Erdoğan’s EU pivot prompted by incoming Biden administration - AFP
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is looking to mend EU relations as he prepares to face what could potentially be a hostile U.S. administration under Joe Biden, AFP said on Sunday, citing experts.
In an unexpected turn, the Turkish president has expressed on multiple occasions a desire to turn "a new page" with the bloc, it said, in an attempt to reignite his country’s EU bid, which has long stalled.
Over the last few months, Erdoğan has gone on record to say that he sees Turkey as part of Europe and called for "mutual trust’’ with the bloc in a sharp u-turn of discourse that coincides with Joe Biden’s election as the next U.S. president.
Meanwhile, Ankara’s aggressive foreign policy has isolated the country. Turkey over the past year has launched major offensives against Kurdish armed groups in Syria and Iraq, supplied hardware, fighters and know-how for a military confrontation with the United Arab Emirates-backed opposition in Libya and confronted Greece and Cyprus over territories in the eastern Mediterranean.
The EU has begun drawing up a list of sanctions over Turkey's drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean while Washington last month slapped the country with sanctions over its Russian S-400 missile system purchase.
"Ankara cannot afford an escalation with both the US and Europe, especially with an economy this fragile," AFP cited a European diplomat as saying.
According to Ilke Toygur, an analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, and Elcano Royal Institute, Turkey’s strongman is "looking for friends anywhere and everywhere."
This search is bolstered by Turkey’s ailing economy, which has seen the lira lose a fifth of its value against the dollar last year, pushing the central bank to burn through most of its reserves in an effort to prop up the currency.
Biden's victory over Donald Trump is also partially responsible for Erdoğan's shift in tone, AFP said.
"Biden's victory has reshuffled the cards. Turkey expects the next US administration will be less inclined to let it off the hook," it cited the European diplomat as saying.
AFP pointed particularly to the appointment of Brett McGurk as head of the National Security Council, where he will oversee the Middle East and Africa, as a move that likely has Ankara concerned.
An outspoken critic of Turkey's policy on Syria, McGurk is set to play an important role in shaping Washington's relations with Erdoğan, AFP said.
"This seeming call for a rapprochement with the EU can be interpreted as preparation" for Biden, Sinem Adar, an associate at the Centre for Applied Turkey Studies in Berlin, told AFP.
But, "for any signal from Ankara to mend relations with the EU to be perceived credible by the union,’’ Adar said, "Ankara is expected to shift gears" on the rule of law and human rights as well as Turkey's confrontational foreign policy.’’