Friday, July 22, 2016

Turkey: Coup Attempt Strains Relations with the West

ALEX GORKA | 22.07.2016 | WORLD

The attempt to take power by the Turkish military shocked the nation of almost 80 million, where the army last used force to stage a successful coup more than 30 years ago. Turkey has changed since then. Tanks on the streets were not enough to make the military coup succeed like it was in 1960, 1971, 1980 and in 1997. Turkish people, including many of political opponents of the incumbent president, rejected that by taking to the streets to confront rebellious soldiers. The majority of the military, the police, the opposition parties, business associations, mainstream news media and other state institutions took a clear stance against the military takeover.

As a result of the failed coup, many government officials, governors, judges, military and police officers, have been removed from their posts. Talks of reintroducing the death penalty have been revived. The West moved swiftly to condemn the coup as events unfolded but EU officials were already concerned about President Erdogan’s response. Now the issue of human rights abuse in Turkey has come into spotlight to evidently deteriorate the West-Turkey relations.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned the Turkish government on July 18 against taking steps that would damage the constitutional order. «We were the first... during that tragic night to say that the legitimate institutions needed to be protected»,she told reporters on arrival at an EU foreign ministers meeting also attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Turkey will not be able to join the European Union if it reintroduces the death penalty, the senior EU official said. In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said, talks on Turkey’s bid to the join EU would end if Ankara restored the death penalty. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said, it would be unacceptable for Turkey to reintroduce the death penalty, which was abolished in 2004. Abolishing capital punishment was a prerequisite for talks with Turkey on membership of the European Union, to which it still aspires.
Virtually every diplomat attending the meeting issued a stern warning to Erdogan. Jean Asselborn, the foreign minister of Luxembourg, said, relations between Turkey and the EU could be «destroyed» if Erdogan overreaches. Johannes Hahn, the European Union’s chief for the bloc’s enlargement and neighborhood policy, described Mr Erdogan’s response to the failed military coup as «exactly what we have feared». French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned Erdogan against growing more «authoritarian». He raised concerns over Turkey’s ability to fight IS amid growing political instability in the country following the attempted coup.
The failed coup also worsened the US-Turkey relations as President Erdogan is demanding the arrest or extradite of the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he blamed for the attempt to overthrow the government.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim threatened to go to war with any country that would «stand by» the exiled Fethullah Gulen; this would naturally imply the US which is where Mr Gulen is currently located.
The United States wants a formal request and evidence «that withstands scrutiny», before the issue could be considered. US Secretary of State John Kerry said, he supported bringing perpetrators of the attempted coup in Turkey to justice, but warns the government against going «too far» while restoring order in the country.
Kerry cautioned on July 18 that Turkey’s membership in NATO could be jeopardized if it abandons democratic principles and the rule of law in a post-coup crackdown.
Before his statement, US military operations against the Islamic State group out of Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base had come to a halt as the Turkish military closed the airspace around the base following the attempted coup.
All summed up, it leads to the conclusion that Turkey has practically no chances of joining the EU in the foreseeable future, whereas it is this goal that the country’s leadership has been proclaiming for several decades. The dispute over the extradition of Fethullah Gullen, as well as the Kurdish issue, have caused serious tensions with the United States.
Unlike the West, Russia supported the legitimate Turkish government without reservation. In a very symbolic gesture after the 7 months long period of rift, Russian President Vladimir Putin was the only world leader to phone Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and voice his support following an attempted armed coup by a faction of the Turkish military over the weekend, the Kremlin reported.
The leaders will meet in the first week of August.
In a major foreign policy shift Turkey has moved to normalization of the relations with the government of Syria to open new opportunities for Russia-Turkey cooperation.
Ankara has recently stated it considers the Jabhat al-Nusra Front as terrorists to bring the Russian and Turkish stances on Syria closer. It goes to show that Turkey has accepted the new rules of the game in Syria.
The cooperation with Russia has great prospects in other areas. Turkey is a major Eurasian power. As the relations with the EU and the US deteriorate, its integration into the Eurasian system acquires greater significance. Turkey already has an observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and is showing increasing interest in the Eurasian Economic Union. Further progress in the Russia-Turkey bilateral relationship may invigorate the dialogue between the Eurasian powers and Turkey on its integration into the Eurasian institutions to strengthen Turkey’s position with regard to the West.
There is another side to the issue. After the coup, shares on the Istanbul National-100 stock exchange slid by nearly 9% at one point.
The country may face economic hardships.
Political turmoil leaves Turkey’s economy vulnerable because it relies on foreign investment to finance a current-account shortfall. The deficit will widen to 4.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, from 4.4 percent in 2015, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
The Turkish Lira fell to an eight-year low against the US currency after the military coup attempt. In these conditions, the stock market can lose 20%, experts predict.
The revenue loss in the foreign tourism sector may reach $12 billion.
Russian tourists can mitigate the negative effects. In the phone conversation the President of Russia noted the significant increase in the number of Russian tourists travelling to Turkey following the lifting of restrictions.
Economic cooperation with Russia offers lucrative projects, including the construction of Akkuyu nuclear power plant and the Turkish Stream gas pipeline.
There are many factors that give an impetus to further rapprochement between Russia and Turkey. The failed coup attempt has had no negative affect on the bilateral relations.