Turkey: A Return to Power at Considerable Cost?
February 3, 2009 3:33 PM   Subscribe

"Turkey is emerging as the crucial power in the Muslim world." But after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent walkout from a Davos panel discussion and his confrontational words to Israeli leader Shimon Peres, some wonder whether Turkey is forfeiting its role as a peace-broker, attempting to smoke-screen its own oppressive actions against press, intellectuals, and ex-military, and possibly hurting its chances for full EU membership.
posted by terranova (32 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
UN chief backs Turkish PM over Davos row, expresses sadness:

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan Monday that the unfair conduct of the moderator prevented the Turkish leader from expressing his views in the Gaza session in Davos.

"You were not allowed to express yourself due to unjust and unfair conduct of the moderator in Davos," the U.N. Secretary General, who also attended last week's session, was quoted by Anatolian Agency as telling Erdogan in a phone conversation.


**

From your second link (emphasis mine):

Each of the four speakers in the debate on the Middle East was to have delivered a five-minute speech. Mr Ban, the UN Secretary-General, spoke for eight minutes and Mr Erdogan for 12.

[The panel moderator,] Mr Ignatius intervened to silence the head of the Arab League after 12 minutes, but Mr Peres then spoke uninterrupted for 25 minutes, raising his voice, pointing fingers and challenging the other panellists over what they would do in Israel's position.

"President Peres you are older than I am. Maybe you are feeling guilty and that is why you are so strong in your words. You killed people. I remember the children who died on beaches," Mr Erdogan said before he was cut off as the debate was due to end. He then stormed out, pursued by a phalanx of bodyguards and crowds of reporters....

Mr Peres, a former Nobel Peace Prize winner, later called Mr Erdogan to apologise


To summarize:

UN Secretary Ban spoke 8 minutes
Turkish PM Erdogen spoke 12 minutes
Israeli President Peres spoke for 25 minutes
Erdogen was then, in responding to Peres, and according to both Ban and Peres themselves, wrongfully cut off from the moderator.
posted by ornate insect at 3:49 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mr Peres, a former Nobel Peace Prize winner, later called Mr Erdogan to apologise

The Israeli presidency denied on Friday that Peres apologized after Erdogan stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum during a spat over the Gaza war. Peres, himself, later said he hoped relations with Turkey would not be affected by the incident.

"This claim is untrue," presidency spokeswoman Ayelet Frish was quoted by AFP as saying. Turkey's state-run Anatolian Agency said Peres apologized after the two spoke for five minutes after the incident.

Frish did, however, confirm that Peres called Erdogan over the telephone and that the two had "a friendly conversation".

posted by Krrrlson at 3:53 PM on February 3, 2009


Krrison--well the Times (UK) needs to issue a correction then. The report was filed by one of their own reporters covering Davos, and was not attributed to the Turkish press.
posted by ornate insect at 3:56 PM on February 3, 2009


Turkey is never going to join the EU, I guarantee that. The current accession talks are a polite fiction which will continue until the end of the EU or the end of Turkey, whichever comes first.

I am not saying this is a good thing. But the Turks have always been the other for Europeans, there is no way to stretch the definition of Europe, such that Turkey is included, that would be acceptable to EU governments and the citizens of Europe.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:08 PM on February 3, 2009


But the Turks have always been the other for Europeans, there is no way to stretch the definition of Europe, such that Turkey is included, that would be acceptable to EU governments and the citizens of Europe.

Their government is reasonably secular. Other than capital punishment, I'm curious what it is about the definition of Europe or EU such that Turkey need necessarily remain an outsider. It can't be the culture or religion, as anyone who has been in any European city can attest. One need only turn around in Berlin to hit one's elbow into a Döner stand, for example.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:13 PM on February 3, 2009


BP - I think it also has to do with Turkey not abiding by EU agreements vis-a-vis Cypress.
posted by gman at 4:21 PM on February 3, 2009


BP - When you go deep, under the multicultural stuff, Europe is a league of Christian nation states. The white people who fought off the Turks and stopped the western spread of Mohammedism at the gates of Vienna. The Roman Empire and the Crusades define European civilization, and beyond the border of Greece are the Eastern hordes.

America has a lot of Mexican restaurants, could you imagine the Americans letting Mexico become part of the Union?

