Turkey, EU have more agreements than disagreements on foreign policy: Analysis

Turkey, EU have more agreements than disagreements on foreign policy: Analysis

Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
Turkey, EU have more agreements than disagreements on foreign policy: Analysis

Johannes Hahn and Federica Mogherini

The alignment between Turkey and the European Union on key foreign policy issues like the Syrian civil war or Iran sanctions seems to highlight a new opportunity for the sparring partners in warming up ties, both Ankara and Brussels believe.

“Foreign policy is certainly an issue that has a positive connotation. What we are trying to do here is to use this positive connotation to warm up ties in other areas,” a senior EU official told the Hürriyet Daily News just a day before the Turkey-EU high level political dialogue meeting in the Turkish capital on Nov. 22.

EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn will hold talks with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara to resume political dialogue after a break year of over a year. With Turkey’s accession process at a standstill, increasingly aligned positions of the two sides on foreign policy introduce a new start for both sides.

EU-Turkey to hold key meeting after 1.5 years
EU-Turkey to hold key meeting after 1.5 years

Syria comes at the top of the foreign policy issues on which Turkey and the EU have a lot in common. Both sides are in favor of a political settlement of the civil war through the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 and underline that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should have no place and role in Syria’s future.

Plus, both sides exert efforts for overcoming the humanitarian problems stemming from Syria that would have spillover impacts on Turkey and the EU countries. That is why Turkey’s efforts to avoid a major military operation by the Syrian army into the Idlib province of Syria have received strong appreciation from the EU.

“It’s not a secret that we appreciate the work of Turkish diplomacy on Idlib to prevent another humanitarian catastrophe,” the EU official said. 

Same stance on Iran sanctions

The United States’ unilateral decision in quitting the nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers and in announcing a fresh set of sanctions on Tehran’s energy, banking and transportation sectors have provided a new area of cooperation for Turkey and the EU. Both Turkey and the EU expressed their opposition against the U.S. move while the former has received a temporary waiver to continue to supply oil from Iran.

According to the EU official, there are mutual points of concerns on the sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Iran because they will affect both EU and Turkish companies. The issue will be discussed between senior Turkish and EU officials today.

Another area on which the positions of the two parties overlap is Jerusalem. Neither Turkey nor the EU accepted the unilateral action by the U.S. to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to declare the city as the capital of Israel.

“There is not much difference of opinion between the EU and Turkey on Jerusalem. We believe nothing should prevent Jerusalem from serving as the capital of both states, whenever the Palestinian state is established,” the EU official stressed.

Turkey, as the term president of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), had proposed a ministerial meeting with the EU in a visit to Brussels in April. The issue will be raised at Thursday meetings, a Turkish official has confirmed to Hürriyet Daily News.

Apart from these said issues, the two sides will also have an update on the Middle East peace process, the situation in Gaza, recent developments in Libya, Iraq and so on.

Balkans on agenda as well

According to a senior Turkish official, developments in the Balkan countries and the EU’s perspective of the continued enlargement towards the region will also be on the agenda.

“We are at the same point when it comes to the enlargement of the EU towards the Balkans. French President Emmanuel Macron’s characterization of Turkey’s position vis a vis the Balkans is weird and we will voice our stance on the Balkans once again,” the official stated.

In a statement earlier today, Macron had defended EU’s enlargement towards the Balkan region as he had previously said, “I don’t want a Balkans that turns toward Turkey or Russia.”

Eastern Mediterranean an issue

Although there is a certain level of alignment between Turkey and the EU on key foreign policy issues, an ongoing contention between the former and Greek Cyprus as well as Greece over the hydrocarbon reserves off the Cypriot island stands also has had a serious impact on the dialogue between Ankara and Brussels.

The EU does not have much of a chance other than supporting Cyprus and Greece as full member states as many EU Council decisions call on Turkey to respect the sovereignty of Cyprus and its Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and to de-escalate tension in the region.

Turkey on the other hand, calls on Greek Cyprus to respect the rights of the Turkish Cypriots and let the latter join the hydrocarbon activities at the planning stage.

Turkey, European Union, analysis, Syrian Civil War, Iran, Balkans, East Mediterranean