Trust issues between Ankara and the West

Trust issues between Ankara and the West

Hours later the Turkish Prime Minister’s office released on June 24 some details about a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Barack Obama, a statement hit the wires from the White House.

According to the Turkish statement the call was mainly on Syria, the two leaders had discussed in length about their cooperation in helping Syrian oppopsition. And in the mean time Erdoğan had informed Obama about the Gezi Park demonstrations after which the two leaders underlined their commitments to non-violent right to assambly and freedom of expression and media.

According to the American statement the call was mainly on the Taksim, Gezi Park demonstrations, upon reports of excessive use of force by the police, freedom of expression, media and non-violence assembly. The statement said that the “Leaders also discussed Syria”.

It is clear that after Ankara highlighted the Syria part of the Erdoğan-Obama conversation, Washington DC decided to highlight the Taksim protests and the aftermath.

The next day, on June 25 a similar case was observed, this time with the European Union.

Turkey’s EU Minister Egemen Bağış was to give a luncheon to the ambassadors of the EU countries in Ankara in order to explain them the government’s version of what has been happening in Turkey since the last four weeks. It was a risky and courageous initiative by Bağış, anyway. At first, the EU diplomats hav had some chance to observe what have been happening on streets of İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Adana and other more than 70 city centers nof Turkey themselves, in which more than 2.5 million people so far attended according to Interior Ministry estimations. So arguments like the protestoırs were puppets of an international interest rates lobby, drunk alcohol in a mosque where they took hide while escaping from police and actually they were the ones who had beaten up the police could not be that convincing for them. Secondly, Bağış himself has been the at the focus of a major crisis between Turkey and Germany which put the opening up of a negotiation chapter at further risk (in addition to the one surfaced up because of government attitıude against the protestors of Taksim) which could be contained with difficulty. But Bağış managed to take the criticism in calm and gave his brifing to the diplomats.

Following the luncheon, Bağış told media that the briefing was a succesful one and he tried to explain the ambassadors that the protestors were not actually as innocent as the media have been trying to show and the thing was not a spontaneous one, on the contrary a long planned plot.

Hours later the Bağış statement, the EU ambassadors in Ankara had a joint statement, underlining that they had expressed their concerns about the freedom of expression and assembly in Turkey, asking tranbsperancy and accountibility on police and judiciary regarding the cases of excessive use of force.

It may be too early to jump to conclusions from a few examples and say that Turkey’s Western allies do want to let Turkish public opinion know about the messages they deliver to Turkish government in their original context. But there might be a trust issue between Ankara and the Western capitals when it comes to address the public opinion, especially on matters of rights and freedoms.

One more point: In the statement of the EU ambassadors it was underlined that the meeting with Bağış has been the first one ever in which the Turkish government exchanged wievs with the EU ambassadors as a whole. It is not something to be proud of on behalf of the Turkish foreign policy in the first such meeting was held only when Turkish government felt to defend itself on a critical issue.