Just an analogy, please let's not start talking about America?

posted by Meatbomb at 4:34 PM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Interestingly, Greece -- Turkey's historical nemesis -- favors Turkey's EU admission, to facilitate dispute resolution between the two nations.
posted by terranova at 4:46 PM on February 3, 2009


When you go deep, under the multicultural stuff, Europe is a league of Christian nation states.

If religion defined EU membership, Switzerland, Britain and Norway would have already joined. The union seems defined more by economic relationships, of which Turkey and the rest of Europe have developed in spades since the early 1950s when cheap labor was imported into the mainland.

America has a lot of Mexican restaurants, could you imagine the Americans letting Mexico become part of the Union?

For many intents and purposes, economically speaking, Mexico is a part of the United States, albeit a part not subject to US labor and environmental laws, to the detriment of its own citizens. NAFTA seems one step towards something analogous to the EEC, in its way.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:49 PM on February 3, 2009


There'd be no Turks left in Turkey if they were allowed to join the EU. When I was in Iraq soon after the war began in 2003, many Kurds were pissed because a stable Kurdistan meant they'd have a much tougher time seeking economic refuge in European countries.
posted by gman at 4:58 PM on February 3, 2009


I don't care how long Peres spoke, he fucking smoked his fellow panelists.
posted by Falconetti at 5:06 PM on February 3, 2009


When you go deep, under the multicultural stuff, Europe is a league of Christian nation states.

And when you ignore the strategic stuff, NATO is a league of Christian nation states, plus Turkey.
posted by nicwolff at 5:10 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Their government is reasonably secular. Other than capital punishment, I'm curious what it is about the definition of Europe or EU such that Turkey need necessarily remain an outsider. It can't be the culture or religion, as anyone who has been in any European city can attest. One need only turn around in Berlin to hit one's elbow into a Döner stand, for example.

A lot of it is simply historical prejudice. "Turk" is the pejorative used to denigrate anyone whose ethnic heritage is vaguely "Ottoman" - like mine, as a Bosnian Muslim. But this is also true for ethnic minorities (well, majorities too!) in Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania - nearly all of southeastern Europe. When I was in Budapest, I bought phone cards from an Iraqi guy who was clear to point out to everyone that he "wasn't a Turk." From a Hungarian perspective, this anti-Turkish prejudice goes back at least as far as the Battles of Mohács in 1526 (when Ottoman forces defeated Hungarian ones, on Hungarian soil.)

But from a more general perspective, it goes all the way back to the Crusades, when Turks were the first non-Christians encountered by Crusaders.

It is a little bit culture and religion, too, of course . . . and it's a mistake to believe that the commonplace Berliner döner stands indicate a happy German acceptance of the Turkish population . . . though it should also be noted that the Germans don't have the historical paranoia re: the Turks that more southern countries have, since the Ottomans didn't make it quite that far.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:57 PM on February 3, 2009


I don't care how long Peres spoke, he fscking massacred his fellow Palestinians.
posted by sien at 6:00 PM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


But after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent walkout from a Davos panel discussion and his confrontational words to Israeli leader Shimon Peres, some wonder whether Turkey is forfeiting its role as a peace-broker, attempting to smoke-screen its own oppressive actions against press, intellectuals, and ex-military, and possibly hurting its chances for full EU membership.

All that just because he was rude to Peres? WTF? Peres is an asshole and deserved to be chewed out. The fact that the audience applauded this guy is disgusting, as was the behavior in Gaza. It's also not clear how anyone who could condone what happened in Gaza as an "honest peace-broker" either.

And what does Israel have to do with the EU? I doubt Israel could get into the EU in it's current state either.

If religion defined EU membership, Switzerland, Britain and Norway would have already joined.

First of all, the UK is a member of the EU, and secondly why not throws in Russia, Canada, and Iceland, as well. Switzerland and Norway would have no trouble joining if they wanted too, but they don't. So their status is beside the point.

