Turkish lake, ahoy!
It may be bad news for all of Ukraine, Russia, U.S. and the EU that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is now fixing Ukraine. It may also be bad news for Turkey if Mr. Davutoğlu thinks he has found a golden opportunity to revive 16th century Ottoman ambitions in Crimea – he would not like the peninsula’s 17th and 18th Ottoman history.
But it is good news that Mr. Davutoğlu is not sending the mighty Turkish navy to the shores of Crimea, once regarded as the “Turkish lake,” to defeat the Russian army. Turkey would just have to rebuild its mighty navy.
Elsewhere in the former Ottoman lands, Turkish foreign policy is relatively tranquil these days, with Mr. Davutoğlu speaking, on one occasion, like the defense minister (see “Lies, statistics and military lies,” this column, Feb. 26); and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again reminding Mr. Davutoğlu who Turkey’s real foreign minister is.
Despite the foreign minister’s recent efforts to find a way out of the compensation dispute with Israel over the 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara, Mr. Erdoğan ruled out any reconciliation with the Jewish state “until the end of the siege on Gaza.”
But it is probably safe for world peace if Ankara devotes more time to not shaking hands with Israel than to fixing Ukraine. Things in southern Ukraine may take a much more unpleasant turn if Mr. Erdoğan decides to save the Crimean Turks from Russian oppression. It is very fortunate that Turkey has not yet built its planned 2,500 km, “all-Made-in-Turkey” cruise missiles (Moscow lies just 1,088 miles north of Istanbul!).
There is better news to Turkey’s further (Ottoman) south. Shortly after Turkey’s new EU minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, declared Africa as “Turkey’s strategic partner,” the newly-appointed deputy prime minister, Emrullah İşler, packed up and rushed to Khartoum. A Sudanese news outlet with the rather oxymoronic name and slogan, “Sudan Tribune: Plural[istic] news and views on Sudan,” quoted Mr. İşler as saying that Ankara would establish a strategic relationship with Sudan.
Soon, the two countries would sign new agreements, as Turkey has pledged to support Sudan’s economy, trade, agriculture and culture. Curiously, Mr. İşler praised Sudan’s “policy of openness that reaches out to all countries.”
Sudan is a country singlehandedly marking the “great Turkish hypocrisy.” Turkey, often quite rightly, is the world’s leading voice in highlighting the human tragedies in Syria – though for reasons other than the tragedies. And Ankara now thinks Sudan is an ideal strategic partner that pursues a policy of openness.
In a 2013 speech, Mr. Erdoğan said, “Countries that embrace and care about democracy should not behave with double standards toward [coups – a reference to Egypt]. They should say something is wrong when it is wrong.” Lovely. But a civil war in Syria and coup in Egypt are not the only things wrong in the world.
Sudan’s infamous leader, Omar al-Bashir, came to power in 1989 as a brigadier in the Sudanese Army, not by the ballot box – but through the kind of “horrible event” that occurred last year in Egypt. He had ousted the government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.
In July 2008, the International Criminal Court (ICC) accused Sudan’s coup leader of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, and issued an arrest warrant. Thus, Mr. al-Bashir, became the first sitting head of state ever indicted by the ICC.
That warrant is for Turkey’s new strategic partner in Africa who Turkish dignitaries praise for his policy of openness. But the Sudanese should not go to extremes when practicing their policy of openness and let their president travel to any decent country in the world where he could be arrested. It’s always fine if Mr. al-Bashir travels to the loving comfort of his emerging strategic partner. Mssrs Erdoğan and al-Bashir could even have an international press conference to condemn the West’s double standards on Syrian President Bashir al-Assad’s crimes against humanity, or on the coup in Egypt.
Meanwhile, one Turkish corvette, two frigates and a logistical support vessel will be sailing around the African continent on March 18, which newspapers described as “a mission to give the message that the Turkish navy is on duty to ensure world peace.” Excellent! That’s safer these days than sailing in the former Turkish lake.