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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 237,972 182,848 147,700 21
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,790 2,500 2,530 92
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 155 - (30/04/10)

Turkey on the world stage
Turkey has been particularly active on the world stage of late. There has been an important Balkan meeting held in Istanbul - but also a major contretemps with the US. Yet Turkey is also a major player to the south in the Middle East, sponsoring Azerbaijan on a ‘big brother’ basis.

A) The Armenian genocide question
In early March the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministers came to Washington. There remains a huge disagreement between the Armenians and the Turks as regards whether there was a genocide of Armenians or not in 1915. There obviously was. Quite why the Turks have to carry on denying the obvious is obscure. The British instituted concentration camps in which people were starving in the course of the Boer War, a decade and a half earlier. There were those who denied it at the time, but it has been subsequently admitted. The evidence was more of neglect than overt murder, but it was overwhelming, just as it is for the Armenian massacre. The penultimate epoch of European imperialism was a grisly time, notably during the First World War itself.

The embarrassment of the Turks has been compounded by the fact that the Armenian diaspora in the US has been successful in lobbying for a resolution by a sub-committee of the House of Representatives condemning the genocide. Ankara promptly withdrew its ambassador to Washington in early March. There has been no further attempt to have a motion passed in the House itself, however. The ambassador returned in April. But a diplomatic contretemps certainly remains. Passing retrospective legislation will usually fall foul of contemporary elected representatives.
The Russians have set an admirable example of late by owning up to the Katyn massacre of WWII, in which 22,000 Polish officers and elite figures were brutally murdered being taken in batches and individually shot in the back of the head.

The Nagorno Karabakh stand-off has left another, potentially explosive issue hanging in the balance -- the fate of the now Armenian controlled Lachin corridor to Nagorno Karabakh in a mountainous region lost by Azerbaijan to Armenian-backed forces in the bloodiest of the ethnic conflicts that accompanied the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Many had hoped normalised relations between Armenia and Turkey would help unlock talks on the enclave, which has run its own affairs with the support of Armenia since splitting away from Azerbaijan. Also the corridor of some 20% of what is indisputably Azeri sovereign territory, now under Armenian military control. Azerbaijan, a close Turkish ally and energy trading partner, saw the accord as a betrayal, potentially robbing it of leverage over Armenia in negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh, although Turkish lawmakers sought that same leverage on behalf of it’s former client.

Analysts say the suspension will do little to soothe Azeri concerns. "The process has left Azerbaijan isolated, and effectively pulled the rug from under its foreign policy framework," said Svante Cornell of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute. "It also leaves Armenia's leadership weakened. thus -- more frustration and more insecurity, the last thing the region needs," he said.

The deal agreed last year in October was the closest Turkey and Armenia had come to moving past the World War One killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, that has poisoned their relationship.

The United States and Russia both backed the accord as a means of stabilising the south Caucasus and encouraging greater trade and prosperity.

Turkey stood to reap diplomatic kudos in the West as it bids for membership of the European Union. Landlocked Armenia would have benefited from the reopening of its western frontier, closed by Turkey in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan.

Washington said in late April that the deal was not dead, but more time might be needed to "create some new momentum".

But diplomats say they see little chance of Turkey dropping its demand for Armenian concessions on Nagorno-Karabakh, or of Armenia complying in exchange for an open frontier.

C) Strained Azeri-Turkish Ties
The peace overtures have severely strained ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan, affecting negotiations on gas supplies key to the planned Nabucco pipeline, which aims to bypass Russia to supply gas to the European Union.

Azerbaijan late last year struck deals to sell more gas to Russia, whose South Stream pipeline project is the main rival to Nabucco. Such deals will draw supplies away from Nabucco and make it harder for the project to get off the ground.

In the belief that Washington was the main driver of the Turkish-Armenian thaw, Azerbaijan in April cancelled joint military exercises with the United States and threatened to reconsider their 'strategic relationship.' "Long-term peace and normalisation of relations in the south Caucasus cannot be achieved by rewarding aggression and by excluding the region's strategically most important country," Novruz Mammadov, chief foreign policy adviser to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, wrote last week.

An estimated 30,000 people died in the Nagorno-Karabakh war before a ceasefire was agreed in 1994. More than 15 years of mediation by Russia, the United States and France have yielded a loose framework of "basic principles", but no peace deal. Landmines on the frontline and snipers meanwhile pick off young Azeri and Armenian conscripts on a regular basis.

