Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1159, (1 - 7 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Turkey’s lost sunshine

Al-Ahram Weekly

According to international officials who met him of late, the Turkish foreign minister is not in the best of moods these days. Nothing is going right for Ahmet Davutoglu, the man who had great hopes for the Muslim Brotherhood’s international organisation.

The Turkish newspaper Milliyet recently ran an article about Davutoglu in which it used an old parable to illustrate the foreign minister’s ordeal.

Once there was a pope, the paper said, who was very ill. His cardinals were so worried about his health that they decided to keep from him any bad news.

So every day, the pope would ask about the weather, and everyone would tell him that it is wonderful. Outside, they said, the sky was blue, the birds were chirping and the flowers were in bloom. Even in the coldest days of winter, for the pope, the sun always shone.

Then one day, one of the cardinals couldn’t keep up the charade. “We were lying to you,” he told the pope. “The weather is terrible outside. The roads are muddy, and no one can go anywhere.”

This sums up the current state of Turkish foreign policy. The world that Davutoglu dreamt about was all sunshine and roses. Turkey’s neighbours were blessed with his country’s policy of “zero problems”. Syria was a good friend, and Damascus was only a short pleasant trip away.

Now things are going wrong on more than one front. The Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) is setting up shop on Syria’s side of the Turkish borders. And Egypt has just kicked out Davutoglu’s friends from power.

“No one knows how frustrating this must be for the foreign minister. How he used to love to boast that Turkey had zero problems with neighbours. Where is the zero now?” Milliyet wrote.

The newspaper added: “it used to be so nice for Davutoglu when he could just hop to Damascus to see his good friend Bashar Al-Assad.” Now things are not so well south of the border.

On 4 June 2010, Davutoglu conferred with Masoud Barzani, who has set up a Kurdish administration in northern Iraq, and called him “big brother”. These were the good days for the Turkish foreign minister. Now he is worried. Why? Because PKK affiliates are thinking of setting up an autonomous administration in Syria’s northern areas.

To appreciate the full hypocrisy of the situation, one has to keep in mind that Turkey was a strong backer of Al-Nusra Front and other jihadists in Syria. Following the battle of Al-Quseir, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag made no secret of his feelings. He even described Hizbullah as the “party of the devil”.

At that time, Davutoglu tried to exonerate Al-Nusra Front from accusations of terror, saying that it is acting in reaction to Al-Assad’s crimes. So for him, it was fine to have extremists on the borders, so long as they were ones he can control. Al-Nusra Front was okay, but not the PKK.

It was also totally acceptable to have an autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, but having one in northern Syria is simply too disturbing.

According to recent reports, Turkey may be considering a cross-border operation in north Syria, with the aim of creating a “buffer zone”.

Relations with Cairo are equally in shambles, because Davutoglu and his friends in the Justice and Development Party couldn’t stomach the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood was no longer in power in the most populous country in the Arab world.

Since the 30 June Revolution, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been consistently dismissive of Egypt’s defence minister and army chief, General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. What happened in Egypt was a coup, said top Turkish officials.

Most world leaders, including the new Qatari ruler, Sheikh Tamim, called President Adli Mansour to wish him well, but the Turks demurred.

President Abdullah Gul later on made what may be seen as a half-hearted attempt at reconciliation, for he sent a cable to the interim president congratulating him on 26 July Day. Still, other Turkish officials were keen on saying that the cable did not amount to recognition of the status quo in Egypt.

After the show of force millions of Egyptians made when they took to the streets in unprecedented numbers on Friday 26 July, Turkey may have no other option but to reconsider its position. Still, there is no elegant way to get Turkish diplomacy out of this corner.

Reading the Milliyet story about the ailing pope, one cannot help but wonder: what happened to the ailing pope when he finally discovered that the roses weren’t in bloom amid the cold winter outside?

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