Ex-EU ambassador: Meaningful dialogue with Turkey impossible

Former EU Ambassador to Turkey Marc Pierini said the “echo chamber” in which the Turkish government is now caught was so total that mutually beneficial negotiations with it have effectively become impossible.

Writing in an article for Brussels-based think-tank Carnegie Europe, Pierini said other countries should merely try to “contain” Turkey rather than risk becoming the targets of Turkish anger.

Those who think they can entertain a meaningful dialogue with Turkey’s leadership will at best be used as pawns against their own country. At worst they will be singled out as yet another “foreign conspirator”. In addition, currying favour and exerting international pressure on Ankara will not work either. Containment is probably the best bet.

Pierini, who represented the EU in Ankara from 2006 to 2011, said the EU had adapted the strategy of “refraining from any dialogue” with the Turkish president in order not to cause any more problems for itself.

Engagement in the realm of international diplomacy is usually entered into in anticipation of some mutual benefit such as the resolution of a crisis or an increase in bilateral trade. Indeed, ordinarily there would be no point in engaging with other countries on any other basis.

However, Pierini pointed out that the present Turkish government had made hostility to outside powers the principal basis of its foreign policy:

Ankara’s two-pronged international strategy - accusing the United States and/or the EU of supporting the Gülen movement and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); and endlessly trying to provoke European leaders to cancel negotiations while at the same time pretending (against all the evidence) that Turkey is fulfilling the necessary political criteria for accession – has led to an impasse.

One reason for this, he said, was that the reactions Ankara obtained from countries it had attacked or slighted provided ample fuel for the “conspiratorial mindset” that kept its government in power through convincing its partisans that any and all opposition to government policy was part of a foreign-driven plot against Turkey and its people.

That means, counter-intuitively, that the AK Party sometimes has an incentive to provoke diplomatic crises with other countries in order to shore up its domestic support.

For a long time, AK Party leaders denounced the United States or EU in public but appeared willing to negotiate behind closed doors.

Now, however, that understanding is being wrenched apart as the AK Party resorts to increasingly desperate measures to maintain its vote share and pressure grows for other governments to roundly condemn the party’s mass jailing of its political opponents.

Pierini said this conspiratorialism was coming to the end of its useful life as an electoral tactic, and Erdoğan and the AK Party may well be dealt a surprise blow in the 2019 elections.

Again, such a merciless campaign may seem useful to some entrenched nationalists at home, but its credibility has been worn extremely thin by the flimsy accusations and the almost caricatural defamation techniques at play. The net is being cast wider and wider against dissent journalists and simple citizens, and has reached such ludicrous levels that Ankara’s repressive techniques increasingly look like signs of political desperation more than the standard authoritarian practices of the past.



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