Turkey holds the key for G-20

Turkey holds the key for G-20

The world’s attention is focused on Turkey’s southern province Antalya this weekend where the world’s biggest 20 giants are gathering. Yet this year the G-20 Summit means much more than just a G-20 summit. It is the first international summit taking place within the new balance of power in Syria, the region and the world.

Moreover, Turkey is the main actor in the two main crises dominating the world’s agenda. Hence it is not only the geographic, but also the political host of the summit.

The G-20 reflects 90 percent of the world economy, 80 percent of the world trade and two thirds of the world population. The summit of the giants has been dominated so far by the world economy. Yet this year, for the first time, politics has superseded since the world’s two foremost political crises have captured the agenda: Syria and the refugee crisis.

President Obama and President Putin held their first meeting on Syria during the U.N. Assembly in New York on Sept. 28. Hence the G-20 Summit will be their second convening. Yet what makes it much more critical is that the context has changed dramatically since Sept. 28.

First, Russia intervened in Syria. Then the U.S. sent troops for the first time to Syria –even if not as a fighting force. Therefore, the balance of power in Syria, the region and the world has turned upside down since then. So it is the first time that Obama and Putin will meet and also come together with other members of the anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition in this completely new context.

Turkey, on the other hand, is one of the biggest sufferers of the crisis, but is also in a key position for the solution.

The U.S. is getting more and more lonely in its fight against ISIL. The Gulf countries and Europe are slowly taking their hands off. In contrast to them, Iran and Russia are running the show. In this context, the U.S. needs Turkey now much more than before for its airspace, air bases, border control and support from the ground. This is why Turkish territory is hosting the biggest amount of American military equipment since the Cold War.

On the other hand, besides the U.S. and Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia also aim at making some progress on Syria. This is why a specific panel on this crisis will be held tomorrow and Turkey will be right in the center of this picture.

The second item dominating the world’s agenda is the refugee crisis, which has become Europe’s major political problem. Here again Turkey is both suffering from the crisis, but also holds the key to solve it. This is why European countries are nowadays hanging on its lips.

To this end, there will be an exclusive panel tomorrow where Turkey and Europe will try to make real progress.

In short, Turkey is the only common denominator in the main crises dominating the world’s agenda today, which makes Turkey not only the geographic but also the political host of the summit.

On the other hand, Ankara is holding the power on the international scene since the actors of the solution for these crises are in need of Turkey. This further increases Turkey’s status as the host. 

Ankara seems to be more than aware of this fact since it has relisted its demands just before the summit. Last week both President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Davutoğlu re-awakened the train-and-equip program, the “ISIL-free zone” and no-fly zone in their interviews in international media.

Moreover, both Erdoğan and Davutoğlu have very recently mentioned a ground operation, which has literally come as a bombshell. They brought it forward in order to remind Turkey’s operational capability and in this way strengthen its hand in the negotiations. Secondly, by referring to a ground operation as an option, they are underlining Turkey’s redlines before the summit as a kind of warning for the U.S. and Russia that they shouldn’t support the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the dominant Kurdish party in northern Syria.

Leaders of the G-20 states are used to taking a traditional “family photo” at every summit. Last year, it was widely speculated that Putin was relegated to the very edge of this photo due to the Ukraine crisis and that he, therefore, left the summit early.

Apparently this year, it is not only Putin whose place in the picture has changed dramatically. I will observe Turkey’s changing position in the photo during the summit and tell more next week. Stay tuned.