No good news yet for Turkey
From Moscow, the news for Turkey was not good. Russian President Vladimir Putin chided Turkey and President Tayyip Erdoğan in particular during a Dec. 17 press conference because of the Russian jet downed by a Turkish jet as it crossed to Turkey from Syrian airspace. Challenging Turkey to violate Syrian airspace now protected by brand new Russian S-400 missiles, Putin said he did not expect normalization in relations with the current Turkish leadership unless his conditions, which included an apology, were met.
The news from Washington was not that good either. During a telephone conversation with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden apparently said Turkey should withdraw all “unauthorized” troops from Iraq. That is after an attack on the Turkish military training camp in Bashiqa near Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Dec. 16 following Turkey’s withdrawal of some of its troops there on Dec. 15 upon Baghdad’s request (Turkish troops have been training Iraqi troops since last March with the aim of ending the ISIL occupation of Mosul). Biden’s request was not in line with the stance of the Turkish government. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had said after the ISIL attack that Turkish troops (now in the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq) would stay until the Iraqi government provided security for the trainers. So news from Baghdad is not bright for Ankara either.
News from within Turkey is also not inspiring any optimism, unfortunately. The military announced that 23 outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants were killed in security operations and clashes in the last few days. Photos of tanks were taken on the streets of southeastern Diyarbakır, Cizre and Silopi, which are under partial or total curfew. Erdoğan vowed to continue the fight until the PKK gave up its “policy of ditches,” referring to the outlawed group’s tactic of digging ditches and raising barricades to prevent security forces from entering their strongholds, with the aim of creating liberated zones. Erdoğan thinks the PKK has been trying to copy its “canton” established in the Syrian town of Kobane by the Turkish border for towns in Turkey.
The Syrian civil war, the Turkish government’s involvement in it and its negative effects can be seen in almost every aspect of Turkish life now, even in the fields with the potential for good news, such as the reactivation of relations with the European Union, thanks to the Syrian refugee influx into EU countries. The visit Davutoğlu paid to Brussels was originally hoped to fulfil one of Turkey’s conditions for full cooperation on refugees, namely that it was to be invited to EU Council meetings (as it used to be) as a candidate country.
But in the last two days it was announced to be an invitation for a meeting with eight leaders of “like-minded countries.” Davutoğlu’s program was over before the EU Council meeting started and Davutoğlu had to return to his hometown Konya in order to attend the annual rituals marking the anniversary of the death of the Sufi poet Rumi.