochement with the West, quite frankly, impossible,” he said.

 “Until this is rectified in deed and not just word, there is little hope for an improvement in Turkey’s relations with the West.”