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Ankara raises its voice 27 décembre 2011

Posted by Acturca in Caucasus / Caucase, Central Asia / Asie Centrale, Economy / Economie, France, History / Histoire, Russia / Russie, Turkey / Turquie.
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Russian Press Digest, 27 December 2011

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, editorial

Public attention has been drawn recently to the loud exchange between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Nicolas Sarkozy about a draft law that would criminalize denial of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey, which is currently being reviewed by French parliament. Both public figures, as we know, are never at a loss for words – and both are tuned to their audience’s moods, at times sacrificing the purely commercial interests of their countries’ businessmen.

In 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres was the target of Erdogan’s outburst at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and today’s target is the president of an even larger country – one that is also a NATO ally. One could say that the Prime Minister’s voice is getting louder.

The reasons for Turkey’s growing volume on the global arena are its increased economic clout and international influence. It’s no accident that in one of Erdogan’s retorts, addressed to the European Union, he advised: « Look at us, and look at the current state of Europe. » He was referring to the advanced pace of development in Turkey – and the financial crisis and stalemate in today’s European Union. Seemingly, Erdogan’s most recent wordplay has reduced Turkey’s chances for EU accession. However, judging from the statements of the Turkish officials, Ankara is losing its interest in this, increasing its cooperation with the United States instead.

Turkey is also playing a greater role in the region, where it has sidelined Egypt from its leading power position. To get there, Ankara quite easily sacrificed its former economic and military ties with Israel. Now, Ankara’s influence is growing stronger with all the countries of the former Ottoman Empire. The moderate Islamists, who were able to raise their heads after the Arab Spring, see Turkey’s system as an example. Turkish leaders are, in various ways, encouraging their desire to imitate.

Ankara’s political stance, which is to avoid confrontation with neighbors, has been set aside. Today, Ankara is taking an active part in the events in Syria, having called numerous times on President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Not only have Syrian opposition forces firmly settled on Turkish territory but, based on some reports, so have the rebel groups. Moreover, the idea of creating liberated areas in the contagious zone of Syria and Turkey, is being expressed increasingly often in NATO circles. Recall that Turkey has the second largest army in the Alliance. It should also be borne in mind that Turkey’s further involvement in Syrian affairs could lead to the deterioration of its relations with another neighboring state – Iran.

Turkey’s activities are not limited to the surrounding region. It has a noticeable presence on post-Soviet territory – particularly in countries with Turkic-speaking populations. There, in addition to strengthening economic positions, Turkey is raising its cultural influence by building schools with a growing number of graduates who can subsequently continue their studies in Turkey. The first Summit of Turkic-Speaking Countries was held this year. All of this indicates that Turkey’s interests extend beyond regional boundaries – and that it is already an inter-regional power.

Moscow has excellent relations with Ankara – mainly in the economic sector. At the same time, the neighboring state’s rising influence must be taken into consideration. It will become increasingly more apparent in a region in which Russia has traditionally had its interests – and they will need to be protected.

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