Putin returns criticism to Turkish PM on foreign forces in Syria

Putin returns criticism to Turkish PM on foreign forces in Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during his May visit to Washington that he would be going to Russia to talk about Syria.

We are in mid-July and a visit to Moscow does not loom in Erdoğan’s agenda. This might be because, after speaking on the phone to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he might have concluded that they are not on the same page and that the visit could turn to a cold shower.

According to diplomatic sources, Putin was very unyielding when Erdoğan complained about the intervention of “foreign forces,” criticizing the fact that Hezbollah is fighting next to Bashar al-Assad’s forces. It seems that Putin was not shy on giving the message that while Turkey is complaining about “intervention from outside,” it is also seen as a country that is turning a blind eye to foreign fighters and arms passing through its border to reach the opposition forces

Inconsistency is not a must in the world’s real politic, but it is a luxury usually enjoyed by the big powers. When it comes to the inconsistencies of small and medium-sized powers; they can sometimes sell it, sometimes not. This time, it seems Putin did not buy it.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has renewed his call to Hezbollah to leave Syria, after having met his Iranian counterpart last Friday. Apparently, Turkey has been voicing Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria as a precondition for the opposition groups’ attendance to Geneva 2, the international conference that Russia and the United States are trying to convene. While Ankara is prone to talking about policies based on principle, someone needs to tell the government that diplomacy is not the art of “be realistic and ask for the impossible,” but rather “be realistic and ask for the attainable.”

Unfortunately, soon we might end up relying on guys like Putin to provide a reality check to foreign policy, because we might soon run out of career diplomats with the guts to warn the government about the possible consequences of specific foreign policy moves.

The bill that will enable non–diplomats to become top level foreign ministry officials was recently passed by Parliament. If it is signed by the president, those who are not career diplomats but rather appointed to a foreign capital as an ambassador will be able to return and assume a high level position in the Foreign Ministry.

The former head of the Higher Education Board (YÖK), Yusuf Ziya Özcan, who has been appointed as ambassador to Poland, for instance, could become the head of the department that deals with European countries or Arab countries.

“I looked at the Internet. It is the country of Chopin. A country rich with cultural life, literature and music,” was Özcan’s first statement when he learned about his appointment to Warsaw. He will have to spent a lot of time on Google if he is assigned to a position in the ministry when he comes back.

Davutoğlu defended the bill by saying that not everyone who falls into the category will be given positions in the ministry on their return. But this is no consolation. Why would anyone feel encouraged to enter the Foreign Ministry and work hard if s/he knew that one day someone from outside would become his/her superior without having endured all the hardships of the profession?

Last week, Davutoğlu held a long meeting with Turkey’s envoys over Egypt. Each ambassador reflected the views of the country in which they are working. I was told that the majority were as frank as possible in depicting how Turkey’s policy of staunchly supporting Egypt’s toppled president Mohamed Morsi ran in contrast to the stances of international and regional players.

This might be one of the last meetings at which civil servants put forward their views and the facts that might run contrary to the readings of the minister, as the risk of political appointees with the same ideological views occupying the top posts in the ministry is now real.