In other words, it would be more accurate to say "Union of european Christian nations who want to join the EU"
posted by delmoi at 6:23 PM on February 3, 2009


I suggest that the walkout was a bit of drama to make Muslims at home happy. Meanwhile, Turkey and Israel are very close and share intelligence etc...in sum: he was having it both
ways and certainly not moving away from his military's connection to Israel.
posted by Postroad at 6:36 PM on February 3, 2009


Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday his government remains committed to mediating a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians despite an angry public exchange last week with Israel's president.
posted by homunculus at 7:25 PM on February 3, 2009


It should be really interesting when the US officially decides to call the armenian genocide a genocide, probably later this year.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:04 PM on February 3, 2009


For whatever its worth, I knew a US Army Ranger (and I take him at his word). He and his crew went into Rhodesia in the late seventies, in civilian dress, under the command of a Turkish Colonel to hunt down some insurgents and set up an ambush to kill them all and then fly out.

Turkey used to be the USA’s go to state in the middle east after Israel.
posted by Huplescat at 8:24 PM on February 3, 2009


If religion defined EU membership, Switzerland, Britain and Norway would have already joined.

Note that while the UK is an EU member^, but a Eurozone^ holdout -- not the same thing.

and secondly why not throws in Russia, Canada, and Iceland, as well

I think you're saying you'd have no trouble offering those countries membership. Russia is pretty much out of the question (along with Belarus) largely on human-rights issues, and Canada is not considered part of Europe (the excuse offered to Algeria and French Overseas Territories, amongst others), but Iceland was in fact just offered fast-track membership if it wants it.

some wonder whether Turkey is forfeiting its role as a peace-broker

Turkey is Islamic, but it isn't Arab, which means it has never really had this role in the Middle East. I don't know who believes it did or could now assume such. It does play some middleman roles but as a leader it's just a non-starter, especially given Cyprus and Kurdistan.

The only real peace brokers are Cairo and Riyadh, and after that, perhaps Amman or Rabat. The Gulf States are so above any fray that they play nice with everyone but don't initiate anything that would offend anyone. Turkey just doesn't quite fit in with the rest of Islam and there's a lot of post-colonial resentment.

It's really perfectly understandable why they see the EU as their future, even if the EU is hesitant to accept them.
posted by dhartung at 9:21 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The union seems defined more by economic relationships, of which Turkey and the rest of Europe have developed in spades since the early 1950s when cheap labor was imported into the mainland.

I guess that explains all these stories I read about the hassles European Muslims experience when they try to build new mosques, or expand existing mosques

Yep. Pure economics.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:31 PM on February 3, 2009


it's a mistake to believe that the commonplace Berliner döner stands indicate a happy German acceptance of the Turkish population

I don't think my comment was meant to imply that. Basques don't think much of Spaniards, for example; there are lots of groups that don't like each other across the continent. But Turks have played important roles in Europe's history, with or without the religious baggage. They helped rebuild Germany after WWII, at least.

Other than the human rights issues, which are a legitimate deal breaker, in a modern secular age I'm really at a loss to understand why Turkey should remain on the outside of what is largely an economic relationship.

And the UK is not really a genuine partner with the EU. Try spending Euros anywhere much further north than the coastal towns, or going to the pub and ordering a half litre of lager. On most counts, I suspect Turkey would be a better contributor to the long-term prospects of the EU than the UK. And I write that as a British citizen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 PM on February 3, 2009


in a modern secular age I'm really at a loss to understand why Turkey should remain on the outside of what is largely an economic relationship.

Much of the EU electorate is not as modern, secular and rational as you might like them to be.

And I say that as I guy who's completely convinced by your arguments.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:14 PM on February 3, 2009


Erdogan stands to gain politically from his behavior at Davos, both internally as he tries to shore up support against the secular military, and regionally where he needs Arab oil money to fund his Islamist agenda. Here's a nice article.

It is unlikely that Turkey will be granted admission to Europe anytime in the next few decades and most Turks are aware of this. That said, the country's geopolitical importance to the west is hard to overstate, both as a counterbalance to Russia and as a stalwart against the spread of radical Islam. The west needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the west.
posted by mert at 12:40 AM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


"And the UK is not really a genuine partner with the EU. Try spending Euros anywhere much further north than the coastal towns, or going to the pub and ordering a half litre of lager. On most counts, I suspect Turkey would be a better contributor to the long-term prospects of the EU than the UK. And I write that as a British citizen."

