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SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ > Erdoğan’s reconciliation plan with the West is part of his 2014 plan

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Beginning next week, a new period of intense dialogue with prominent Western countries will be observed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Ankara on Feb. 25 to hold talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül. Her visit will be followed by one from new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on March 1. Kerry and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will first meet in Italy for an international meeting on Syria on Feb. 27 and 28. The first week of March will bring about a Turkey-Greece, high-level, strategic cooperation council meeting with the presence of the two countries’ prime ministers, Erdoğan and Antonis Samaras.

Besides already scheduled visits, there are some other very high-profile visits under construction.

Erdoğan’s demand to meet U.S. President Barack Obama will likely be realized this year while French President François Hollande is readying to become the first French president to pay a state visit to Turkey in recent decades.

Erdoğan is mulling a visit to Brussels to make an appearance at the European Union, although this will not be an invitation to take his place in the family picture with other European leaders. Revival of long-stalled EU talks will surely play its role in the government’s plan to re-build its relations with Europe on a more solid ground. Otherwise why would they put up with French decision to remove its political blockage only on one chapter instead of on all five chapters?

With only a year to local polls and one-and-half years to presidential polls, Prime Minister Erdoğan seems to be engaging in political acrobatics by keeping internal and external parameters in balance, particularly amid efforts to solve the Kurdish question and to rewrite the new Constitution. In this equation, the government is well aware that the support it will receive from the world’s heavyweights will be crucially important. With hopes that the fourth judicial package will help the government save itself from criticisms over freedom of expression, the government is surely looking for a new era, free of substantial problems with its allies.

Looking at this picture from outside, one can see that the support the government is seeking will not be an easy and free of charge one. There are so many issues need to be settled between Turkey and its Western allies, particularly the United States.

First and foremost, the government should prove its sincerity in improving human rights conditions and democratic norms in the country through an all-party constitution. Substantial measures in overcoming deficiencies in the judiciary should also be addressed. Then comes realpolitik. Topics such as narrowing differences in Iraq, Iran and Syria as well as ties with Israel are surely going to be on Kerry’s agenda late next week. Erdoğan’s plan for reconciliation with his allies is depicting a rather rational objective, but if only he would not carry it out through irrational moves.

February/20/2013

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