Why is Turkey rebuffing whatever the West says?
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu confirmed the speculation on Nov. 8 about his refusal to twice take the call of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “They think Germany is a superior country and expect us to be ready to take the phone whenever they are ready for that. We are not loafing around here, we also have things to do,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“But,” Çavuşoğlu said, “This is not the reason for the tension between Turkey and Germany.” He repeated the words of President Tayyip Erdoğan two days ago. Erdoğan had said that during their last conversation, he asked German Chancellor Angela Merkal about some 4,000 files for the extradition of “terrorists,” mostly members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “She told me that the number is 4,500,” Erdoğan said. “Europe should stop harboring terrorists, it will hit them like a boomerang one day.”
In the same speech on Nov. 6, Erdoğan also slammed the publications in the European media against him and said: “I don’t care if they call me a dictator. I care about what my people say about me.”
Yesterday on Nov. 8, Erdoğan took on the EU once again and asked “where was the Europe that is challenging him now” when his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) was brought to court for a closure back in 2008. The EU Commission said at the time that the membership negotiations with Turkey could be stopped if the Constitutional Court closed the party; it did not happen anyway.
Soon after Çavuşoğlu’s words about Steinmeier’s calls, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement slamming two statements by the EU as “worthless” and “unacceptable.” The first one was by Federica Mogherini, the foreign and security policy chief of the EU, who said Turkey should “safeguard parliamentary democracy” and basic rights and freedoms. The other one was by Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, who said that if the immigrant-visa deal with Turkey collapsed, it would be because of Turkey’s failure to fulfill EU standards and it would be Erdoğan that would have to explain that to the Turkish people.
Juncker’s statement is another example of how the EU leadership has fallen short in updating its perception that the EU has very little political leverage left on Turkey, but it is not only the EU.
Çavuşoğlu said in the Nov. 8 press conference that Turkey once again protested the U.S. delivery of arms to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) which is among the groups advancing on Raqqa, which is occupied by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). (Underlining that the YPG is the Syria branch of the PKK, Turkish government says the weapons given by the U.S. to the YPG have been found in the possession of PKK militants in clashes on Turkish territory.)
On the other hand, Çavuşoğlu confirmed the news that Turkey and the U.S. had agreed to long-term cooperation in the anti-ISIL fight in Syria and Iraq and that the YPG would not be allowed by the Americans to enter, hold and govern Raqqa, during a meeting between Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and U.S. Chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford on Nov. 6 in Ankara. That contradicts with the perception of high tension between Turkey and the U.S. in Turkey’s media. Such “long-term” cooperation between the militaries is seemingly not limited to changes in the U.S. administration.
Also with the EU, the dialogue channels are open. PM Binali Yıldırım had his second call on in three days on Nov. 7 with Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament. The Mogherini criticism also includes the call for the continuation of dialogue. Plus there are ongoing talks in Geneva that started on Nov. 8 on the future of Cyprus, which is closely related to Turkish-EU relations. Yes, despite the pledges to bring back the death penalty (which has no place in the European system), the arrest of journalists and writers and the recent arrest of 10 MPs from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including its co-chairs...
Then why is the Turkish government rebuffing whatever the West says?
The first is the disappointment from Erdoğan and the government about the delayed response of the West against the defeat of the coup attempt on July 15.
The second is the desire of Turkey to upgrade and redefine its relations with the West, although this is an unconventional way to show the opposite.
And the third one is probably to make the allies and partners in the West get used to the new order that Erdoğan and the AK Parti are aiming for through a constitutional shift from a parliamentary regime to an executive presidential one, so that everyone can see who is in charge.