Differentiated spectrum of opinions

In his commentaries on Turkish foreign relations, Burhanettin Duran consistently represents the loyalist camp. Yet despite all political efforts to achieve media conformity, a number of independent, alternative voices are beginning to be heard in Turkey.

Even on the France question, which has recently been a subject of much debate in the social media and elsewhere, a differentiated spectrum of opinions can be discerned.

In a remarkable comment on the online portal DuvarE, Sezin Oney argues that Erdogan is escalating the conflict with Paris with strategic intentions: "Erdogan is clearly picking a fight with Macron because he intends to add fuel to the fire."

In comparison, the conflict with Greece is a game that Erdogan can escalate and de-escalate at will, as a bargaining chip with the EU. "The tension with France is genuine because it is ideological," argues Oney.

The author points out that the Turkish president showed his true face only recently when he described his country in a speech as "the rising star in the new world order".

 

The aggressive quality of Turkish foreign policy in the region is hard to overlook. Observers and governments in the EU and many parts of the Arab world agree that Erdogan is attempting to fill the vacuum left by the Americans' withdrawal.

And this forward strategy is being well received by parts of the Turkish population. An argument that is frequently put forward, and which pollsters confirm, is that Erdogan is taking the offensive in his foreign policy in order to divert attention from political difficulties at home and declining poll results.

Leader of the Muslim world

Politically and diplomatically, Ankara is paying a high price for this strategy. Turkey is more isolated in the region today than it has been for a long time. And in Europe and the EU, Erdogan is largely on his own. His verbal attacks against Macron can hardly be perceived here as a programme geared at making amends.

Likewise painful for the president is his isolation in the Arab world. Under the leadership of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a powerful anti-Erdogan bloc has formed, which now plans to impose economic sanctions against Turkey.

In the "new world order" he envisions, the pious Erdogan sees himself as leader of the Muslim world. This vision explains the verbal escalation with the French president. So far, his plans have come to nought, and there is little indication that this will change anytime soon.

"Religion is the last resort," summarised Fehim Tastekin after citing the problems faced by the Turkish economy and Ankara's growing isolation. Erdogan's policies have mainly had the effect of fanning the flames of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe, thus playing into the hands of the right-wing spectrum.

This tactic is by no means popular with the people concerned, an opinion is shared by the former EU ambassador to Ankara, Marc Pierini: "Even the Muslims in France are growing tired of Erdogan."

Ronald Meinardus

© Qantara.de 2020

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

Ronald Meinardus heads the office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Istanbul. Prior to that he was head of the foundation's South Asia regional office.

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