Turkey’s foreign policies work against its own interests – commentator

The Turkish government has persistently followed policies “demonstrably unworkable or counter-productive” to achieving its own interests, Turkey analyst Robert Ellis wrote in an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Turkey’s policy shift started with the EU’s declaration of the country’s candidacy for bloc membership, on the condition of carrying out a series of reforms, and the creation and rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) starting from 2001, said Ellis, a Turkish affairs commentator in the Danish and international press.

Turkey was first officially recognised as a candidate for full EU membership in 1999. Negotiations began in 2005, but have since stalled, after concerns were raised by the EU about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian tendencies, particularly after a two-year state of emergency was implemented after a coup attempt in 2016.

“The prospect of EU membership was a fata morgana (Italian for “a superior mirage”), a device to secure economic benefits and foreign investment,” Ellis said, adding that Turkey’s foreign policy change in 2010 was marked “by a reorientation and strategic partnerships” among countries with highly questionable human rights records, such as China, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Another driving force behind the AKP’s policy shift was Erdoğan’s revival  of the National Pact (Misak-ı Milli), Ellis wrote, referring to a resolution passed by the last Ottoman parliament in 1920 that vowed to hold onto former Ottoman provinces – currently parts of Syria, Iraq, Greece and Georgia.

Erdogan has linked the pact to Turkey’s looming military operations in Syria, such as the latest Operation Spring Shield launched on March 1, which Ellis says could bolster AKP’s support temporarily “but qualifies as folly when it is a perverse persistence in a policy demonstrably unworkable or counter-productive.”

Turkey launched a full-scale military operation, dubbed Operation Spring Shield, into Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province against Syrian government forces in retaliation to a deadly air strike that killed 36 Turkish soldiers.

The Turkish government soon after opened its border with EU member Greece, where thousands of migrants have gathered to enter Europe. Clashes have broken out at the border between Greek police and migrants with Greece deploying riot police and border guards to repel people trying to enter the country from the sea or by land.

By opening the Turkish-EU border to Turkey’s four million refugees, “Erdogan has scared the bejesus out of the EU,” Ellis wrote.