No trans-Atlantic unity complete without Turkey
A jointly penned letter by France and Germany’s foreign ministers, Jean Yves le Drian and Heiko Maas, for the Washington Post rightly suggests that much-anticipated trans-Atlantic unity can be reached between Europe and the United States under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. The ministers underlined that a new deal between the two sides of the Atlantic is needed to adapt their partnership to global upheavals.
One interesting point reflected in the letter is the illustration of Turkey as a country with problematic behavior in the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. “We will have to address Turkey’s problematic behavior in the eastern Mediterranean and beyond,” wrote le Drian and Maas.
Depicting Turkey as a source of problems in its region is not fair and realistic. The problem in the eastern Mediterranean is very complicated, both legally and politically, and has multiple angles and actors.
By pinning the whole blame on Turkey and categorizing its actions as problematic, it seems the ministers don’t want to remember that it was Greek Cyprus that launched hydrocarbon exploration activities in the area, disregarding the interests and rights of Turkish Cypriots and Turkey.
Again, Paris and Berlin seem to be comfortable with the Greek claims that Meis Island generates a 40,000-square-kilometer continental shelf. That’s why they declare Turkey’s seismic works in this part of the Mediterranean as “illegal,” even though neither has any jurisdiction at all. It was noteworthy to see how the European chorus slammed Turkey and Libya for signing a delimitation agreement while they were silent on similar agreements that Greece and Greek Cyprus have signed in the past. There is for sure a problem in the Mediterranean, but the burden cannot be placed on Turkey’s shoulders alone.
The Europeans are also not very happy about the Turkish stance concerning Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. For the record, Turkey is not the source of any of these conflicts; on the contrary, it is the external country that has suffered the most from the Syrian conflict. Hundreds of Turkish nationals have lost their lives in terror attacks across the country while its borders were controlled by one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups. The 4 million Syrians still in Turkey have cost the Turkish economy more than $40 billion.
Libya is no different. Turkey did help the Tripoli government against Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces who are backed by France, Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. But before categorizing Turkish actions there as problematic, it would be fair to note the French role in deepening Libya’s divide since the conflict started in 2011.
On Nagorno-Karabakh, the United States and France should question their 30-year-long unwillingness to solve the conflict before slamming Turkish support for Azerbaijan, whose territories were under Armenian occupation.
Another important message conveyed to the Biden administration is the Europeans’ will to defend their own security as part of a more balanced trans-Atlantic partnership. “We are developing joint security and defense capabilities. They are necessary to strengthen both the European Union and NATO. Already, Europe takes on much greater responsibility for security in its neighborhood — from the Sahel over the Mediterranean Sea to the Near and Middle East, including the Gulf. This is the road we will follow,” it said.
A joint response to all these challenges requires Turkish participation, not its exclusion. With this letter, the two ministers give the impression that Turkey’s place within NATO is no longer relevant as they describe Turkey solely as a problem forgetting its decades-old contribution to global security.
In addition, with this letter, the two ministers are also trying to influence the new U.S. administration against Turkey in a way to block any bilateral effort to start a new process between Ankara and Washington.
In sum, it is very unfortunate for France and Germany to portray their ongoing disputes with Turkey in such a way. Trans-Atlantic unity won’t be complete without Turkey.