Failed coup impacts Turkey's relations

Last Updated : 26 July 2016, 18:31 IST
Last Updated : 26 July 2016, 18:31 IST

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Turkey’s failed July 15 coup attempt and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comprehensive crackdown on suspected plotters and all dissent are already transforming Ankara’s relations with its neighbours, the region, Europe, Nato and the US.

Neighbourhood powers Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states promptly welcomed his victory over the coupists but Iraq, Syria and Egypt have not. He has been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist groups which seek to oust the governments in Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo. His survival could boost the ambitions of West Asian fundamentalists and further destabilise the already turbulent region.

Europe and the US also strongly supported the “democratically elected” Turkish government but have questioned Erdogan’s comprehensive clea-nsing of the military, judiciary and police, civil service, schools and universities, arguing his actions are undermining Turkish democracy, the rule of law and human rights. In Europe, there is also the fear that since thousands of policemen and security men are under arrest or suspension, the heavy flow of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees to Europe could resume.

In the region and the West, there is serious concern that the coup attempt deepened the longstanding rift in Turkish society between “modernists” who insist Turkey should adhere to the secular state model and devout conservatives who favour Erdogan’s efforts to transform Turkey into a “retrogressive” religious state. “Modernists,” who comprise 50% of the 75 million Turks, reject while conservatives support Erdogan’s plan to shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system, enabling him to dictate policy as chief executive.

Liberals, leftists, secularists and Kurds are now frightened to speak out due to Erdogan’s mass arrests and sackings, this group remains a powerful force which could, in time, revive and resist his authoritarian rule and the imposition of his agenda. Commentators predict the July 15th coup, the country’s fifth, will not be Turkey’s last.

Following the coup and crackdown, Turkey, the bridge between Europe and West Asia, has been seriously weakened politically, socially and militarily. At this time, Ankara is fighting on two fronts – against Islamic State and insurgent Kurds – and trying to cope with 2.7 million Syrian refugees whose presence in the country is increasingly resented by Turks. Erdogan’s pre-coup proposal to grant Turkish nationality to Syrian refugees received a mixed response and is unlikely to be revived.

In response to Erdogan's threat to revive the death penalty for putchists, the European Union (EU) warned that this would end Turkey's bid to become an EU member, an ambition since the creation of the European Economic Community, the foundation of the EU.

Instability could also prevent Ankara from making key concessions required for the achievement of the reunification of the divided island of Cyprus where the north was occupied by Turkey in 1974. It had been hoped that negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders would produce a final deal on reunification by the end of this year.   

In spite of Turkey’s strategic location, Ankara may no longer be seen by Nato as a reliable and stable ally in turbulent West Asia. Although the US-led anti-Daesh raids on Syrian and Iraqi targets have resumed from Turkey’s Incirlik airbase, there are calls for the withdrawal of Nato’s nuclear and hydrogen bombs based in Turkey.

Turkey, US ties
Relations between Turkey and the US have deteriorated radically due to suspicions that Washington supported the coupists. Erdogan blames the putsch attempt on US-based Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen, head of a movement which has founded thousands of schools, charities and other institutions in Turkey and elsewhere and cultivated a mass following.

Gulen, who had been allied with Erdogan until 2013, fell out with him over corruption in Erdogan’s Justice and Developm-ent Party government. Ankara is preparing a file detailing Gulen’s alleged involvement in the coup with the aim of securing his extradition from the US where the government has said it would examine the evidence and consider the request.

Erdo-gan is an impatient man who is likely to be angry over what he might call US “stalling.”
Finally, the divisions in Turkey deepened by the coup, could have a negative impact on the Turkish diaspora. Pro and anti-Erdogan factions in Germany's three million-strong Turkish community – half of its members are Turkish citizens – have clashed in demonstrations and threats have been issued by loyalists against “Gulenists.”

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has warn-ed partisans not to take their politics into the streets. Turks living in Germany have been urged by the Turkish media, now under total Turkish government control, to expose Gulenists. 

Turks in Germany who criticise Erdogan are now branded Gulenists or backers of the banned Kurdish separatist party. A leading figure in the Germ-an Green party, Cem Ozdemir, who is of Turkish parentage, said, “Erdogan may be able to do what he wants in Turkey, and that’s bad enough, but he can’t do it in Germany.”

Published 26 July 2016, 17:39 IST

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