Turkey’s economic crisis coincides with new diplomatic initiatives

As economy struggles, Erdogan pursues foreign policy achievements

The Turkish economy remains in bad shape. At what point ? The country cut interest rates again despite inflation hitting 79% annualized in July, Adam Lucente reports.

Unemployment exceeds 10%. Money is running out, with Turkey’s occupation of northern Syria costing around $2 billion a year, says The Financial Timesand the presence of 3.7 million Syrian refugees adding another $40 billion to the tax burden.

Seeking to create successes to counter distress, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan turns to foreign policy, reviving the “zero problems with neighbors“an approach he took before the Arab Spring more than a decade ago.

Turkish initiatives in Ukraine, Syria and Israel reveal a reset foreign policy around economic and geostrategic crisis and opportunity.

Erdogan stands out for his diplomatic focus on Ukraine

Erdogan was in Lviv, Ukraine on August 18 alongside the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterresoffering Turkey‘s help to end the war in Ukraine.

Turkey and Ukraine also signed a memorandum of understanding for Turkish reconstruction assistance to Ukraine.

“That the memorandum was signed on the day the Turkish lira plunged sharply against the dollar following the central bank’s decisionsurprising decisionLowering interest rates has not gone unnoticed on social media,” Nazlan Ertan reports.

Erdogan, who ‘walks a fine line between Russia and Ukraine in the Ukraine war, meets with Russian President Vladimir Poutine in Sochi on August 5,” writes Ertan. “The two leaders’ statement that they would further improve economic ties was followed by the Turkish President‘s announcement in Ankara that five Turkish banks have adopted Russian policy.Mir payment system. Turkey’s need for Russian gas, money and tourists – and Ankara’s undisguised joy at its growing economic ties with Russia – has led some European experts to call Turkey a “black Knight“, or a nation that helps circumvent international embargoes for its own benefit.”

Part of that requires perspective.

Turkey can only be a mediator by maintaining proper relations with both sides. And the leaders always watch out for the interests of their country. Throughout the Middle East, and indeed most of the East, business and trade with Russia continues. Turkey is hardly an exception on this point.

But next to Guterres, Erdogan is the only credible world leader who devotes all his energy or initiative to trying to negotiate an end to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

While a peace process will ultimately require the support of the United States and other world powers, Turkey stands out for keeping diplomacy alive in the meantime – including making the mediation, with the UN, the Black Sea Grain Initiativewhich allowed the resumption of exports of Ukrainian cereals and Russian food products and fertilizers.

And Erdogan still holds one of the most vital cards to play in the conflict: approval of NATO membership for Finland and Sweden. Erdogan said it was “out of the question” for the Turkish parliament to approve their membership unless his conditions were met regarding significant changes to laws and policies relating to Kurdish groups that Turkey considers terrorists.

In Syria, Turkey is closing in on Assad

Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign MinisterMevlut Cavusoglu revealed last week that he had met his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdadon the need to reconcile opposition forces with Damascus as part of the search for a political settlement in Syria.

Cavusoglu also revealed that during their meeting in Sochi on August 5, Putin encouraged Erdogan to consider meeting with the Syrian president. Bashar al-Assad bury the hatchet.

Putin has long advocated a rapprochement between Damascus and Ankara, seeing it as essential to any peace deal in Syria. Moscow has even facilitated meetings between high-ranking Turkish and Syrian intelligence officials, but with little result.

Erdogan speaking to journalists en route to Ukraine, said: “For us, the problem is not to defeat or not to defeat Assad”, adding that it is “necessary to keep the channels of dialogue open with Damascus”.

The endgame envisaged by Russia would be a Syrian-Turkish agreement in the sense of an update Adana Agreement,which restored bilateral relations and imposed on Syria the task of suppressing all activity of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Syria.

The Russian president has so far not approved a new Turkish military operation in northwestern Syria against Kurdish groups based there. Washington also told Ankara it would not approve.

Erdogan is seeking to rescind de facto Kurdish autonomy in northeast Syria and begin the process of returning 3.5 million Syrian refugees, seen as a burden and a threat by many in Turkey. He wants a large “safe zone” along the border cleared of the Syrian Democratic Forces, mainly Kurds. A deal with Assad could also allow refugees to return to government-held areas in the rest of the country.

“The argument for peace with Damascus is clearly gaining weight in various echelons of the Turkish state,” writes Fehim Tastekin. “A number of prominent diplomats and retired military officers have long advised reconciliation with Assad. And even neo-nationalist circles that support the government’s bellicose stance against the Kurds have pushed for peace with Damascus.

Erdogan’s political calculation and political survival are also in the mix, write Amberin Zaman and Sultan Al Kanj. “Presidential and parliamentary elections must be held by June 18 next year. The Turkish economy, whose success for many years supported that of Erdogan, is in freefall. Anti-immigrant resentment is skyrocketing. Random attacks on Syrians are increasingly common. The opposition says that as soon as it comes to power, it will “send the Syrians home”. Therefore, normalization with Assad “is a must”. All of this is music to the ears of Turkish voters.

The biggest obstacle to any reconciliation with Syria may be Assad, who feels vindicated and content with the gradual expansion of Syria’s ties with several Arab states. He has insisted on Turkey’s withdrawal from northern Turkey and is unlikely to reconcile with Turkish-backed opposition groups as a condition of peace.

muslim salihco-chairman of the Democratic Union Party, which shares power in the autonomous administration of northern and eastern Syria, told Zaman: “We must take these steps seriously because the parties [Assad and Erdogan] get their orders from the same place – from Putin. Muslim added: “The fact that they are aligned against the Kurds is not a surprise for the Kurds.

Back to the Future in Israel

Tel Aviv and Ankara have also patched up a long-standing contentious relationship. ‘Israel and Turkey are not rekindling their relationship, but they have renewed their friendship,’ writes Ben Caspit. “There will still be ups and downs, but almost everyone agrees that Israeli-Turkish reconciliation is here to stay for the foreseeable future.”

The road back did not just include top-down diplomacy led by Erdogan and the Israeli president Isaac Herzogbut “unprecedented cooperation between the Israeli Mossad and its Turkish counterpart in response to intelligence about Iranian assassins sent to Turkey to kill or kidnap Israeli tourists,” Caspit adds.

By restoring ties with Israel, Turkey has found a back door to the potential benefits of the Abraham Accords while complementing its own rapprochements with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

About William Ferguson

Check Also

Syria. At least 6 dead after an attack on IDP camps | News from the war in Syria

Syrian forces backed by Russian warplanes launched 30 rockets towards rebel-held areas in Idlib, also …