On the other hand, it was largely British lawyers that wrote the European Convention on Human Rights (hence Jack Straw's usage of "Bringing rights home"), and London both is the default stock market for EU listed companies and where they often gain liquidity. I would say the UK contributes a reasonable amount.
posted by jaduncan at 2:03 AM on February 4, 2009


I was forced to pay $3k to a Turkish family for a hymenoplasty after I deflowered a young woman. She was 17, but said she was 18. I carded her, but she explained that in Turkey, when you're 17, you're actually *in* your 18th year of life, so that made her legal. Well...not so. But my little head is more flexible with math than my big head. So my choices were marriage or Turkish prison, neither choice very appealing. I came up with the third alternative: cash, ostensibly for a hymenoplasty to restore the girl's virginity.

Man, I loved Turkey! (Too much, apparently.)
posted by jamstigator at 2:29 AM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the EU's treatment of Turkey is in its way an important contributor to the alienation of Islamic countries from the West. If even Turkey, which has worked so hard at meeting Western requirements, and has such large potential value as a strategic ally and intermediary, can't join the club, what point is there in anyone else trying to work with the West? (Meanwhile, Iceland, that nation of EU-hating economic delinquents, can be fast-tracked into membership. But of course they're small. And, er, Nordic.)
posted by Phanx at 2:51 AM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is a little bit culture and religion, too, of course...

And geography. Turkey shares a border with Iraq, Syria, Iran, and up-and-coming hotspot Georgia...even if it remains outside the Schengen zone, it would be a real headache for the EU for defense and immigration purposes. Being under the aegis of NATO is one thing, but EU accession would be loads more complicated.
posted by kittyprecious at 6:48 AM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw the entirety of the speech at Davos, and Erdogan was absolutely justified in seeking more time, as the moderator really relinquished his role, while Peres directly confronted Erdogan, practically yelling at him on several occasions, using one grotesquely skewed statement after another, without Erdogan being allowed to respond.

I mean, over 1300 people killed, over 5000 wounded, and Peres gets up there and justifies Israel's actions by quoting from Hamas' charter, and lists off all of the Israelis killed over the last eight years -- as if that is relevant to their actions in Gaza -- saying complete B.S. like:

"We restrained all the time..."
"We never started fire..."
"They broke (the ceasefire)..."
"There wasn't any siege against Gaza..."
"There was never a day of starvation in Gaza..."
"We weren't left with a choice."
"Sorry about the United Nations building... according to our records, they started to shoot from there."
"We told the Palestinians ... that we are ready to return... almost all of the land back to them."
"When they fired against us (in Gaza), we replied, but after a great restraint, and thousands of (Israeli) people were killed too. They weren't killed in a concentrated matter... so what?"

posted by markkraft at 7:57 AM on February 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Its a war markkraft. I definitely think Israel's offensive was cruel and stupid, but the why is reasonable.
posted by rosswald at 12:40 PM on February 4, 2009


Other than the human rights issues, which are a legitimate deal breaker, in a modern secular age I'm really at a loss to understand why Turkey should remain on the outside of what is largely an economic relationship.

E.U. is based on the common gains provided by its economic aspects, but there is a debate whether it should simply be an economic affair or a political entity of its own. The more it is expanded without being further integrated, the more difficult option B becomes. Besides, Turkey would have the 2nd largest population in the E.U., which would have both economic and, more importantly, political repercussions with regards to the double majority system. Iceland's 320000 citizens wouldn't shake things up in a similar way (though the allocation of Favorites would be severely affected cf. Katullus, Marisa).

The army is more of a mover and shaker there than it is acceptable in the E.U. For instance, see this article on the coups of '60, '71, '80 and the '97 postmodern coup. The good news is Erdogan, the current PM, has been pretty successful in slowly wresting control of the state. He has survived an e-coup, became and stayed PM despite attempts to get him (and his party in the second case) out of politics and there's the whole Ergenekon investigation going on right now.

The army supposedly guarantees the secular character of the state, but it seems Erdogan received a boost after the army published an article saying he shouldn't elect the current president. Erdogan began as an Islamist, though he seems to have governed pretty moderately, as far as I've been paying attention, besides some support for religious-minded judges and the perennial headscarf issue. Should the army finally become subordinate to the political class, that'd be great news in my book.
posted by ersatz at 4:30 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The army supposedly guarantees the secular character of the state

Another way of looking at that is that the army guarantees the continued state deference to the cult of Ataturk.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:41 PM on February 5, 2009


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