Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1271, (19-25 November 2015)
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1271, (19-25 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Erdogan dodges bullet

In the wake of the Paris attacks, it was Turkey, host of the G20 summit, that benefited the most as world attention shifted to terrorism and away from rights,
writes Sayed Abdel-Meguid

Al-Ahram Weekly

High hopes filled the hearts of the more than 13,000 participants at the G20 summit in the southern Turkish province of Antalya. Three days before it began, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his guests, who control 80 per cent of the world’s economy, would be treated to a summit they would never forget.

In an interview with the state-run Anatolian News Agency, Erdogan boasted of the charm of the Mediterranean city hosting the event and said 12,000 police deployed on land, air and sea would ensure the summit’s security. The eyes of the world would be on them.

To be fair, apart from a tiny bit of confusion with the agenda, there were no glitches worth mentioning. Everything had been prepared with superb precision. All would proceed like clockwork; there was no room for error.

However, even the best-laid plans are not immune. In this case, last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris cast a pall over the summit, which France’s President Francois Hollande was obviously unable to attend.

Also understandably, all discussions focussed on the question of terrorism and the best means to combat and defeat it, with participants issuing passionate calls to unify efforts in the fight against Islamic State (IS) and all other takfiri organisations and sects.

Amidst the outpouring of emotions, and still in a state of shock over the Paris atrocities, a certain irony may have escaped those familiar with the ways of Western double standards and contradictory stances.

No one at the international gathering in Antalya breathed so much as a word or made the slightest allusion to relevant shortcomings, breaches and even brazen acts of collusion on the part of certain members of that exclusive club.

In fact, one member in particular turned a deliberate blind eye to the movements of hundreds of suspects, allowing them to travel here and there with total freedom, without surveillance or interrogation.

The powers that be in that country were probably aware, thanks to their intelligence agencies, that those unimpeded souls were busily radicalising and recruiting dozens of young people into the holy march, in pursuit of the divine calling to revive the glorious caliphate, starting in Syria and, to a lesser extent, Iraq.

Thus, the cancer continued to spread and it was not until the blood began to flow in the rivers of Turkey, Beirut and Ankara that world leaders snapped awake and started to act in earnest to cut off all support for militant groups.

US President Barack Obama, in particular, has begun to use his influence to persuade European and Middle Eastern governments to take more effective steps to demonstrate their military commitment to fighting IS. True, his talks with his Russian counterpart yielded no apparent change in their respective positions toward Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad, according to a statement issued by the Kremlin after the meeting.

However, all evidence suggests that the occupant of the Oval Office will not put the cart before the horse on the question of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the ruler of Damascus.

The thinking is now focussed on stopping terrorism in Syria. Only hours before the G20 summit was due to meet, an IS operative blew himself up during a police raid in Gaziantepe, near the border with Syria and only 310 kilometres from Antalya, wounding four policemen.

The assault was undoubtedly meant to convey a message to those about to assemble for the summit that IS is present in Turkey, a country that has opened its doors to allow IS recruits to enter Syria. This, alone, is as a slap in the face to Turkish foreign policy, which has done all in its power to oust Al-Assad but to no avail.

Moreover, judging by events in and around the summit, Ankara will be wasting its breath if it continues to insist on an interim phase without Al-Assad. It will find no sympathetic ear after the horrific tragedy in Paris.

It will have no choice but to accept, however grudgingly, a deal that the West works out with Russia over a solution in Syria that would keep Al-Assad in power for, perhaps, six months.

Such a deal would be consistent with the appeal of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who, after stressing the need to reply forcefully to the attacks in Paris, said that the world now has a rare opportunity to end the violence in Syria.

This was preceded by the roadmap formulated by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Vienna on Saturday. The two statesmen also agreed to consider the creation of a safe zone in Syria for refugees and to increase humanitarian assistance.

As for Turkey under the ruling Justice and Development Party, it did not leave the summit empty handed. Its president feared he would be the target of criticism and censure by European and US media bent on embarrassing him in front of the EU for Turkey’s “negative trajectory” in the rule of law and the severe deterioration in freedom of expression. That did not occur.

Another raid on a major news outlet and the expulsion of the Gülen-affiliated Samanyolu television network from the Turksat satellite passed without causing a ripple among summit attendees, giving Turkish authorities just the encouragement they need to continue their clampdown on media outlets that refuse to revolve in the orbit dictated by President Erdogan.

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