Intensified negotiations last year between Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan fuelled hope that some sort of solution might be close.

The International Crisis Group think-tank warned of a threat from "domestically entrenched maximalist forces" opposed to a Nagorno-Karabakh deal in Armenia and Azerbaijan. "If the talks fail now, Armenia and Azerbaijan may find themselves trapped in a spiralling military escalation which will have unpredictable consequences for both countries and for wider regional security," ICG analyst Tabib Huseynov wrote.

Thanks to its elevated position and heavy fortifications, military experts say Nagorno-Karabakh would be difficult to retake by assault. But that has not stopped Azerbaijan from spending heavily on its military and frequently threatening to try. "The Azerbaijan army has all capabilities to hit any target on the territory of Armenia if necessary," Defence Minister Safar Abiyev said last week.

A resumption in hostilities could quickly suck in other powers in a region criss-crossed by energy pipelines, not least Russia and Turkey.

Russia's largest military base outside its borders is located in Armenia, and the two countries are close allies.

D) Balkan Summit
Istanbul hosted a Balkan summit in late April, underlining Turkey's claim to be part of Europe, and so a legitimate candidate for EU membership, its prime geopolitical ambition. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the summit in Istanbul would be an “important step for the Balkans.”

After his earlier visit to Belgrade, Davutoglu said that there has been a “positive development” in relations between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, which are leading to lasting stability in the region, and which Turkey has always found to be very important.

Since October 2009, there have been five trilateral meetings held between Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. There are also been meetings held between the foreign ministers of Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

The April meeting in Istanbul focused on regional stability in the Balkans. Serb President Tadić’s cabinet stated that the goal of the meeting was to invest efforts into strengthening peace and stability in the region. The President said that Serbia wants a permanent solution for Kosovo and not a frozen situation, adding that Belgrade is ready to negotiate in order to reach a solution of compromise, but not one “in which Serbia loses everything and the Albanians win”.

Because of existing situations like Cyprus, Serbia wants a final solution for Kosovo, not a frozen situation in which Kosovo will never become an UN member-state, because Serbia will never allow it, Tadić told al-Jazeera.

E) The strained Israeli-Turkish relationship
The one and only friend the Israelis used to have in the Middle East was Turkey – excepting Egypt under Sadat – and look what happened to him.

But recently, the relationship between Israel and Turkey has been strained at best, but one cannot deny the strategic importance of the military cooperation that exist(ed) between Israel and her Muslim neighbour nation.
On the one hand, the joint military exercise taking place between Turkey and Syria is cause for concern to Israel, and intelligence officials are monitoring events as the war of words between Israel and her Arab neighbours intensifies, including Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and the Hizbullah organisation.

Just recently, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad threatened to catapult Israel back to the ‘stone age’ if compelled to engage in a military conflict with IDF forces. This latest threat joins numerous statements released in recent weeks from Lebanese President Mishael Suleiman, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and Hizbullah leaders.

For a second time in a number of months, Turkish forces in April began joint exercises with Syrian troops, sending a worrisome message to Israel. Turkey has been openly shifting its alliances, openly speaking out against Israel in the international political arena, formerly a staunch ally, due to what it perceives as Israeli intransigence in creating a Palestinian state. It is not alone in that opinion. Turkey played an ameliorating role with Netanyahu’s predecessor government, seeking to broker Syrian-Israeli talks on returning the Golan Heights, discussions which were abruptly curtailed when the Netanyahu government took office.

On the other hand, tourism to Turkey from Israel has increased against following the sharp drop after Operation Cast Lead, and Turkey continues to receive drone, pilot-less aircraft, manufactured by Israel, while seeking to order other sophisticated weapons from Israel Military Industry. Israel on the other hand has decided to review each order on its merits, no longer willing to furnish Turkey with everything Ankara wishes to acquire, cautiously aware that the current shift of loyalty might just conceivably result in Israeli-manufactured military hardware being used against Israel if Arab nations were to become militarily involved against Israel.

Efforts to release messages of calm from Jerusalem have had a limited impact at best as Arab leaders seem determined to escalate the war of words against Israel, since Israel is giving nothing towards the creation of a Palestinian state. Given the present hardline government in Israel, matters are unlikely to improve in its relations with neighbouring states.

 

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