‘Turkey is neither Occident nor Orient’ a Turkish colleague of mixed extraction with substantial Western exposure remarked poignantly in a recent private conversation in Istanbul. ‘Turkey is Turkey and no other power can put it in a single box’. This poignant remark encapsulates much of current Turkish foreign, security, energy and regional policy. There is little doubt that today’s Turkish leaders, the trio of Erdogan, Davutoglu and Gul, are methodically and systematically engaged in their project of establishing a neo-Ottoman state of affairs in the surrounding region east and west of the Anatolian heartland. Capitalizing on the projected neo-Sultan regional supremacy, the AKP triumvirate seeks to control Europe’s energy security. This is not a secret plan it is confirmed time and again by words and deeds of the Turkish leadership. What do Ankara’s recent policy actions tell us?
Turkey agreed with the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on the construction of a pipeline for export of oil from Northern Iraq. In striking this deal, clearly Ankara kills two birds with one stone: on the one hand it controls the export of oil pumped out of the oil-rich Mosul-Kirkuk region. On the other hand, the Turkish government promotes the international economic relations and props up the international status of the KRG as an independent entity effectively diluting Baghdad’s sovereignty over Northern Iraq.
A few hundred kilometres west of Iraqi Kurdistan, in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, Ankara exercises its regional destabilizing policy in a similar pattern. Northern Cyprus is an integral part of the Republic of Cyprus (RoC), invaded and occupied by tens of thousands of Turkish troops since 1974. Ankara’s leadership has for the past forty years been ignoring a raft of UN resolutions calling her to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the RoC. As these lines are drawn the Turkish research vessel Barbaros, in violation of international maritime law, conducts surveys on hydrocarbons in Cyprus’ territorial waters. At the same time, the chronically ill-conceived and ill-fated bi-communal talks always conducted under Ankara’s menacing iron-cast shadow, cannot take off the ground precisely because Dervis Eroglu, Ankara’s Turkish Cypriot puppet, insists on separate sovereignty for his breakaway ‘TRNC’. At the same time, the all but discredited former Australian Foreign Minister who has been acting as UN envoy for the past five years, hopelessly flies in and out of the island, seeking to fudge the wording of a common statement in a desperate effort to covertly mislead the UN Security Council – scheduled to hear his report 22 January – on progress in the Cyprus talks. Does anyone doubt that if Mr Downer succeeds in this unholy job – deception of the UN top body on progress in the re-establishment of a single sovereign state of Cyprus – we are in for yet another dose of Turkish hubris?
From Cyprus’ perspective, it would have been preferable, of course, if the island republic’s closest and most populous neighbour was a well-behaved democratic country respecting and indeed having zero problems with its neighbours – Davutoglu’s empty mantra. But is rule of law – both internally and internationally – and friendly neighbourly relations making any progress with respect to Turkey’s affairs? A quick glance on the news titles on the front page of Hurriyet newspaper (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/) may help our search of an informed answer: US expresses concern over Turkey’s graft crisis; Ammunition rounds seized in buses bound to Hatay on Syrian-Turkish border; New fraud operation conducted in Mersin, 35 detained on bribery charges.
Before transforming Cyprus into a federal state, the international community may well be advised to exercise its influence for the democratization of Turkey and before Cyprus contemplates any energy or other cooperation with the Republic of Turkey the sine qua non condition of cessation of Ankara’s habitual intervention in the affairs of neighbours should take place.