Turkey offering neighbours adjustment in tone, not behaviour - commentator

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is offering Turkey’s neighbours just an adjustment in tone, but not a change in behaviour, commentator, investigative journalist and author Faisal Al Yafai said in the Asia Times.

“Even if Turkey wants more friends, it is unwilling to change the combative policies that lost it those friends in the first place,” Al Yafai said on Wednesday.

Turkey does not have the luxury to turn its back on either the East or the West,  Erdoğan said in a speech at a congress of his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) last week.

Turkey no longer appears to be aligning with the European Union or the United States, claiming a more independent foreign policy, Al Yafai said. This is causing “disappointment among former allies, alienation from powerful countries and anger from communities at home and abroad”, he said.

Erdoğan’s act seems to be working when it comes to the EU, he said.

European leaders decided not to impose sanctions on Ankara over its drilling activities in the disputed waters of the eastern Mediterranean at an EU summit on March 25, even agreeing to give more money to Turkey for hosting Syrian refugees, Al Yafai said. “Causing problems with neighbours is paying off,” he said.

But this strongarm policy approach carries real risks, he said, referring to the sharp fall in the Turkish lira against the dollar since Erdoğan fired and replaced the governor of the central bank on March 19 after he raised the benchmark interest rate.

“If Erdoğan genuinely seeks friends, he will have to shift from such combative policies, a shift that could cost him votes from those in the hall last week and voters like them,” Al Yafai said. “Seeking friends may mean losing his former comrades. There’s a fine line to be trod between the faithful and the undecided.”