Turkey’s risks and opportunities

Turkey’s risks and opportunities

I recently visited the 24th International Sugar Organization Seminar in London before attending the Energy and Economy summit organized by the Atlantic Council in Istanbul. In both, I listened to dozens of speakers, and the only common sentence in all of them was “Any country that wants investment and a strong future should absolutely adopt ‘transparency and the rule of law’ in its strongest sense.”   

The Middle East, which Turkey is often mentioned together with, is the focus of many international segments from business, to politics, to the media. This interest is not only due to the problem of terrorism.

Iran with its new international position, Iraq with its energy resources, and Turkey with its transportation routes and economic power, are at the center of this interest. So what is expected of Turkey and what is wanted? 

The summit in Istanbul was especially interesting in terms of these questions. In particular, those who listened to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s speech in the grand hall remarked on these words of his on the war across the border in Syria. “There’s no need for a land operation; there are forces battling there already.” 

What forces was he talking about?

It cannot be al-Nusra. It cannot be the Free Syrian Army. People wondered if he was talking about the Democratic Union Party (PYD), but he took a clear and definite stance against the PYD in his speech. It looked like he was referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

On the next day, Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu issued a statement saying that the PYD was just a normal political party, like the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey. He later issued a correction, which again created uncertainty. 

This uncertainty led to the perception that there were two official opinions in Turkey: One being that of the state, the other being that of Erdoğan. 

Among the reasons why investors and foreigners particularly care about the region are the oil and gas reserves of Iraq and Iran. If Turkey reconciles with the PYD, things look good for them. But if Turkey hits the PYD, then Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani will also be trapped and be forced to take a stance. 

This, in turn, will affect the oil deal that Turkey has struck with the Barzani administration. The figure in question in natural gas alone is 10 billion cubic meters initially, rising to 20 billion cubic meters. In other words, this amounts to more than Azeri gas. Many say that Turkey has major opportunities at hand, but they are trying to understand what direction Turkey will use them in.

On security, there is a high demand that the Muslim world solves its domestic problems - primarily the terror curse - and in this field Turkey is regarded as being particularly significant. Expressions about “homeland security” are put side alongside words about the rule of law and transparency.

Observers want Turkey to be on the field with its best players - from the government to the opposition, from civil society to religious and social segments.

They believe that if Turkey puts in a good enough performance it could be a remedy for sectarian clashes in the Muslim world. 

There may be some who say, “Let the Muslims kill each other,” and even some who incite this. But even if the West has spent years saying, “That blood will only stay in the Middle East,” isn’t Turkey putting in such a good performance the best way to stop this?