Politics enter G-20 summit in Turkey with Syria

Politics enter G-20 summit in Turkey with Syria

The agenda of the discussion during the opening dinner of the 10th G-20 summit on Nov. 15 in Turkey’s Mediterranean city of Antalya is set to focus on the Syria crisis and the ongoing migration problem.

A high-level Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News that this will likely be the first time that the G-20 annual meeting is focusing mainly on political, rather than economic, issues. One exception is Vladimir Putin’s welcoming speech at the 2013 summit in St. Petersburg, but that was just a speech. The entire agenda of this year’s G-20 summit will be devoted to hard political issues.

The agenda was suggested by Ankara because of the Syrian issue’s ongoing negative impact on global political security and stability, as well as negative economic consequences. The Syrian civil war since 2011 has not only devastated the country to Turkey’s south but has also led to a massive migration flow. It has now become the number one problem for the EU, amid the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East and East Mediterranean, which has given birth to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The Turkish police arrested some 20 ISIL suspects in Antalya last week in preparatory operations before the summit. Earlier operations in towns near the Syrian and Iraqi borders over the last two weeks saw the seizure of a huge amount of explosives, suicide bomb vests, weapons and ammunition. The raid come after the worst terrorist attack in Turkey’s history on Oct. 10, when 102 people were killed by two ISIL suicide bombers in Ankara before a rally for peace.

The Turkish military has also taken extraordinary security measures ahead of the summit, including a round-the-clock air shield with the support of its NATO allies, primarily the U.S. Just 400 kilometers east of Antalya is Turkey’s main NATO operating air base İncirlik, from which the U.S.-led coalition has been carrying out operations against ISIL since July. Just 180 kilometers south of İncirlik lies the Russian naval base of Tartus and the temporary Russian air force base in Latakia, which hits both ISIL and forces fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. ISIL recently claimed responsibility for bombing a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai desert after taking off from Egypt’s resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The Antalya summit, which will be hosted by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, will give world leaders - including U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will take over the yearly rotating presidency of the G-20 from Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan - the opportunity to discuss the Syrian crisis as well as the global economic outlook.

The foreign ministers of four G-20 countries the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been conducting talks on the future of Syria since a meeting in Vienna on Oct. 23. Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu called his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov last week to invite him to Antalya in order to continue the talks there, to which Lavrov has reportedly agreed.

This could also be a first. In the past, Russia has tended to try to limit the scope of the G-20’s activities to economic issues, in order not to weaken its veto power in the P5 group, made up of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Fellow P5 member France has not sent its foreign minister to previous G-20 summits for the same reason.

The G-20 was established in 1999 upon a joint U.S.-German initiative in order to systematically bring together important industrial and also developing economies to discuss key issues in the global economy. It is made up of 19 countries - Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States - and the EU, which is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank. Together, the G-20 members represent 85 percent of Gross World Product, 80 percent of world trade, and two-thirds of the world population. Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Senegal, Singapore, Spain and Zimbabwe will join this year’s summit in Antalya as guests.