Mar 27 2018

U.S. could unnerve Turkey by closing consulate – former ambassador

A panel of regional experts including former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman discussed Turkey’s faltering relations with its Western allies at the Brookings Institution policy thinktank, recommending a transactional approach that applies leverage through Turkey’s economy.

Anti-Western rhetoric has risen remarkably in Turkey, stoked in particular by the United States’ support in Syria for Kurdish groups hostile to Turkey, and the stall to Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, which came amid criticism from Europe over Turkey’s human rights record.

Edelman recommended a “transactional approach” to future dealings with Turkey, which he noted had been successful for Germany in the past and Russia now. The U.S. administration could also raise concerns among the Turkish leadership by closing one of the country’s consulates in the United States, “as we have done with Russia,” Edelman said.

Such an approach would be a large departure from the U.S. policy since the early 2000s, which placed good relations with Turkey above other concerns around the country’s growing authoritarianism and human rights issues, said Edelman.

Turkey’s bellicose rhetoric around Europe masks a fact Turkish leaders know well – the country is reliant on the EU, which accounts for the lion’s share of its trade, said Kemal Kırışçı, a project director at Brookings who also attended the panel.

“Turkey has nowhere else to go” even if the EU accession process does peter out, said Kırışçı, noting that transatlantic trade with the United States was dwarfed by trade with Germany.

Europe, for its part, is relying on Turkey to shield it from incoming mass immigration. The 2016 EU-Turkey deal addressing this need demonstrates the potential of a transactional relationship with Turkey, despite its currently rocky relations with the West, said Kırışçı.