Turkey hosts G-20 at a crisis-hit juncture

Turkey hosts G-20 at a crisis-hit juncture

Turkey will host the G-20 Summit in the Mediterranean city of Antalya on Nov. 15-16 at a time when the entire neighborhood is hit by political and economic crises.

Literally, if you put the needle of your compass on the map on Antalya and draw a circle with a radius of 1000 kilometers, you can sweep past a number of major crises today, from Ukraine-Russia in the north to Egypt in the south, Kosovo in the west to Iraq and Azeribaijan-Armenia in the east, the economic crisis in Greece, the chronic Israel-Palestine conflict, talks in Cyprus and of course Syria, the worst of all. No need to mention the migration crisis in Europe triggered by the Syrian civil war, anyway.

Perhaps that was the reason why there was not much objection when Turkey proposed the Syrian issue be debated at the summit’s opening dinner, which will be hosted by President Tayyip Erdoğan. To discuss a major political crisis as a part of the agenda will be a first since the G-20’s foundation in 1999 to bring important industrialized and developing economies together systemically to discuss key issues in the global economy. Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu made an important telephone call last week to invite his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, to Antalya, since Russian President Vladimir Putin tends not to bring his foreign minister with him to G-20 summits to make a point that discussing political crises should be the business of the United Nations Security Council, where Russia has veto power.

It is now clear that Syria is to be discussed in Antalya, especially after U.S. President Barack Obama said he was going to carry out some important contacts on Syria during the G-20 Summit. Those contacts are expected to be in coordination with the Vienna-based talks about the future of Syria. The foreign ministers of four core countries (the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) and other related countries (including Iran) plus the U.N. and the European Union are to meet again on Nov. 14, a day before the beginning of the Antalya G-20 Summit, to see whether they are close to cooperating on a new Syria not under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and how.

Turkey itself is in a position to solve four foreign policy equations simultaneously, along with the interrelated chronic domestic problem of the Kurdish issue with links to Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Those four problems to be solved simultaneously are:

1- The effects of the Syrian civil war, including the new generation Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist movement;

2- The European Union’s migration crisis, in which Turkey’s help is vital; 

3- Rekindling Turkey-EU relations in the framework of a solution to the migration crisis; 

4- The Cyprus talks, which are related to rekindling Turkey-EU relations.

It was something inevitable for G-20 leaders, representing two-thirds of the world’s population, 80 percent of world trade and 85 percent of the gross world product, not to discuss the burning Syria issue when they are geographically very close to it. 

The Antalya G-20 Summit in that sense might add a dimension of political influence to the G-20 in the future.